2014 Idaho State Meet
The championships were held on Saturday November 1 at Eagle Island State Park. As is to be expected at a State meet of this magnitude, there was much of note, which fortunate fans were able to witness and deserves coverage. We were remiss in failing to cover the meet due to various time constraints but a retrospective is in order, especially because the meet marked the ending of an era. I concede that in sports there can be a tendency to speak in hyperbole and label a dynasty or greatness, so a bit of perspective is in order.
In 2011 Erik Harris of Twin Falls toed the line at Eagle Island as the defending 4A champion and division favorite. Harris placed second in 16:20 and later raced well at the Foot Locker West Regional but on that day he was left well in the wake of Elijah Armstrong, who was only a freshman at the time. I corresponded with Erik a day later and was surprised to find him upbeat. Erik offered no excuses but instead was quite prescient in noting that he had “lost to probably the best freshman in Idaho history.” It was a rather bold statement but after four years Elijah is probably the best male runner in Idaho history. Although Foot Locker finalists like Belly Herman, Robin Card, Jason Uhlman, Taylor & Dallin Farnsworth have to be considered, only two-time national finalist Cody Helbling would seem to stand close and Elijah is yet to close out the books on his national prep career.
As freshman Armstrong with a time of 15:55, which is a very time for that level and that is not even considering the difficulty of the course. Elijah would improve on that time running 15:34 as a sophomore, 15:41 as junior and 15:25 this year as a senior. Few boys in the nation’s history have been four-time State Champions at any level but Elijah is now a rare four-time champion. Still it is not that he won the races but the way he accomplished it. As noted he defeated Erik Harris by 35 seconds. His closest battle came as a sophomore, when Sam Levora placed second in 15:42. Levora deserves a spot in history but harrier fasn know that eight seconds is a fair amount of yardage and Elijah did not just eke out a victory. Levora followed him home again as a senior but this time only clocked 16:20. Austin Fred ran 16:19 so once again the margin of victory was significant. Of course in many state the competition is watered down that a championship means less than in a state like Indiana, where there is only one winner. Elijah’s time compare favorably to the large school (5A) winner in most cases and this year Drew Schultz won that division in 15:42, so the margin was 17 seconds. As a junior Andrew Rafla won the 5A in a fine 15:54, which was still thirteen seconds inferior. Dwain Stucker was also a sophomore in 2012, when he won 5A in 15:42, as he was only eight seconds in arrears. There is also a lesson her for, although Stucker might have been expected to win again, if he won as a soph but it just is not that easy. Dwain was always in the mix yet he never won again. Only in 2011 does another divisional winner have a superior time and that was Dallin Farnsworth ’s senior season, when he ran 15:40 and went on to qualify for Foot Locker nationals. Dallin placed eleventh and had a stellar campaign. Of course we expect seniors to beat freshman & Elijah was hardly overwhelmed.
Of course in Elijah’s case it is not just a case of success in Idaho for he has had success on both the regional and national stage. He ended his campaign after State his freshman year but as a sophomore Elijah placed third at the NXN Northwest Regional and could have raced in the Mud Bowl. Herein gives a true clue as to the make-up of our young Harrier. We spoke on the phone after that meet and I counseled that the superior meet was Foot Locker but the decision was not just left on the simple recommendation & Elijah sought counsel of those, who had attended both races. There the verdict was clear Foot Locker was vastly the superior experience. A true champion seeks out the best competition and so the young sophomore took on the heady challenge of the West Regional and he almost made it. Armstrong just missed qualifying and, as the eleventh place finisher in the meet, he was the first alternate. Still the point is Elijah passed up the sure berth at Portland for the challenge of the tougher field at Foot Locker West plus the formidable hills of the Mt. SAC course. That is the mark of a true champion. His junior year he placed second at NXN Northwest and passed on the bird in the hand for a crack once again at Foot Locker. This time he not only qualified but finished sixth at nationals. Qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals certainly is not a foregone conclusion yet this December he will be one of the favorites for a national championship. Hopefully Elijah has two more prep races to go but he already appears to be the best male runner the state of Idaho has ever produced and we wish him luck in the next month. It is worthy of note that that Elijah competed successfully already this fall in California, where won the Clovis Invitational.
We noted that Austin Fred of Middleton placed second behind Armstrong in 16:19 & he was chased across the finish line by Daniel Ella of Bishop Kelly, who ran 16:24. Malachi Armstrong aided his brother & the Pocatello guys, who won the State team title, with his fourth place effort of 16:30 & Ammon Christensen of Skyview was fifth in 16:38.
