Idaho State XC Preview: 1A/2A

It's state championship week in Idaho. Teams from across the state will meet in Pocatello at the Portneuf Wellness Complex for the right to be named individual and team cross country champions on Friday and Saturday, October 30 and 31.

For those that cannot attend due to COVID-19 restrictions, here is a look at what to watch for in the 1A and 2A races on Saturday.

Raft River's Kaybree Christensen, Salmon Johnathon Simmons, Wendell's Jessica Duran, and Liberty Charter's Connor Gardner.

2A Boys

Race Time: 12:15 p.m. (MST)

Individuals To Watch For: Johnathon Simmons (Salmon), Grady Mylander (Nampa Christian), Daniel Simmons (Salmon), Josh Leavitt (Melba), Garrett Christensen (Valley)

Teams To Watch For: Salmon, Soda Springs, Cole Valley Christian, Melba

Here's The Run Down:

- Since winning the 2A team title in 2018, Salmon has established itself as a highly competitive program across all divisions in Idaho. The Savages have been ranked as high as seventh in The Runner WA's Idaho Power Rankings which includes the majority of the 5A/4A teams. Johnathon Simmons continues to lead this team in the right direction, and with his freshman brother Daniel joining the team, Salmon becomes an even more talented team than the previous ones who brought home state titles. At this point, I believe Salmon is the clear favorite. But the fight for second will be very close with Soda Springs and Cole Valley Christian neck and neck. The Chargers have a solid one-two punch and fifth runner, but the Cardinals five-man spread is 12 seconds faster at 44.5 seconds.

The story going into this race will focus on the individuals as Salmon's Johnathon Simmons reigns as the defending state champion, while Nampa Christian's Grady Mylander comes in with the fastest 5k time at the 2A division running 15:32.3. Mylander and Simmons have faced each other only one time this season early on at the Tiger/Grizz Invite. Mylander took the lead over Simmons with under 600 meters to go and appeared to be well on his way to taking the win. However, Simmons was able to find another gear with 400 meters to go and stride right past Mylander, winning the race by six seconds. Daniel Simmons isn't out of the question either to compete for a state title, but between his experience and his older brother's and Mylander's, this might not be the year he wins it.

The Runner WA's Individual Pick: Grady Mylander

- Since placing second to Simmons at the Tiger/Grizz Invite, Mylander has been on a tear as of late winning five consecutive races and running the second-fastest time in all of Idaho. This should be one for the books.

The Runner WA's Team Pick: Salmon

- The Savages continue their winning ways on Saturday coming away with a third title. Their varsity seven are ranked in the top 20 individually, so perhaps each of them gets a spot on the podium this year.

2A Girls

Race Time: 11:30 a.m. (MST)

Individuals To Watch For: Jessica Duran (Wendell), Aubrie Barzee (West Side), Elise Kelsey (Bear Lake), Cameron Moore (Ambrose School), Brooklyn Dayley (Melba)

Teams To Watch For: Soda Springs, Salmon, Bear Lake, Melba

Here's The Run Down:

- Soda Springs continues to grow its historic dynasty year in and year out. The Cardinals have made it known they are the greatest program in all of Idaho, regardless of classifications, winning 14 consecutive state team titles. Yes, you read that correctly; 14 straight state championships. Even as the best team heading into Saturday's race, two other schools are trailing not too far behind in Salmon and Bear Lake. Separating by 10 points in the hypothetical meet, this will be the Cardinals' toughest test to win another title. In all the meetings between these three schools this season, Bear Lake has been the closest to defeating Soda Springs, specifically the closest one being a four-point difference at the Pirate Challenge in September.

Wendell's Jessica Duran has had quite the turnaround season in her sophomore campaign. From finishing 17th at state as a freshman to compiling an undefeated record and the fastest time in 2A at 18:43.6 as a sophomore, Duran heads into Pocatello as a clear favorite to win her first individual state title. But, trailing Duran ranked second through fourth are West Side's Aubrie Barzee, Bear Lake's Elise Kelsey, and the Ambrose School's Cameron Moore. Between these three girls, they are eight seconds apart with the fastest being freshman Barzee running a personal best 19:12.7. If none of these girls are able to catch up with Duran for the first half of the race, or perhaps compete with her the entire time, the battle for second place is going to be a close one at the finish.