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District 6 Claims All Four Varsity Individual Titles at Tiger-Grizz
Three of the four wins came from sophomore runners
Published: 9/11/2021 9:27:37 AM
Marlowe Hereford
Contributing Writer


It was a District 6 sweep for the varsity individual titles of the annual Tiger-Grizz Invitational on Friday afternoon at Freeman Park in Idaho Falls.

All four varsity races were won by cross country runners from District 6, which produced five team state champions last season.

Furthermore, both varsity A races were won by runners from co-host teams Idaho Falls and Skyline. Idaho Falls sophomore Luke Athay claimed the varsity A boys race in 16:13 in the final race of the day while Skyline's Nelah Roberts, also a sophomore, won the varsity A girls title in 19:24.9. The varsity A races are open to 5A and 4A schools while varsity B is open to 3A, 2A and 1A schools.

Roberts had arguably the most dominant win of all four varsity races. The defending 4A individual girls state champion and owner of eastern Idaho's all-time fastest 5K time by a female, Roberts build a commanding lead in the first half of the race over Thunder Ridge sophomore Courtney Earl. The gap closed slightly as the duo ascended the hill behind the Vietnam War Memorial, but Roberts extended it again as they circled the tree line next to the gravel parking lot.

Roberts' time was a new Freeman Park personal best for her.

"It's an amazing feeling," Roberts said of the victory on the home course for Skyline and Idaho Falls. "It's been one of my goals to win this race. This course is a challenge."

Roberts, who placed second in last year's Tiger-Grizz varsity A girls race, said she anticipated a competitive run from Earl. Hills are a strongpoint for Roberts, and she said the numerous hills on Freeman's course do not intimidate her.

"She has a really good second mile," Roberts said of Earl, who placed second in 19.39.9. "My plan was to get out fast and stay out front."

The meet brought out many supporters for Roberts, including family members supporting Hillcrest and Twin Falls, as well as her grandparents and immediate family. She said she can hear their cheers as she runs, and she is looking forward to competing at the 4A District 6 championships next month which will also take place at Freeman.

Rocky Mountain, which made the trip over from Boise and was led by Brighton Heywood's fourth place finish in 20:28, claimed the varsity A girls team title with 65 points and four runners placing in the top 20. Preston, which had six runners finish in the top 28, was second with 84 points while Roberts led Skyline to a third-place finish with 99 points.

The wind picked up considerably by the time the varsity A boys took off from the starting line as clouds and rain briefly moved in on Freeman Park. Athay was second to Preston's Edison Leffler in the first half of the race, crossing the bridge right behind him to the east side of the course. By the time they neared the hill where the Vietnam War Memorial stands, Athay had taken the lead. He stretched it to a victory margin of 25 seconds over Rocky Mountain's Trent Wigod.

Athay said he was excited to run at Tiger-Grizz after being quarantined for last year's race.

"You know, I was actually nervous before this race," Athay said. "I really wanted to do good. I didn't get to race it last year. It's our home course. This was my first time running the high school course. It was nice winning this."

Rocky Mountain completed a sweep of the varsity A team titles by winning the boys title with 63 points and five runners placing in the top 21, led by Wigod's second place finish in 16:38. Preston, led by Leffler's third place finish in 16:41, was second with 99 points and Athay led Idaho Falls to third with 131 points.

Athay said the Tigers, who have won four consecutive state team titles (three 4A, one 5A), have stepped up and supported each other so far this season. Last week, they claimed the varsity boys title at the annual Cardinal Classic in Soda Springs and Athay won the individual title.

"We've got some new faces on the team and they've been running really well," Athay said. "The runners that have come back to the team, they've stepped up. We all have to step up and keep running hard."

The varsity B individual titles went to two members of defending state champion teams. Sugar-Salem senior Jaresa Jackson took the lead over Challis freshman Taylor Reddick after ascending the hill to the Vietnam War Memorial and claimed the girls win in 20:57.8.

Jackson said she was impressed with Reddick, who took second in 21:10.6. Reddick was so close behind Jackson for much of the race, Jackson said she could hear and feel Reddick breathing. The senior and freshman visited with each other after finishing.

"I just finished talking to her," Jackson said after the race. "She's gonna be so good."

Like Roberts, Jackson is also looking forward to returning to Freeman next month. The 3A District 6 championships are also scheduled to take place on the course.

The two-time 3A individual girls state runner-up, Jackson is especially motivated this season to go after the individual gold.

"I know I have put in the work," Jackson said. "It's gonna come down to if I can stay in it mentally."

Soda Springs repeated as varsity girls B champions with 60 points as senior Brynlee Simmons finished seventh in 21:45.5 to lead the Cardinals to three top 10 finishes and four top 20 finishes. South Fremont, continuing to display the strides it has made under second-year head coach Ryan Campbell, had three top 12 finishes to place second with 88 points. Salmon placed third with 103 points and had three top 20 finishes.

The varsity B boys race ended with the fastest time of the day and provided a showdown of two of the fastest boys in Idaho right now for any classification. Nampa Christian senior Grady Mylander, who entered Friday with the fastest time thus far this season by an Idaho boy for any classification (15:36.1), battled it out with Salmon sophomore Danny Simmons early. Simmons led Mylander before crossing the bridge to the east side of the course and extended it upon circling the the tree line and heading for the finish. Fast times were anticipated as the clock read 14:30 with not much left of the course to run, and Simmons brought that to fruition with a win in 16:00.3. Mylander was second in 16:25.4, and the two high-fived and embraced after finishing.

Simmons said he expected a strong effort from Mylander, and he focused on continuing to push as hard as he could.

"Finish wise, yes (I accomplished my goal)," Simmons said. "Time wise, no. I wanted to go sub-16."

Simmons added, however, that he was happy with the fact he ran a big personal best for the Freeman course. He ran 16:45 at last year's Tiger-Grizz.

One person reached Simmons before Mylander, however. Simmons' older brother, two-time 2A individual state champion Johnathon, applauded and reached across the flags in the finish area to congratulate him. Johnathon, who graduated last spring and has signed with Utah State, will be departing Sept. 20 for New Mexico before continuing on to Ecuador to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Johnathon and Danny finished 1-2 at last year's state meet. The younger Simmons said it is strange to be considered a leader as a sophomore returning state medalist, but he feels much support. "I still have things to learn," he said. "But I like to be in the lead."

Defending 3A state champion Sugar-Salem claimed the varsity boys B team title with 66 points and five top-20 finishes, led by Brigham Dalling (fifth in 17:47). Simmons led defending 2A state champion Salmon to three top 20 finishes and a second place finish with 93 points and Snake River, with two top 10 finishes, placed third with 110 points.

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