In 5A Drew Schultz of Capital won in 15:42 and his team mate Zach Wilberg finished second in 15:48. Dwain Stucker of Meridian finished off his fine career with a third place time of 15:52, as he nipped Jake Finney of Lake City, who shared the time. Noah Horsburgh of Mountain View garnered fifth with 15:53, which was two seconds ahead of Matt Sewell of Boise. Others under sixteen minutes were seventh place finisher Garrett Plant (15:57) of Rocky Mountain & Will Eddy (15:59) of Hillcrest. Jon Stutz of Madison (16:12), Samuel Berg of Mountain View (16:14) and D’ Artagnan Kilgore (16:14) rounded out the top eleven in the division. The other divisional winners were Austin Stewart of Shelley (16:08) and Paul Ryan of Logos (16:06) who both dominated their races.
While future fans will surely recognize the importance & dominance of Elijah Armstrong, there is an ending of the era rivalry of Emily Hamlin of Boise & Mikayla Malaspina of Vallivue. Though Hamlin will be recognized as having the upper both runners have made their indelible marks on the Idaho and even national running scene. Hamlin, who competes for Boise, captured her third State title this year with a time of 18:14 on the vaunted Eagle Island course. Emily also scored as a freshman with a time of 18:36, as well as a sophomore, when she was clocked in 18:09. The only year she failed to triumph was last year in her junior campaign, when Sam McKinnon took honors and Emily had an off day placing fourth in 19:28. Mikayla finished fourth this year, as she too had one of those days and was timed in 18:47. It is noteworthy that both young ladies entered the race with the top two times for Idaho girls. Hamlin has a best mar for the year of 17:35, while Malaspina has a mark of 17:56. Naturally the Eagle Island course is not a place to anticipate personal records.
With state bragging rights out of the way the young women will set their sights on regional & even national goals and it is here, where Mikayla has a distinct advantage. Both girls were impressive as freshman and both fared well at the NXN northwest Regional, where Mikayla placed seventh to Emily’s ninth. Emily ended her season here but Mikayla chose to extend her season and she ran on the demanding Mt. SAC course at the Foot Locker West Regional, where she earned “All West” honors with her 16th place finish. As sophomores the post season belonged to Mikayla and she was victorious at the Northwest Regional, where Emily placed nineteenth. The post season of their junior year saw Mikayla place ninth at NXN, while Emily had one of those days we have all endured & placed only 87. While that ended Hamlin’s season Malaspina accepted the Foot Locker challenge and qualified for Nationals by placing sixth in the West & earning a trip to San Diego. That effort places Mikayla in very select company as only Ellen Lyons, Nicole Nielsen and Emily Nist are the only other Idaho females to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals. In truth Kinsey Gomez, who now runs for Oregon State, is the only other Idaho gal to come close: she finished eleventh after breaking her arm during the race. It is for these reasons that we salute both Mikayla and Emily.
Of course at State it is Emily who is the three time champion and this year it was Kara Story of Coeur d’Alene, who gave her the greatest challenge. Story placed seconds & was six seconds behind the winner, while her team mate Josie Brown ran 18:35 to earn third. Their 1 – 2 punch went a long way in aiding CDA to the team title with a low of 36 points. Sara Christensen of Borah followed Malaspina in fifth with a time of 18:52, while Caitlin Conway (18:57) & Krista Story (18:59) pretty much locked up the Coeur d’Alene victory. Capital claimed second in the team race with 106 points to top Rocky Mountain by six points.
Katherine Ruck of Moscow prevailed in the 5A race with a time of 18:56. Rachel Cannon of Blackfoot was a distant second with 19:11 and Billie Hatch of Preston finished third with 19:25. Fourth went to Rachel McGovern of Pocatello with 19:35, while fifth went to her running partner Molly Vitale-Sullivan (19:37) as they aided their team to a second place finish behind Sandpoint. Michelle Pratt of Blackfoot finished sixth in 19:39, while third place Century was led by the seventh place effort of Brook Chilton, who clocked 19:41. The team scoring went as follows: Sandpoint 84, Pocatello 103 & Century 109.
Sierra Manzer went out a winner for Melba by annexing the 2A title with a time of 19:29. It marked her second State title, because she also won as a sophomore with a fine 18:12 and she finished sixth last fall. Soda Springs runners Kathryne McCullough (19:42) and Alexa White (20:00) followed Manzer home. Klarissa Anderson of Shelley took honors in 3A with her time of 19:30. Kassidy Hammond of Timberlake nipped Paytin Drollinger of Shelley with both credited with a time of 19:36 & Cambria Hassell & Brinn Crandall, also from Shelley, ran 19:51& 19:55 to place fourth & fifth repsectively.