Idaho State XC Preview: 3A/4A/5A

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

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 3A, 4A, and 5A races on Friday.

Borah's Nathan Green, Pocatello's Shane Gard, CDA Charter's Logan Davis, Nampa's Cassandra Vasquez, Eagle's Lizzie Dildine, McCall-Donnelly's Sophie McManus.

5A Boys

Race Time: 2:45 p.m. (MST)

Individuals To Watch For: Nathan Green (Borah), Will Dixon (Madison), Mitchell Athay (Idaho Falls), Spencer Ord (Mountain View), Seth Bingham (Thunder Ridge)

Teams To Watch For: Eagle, Idaho Falls, Madison, Rocky Mountain

Here's The Run Down:

- After dominating the 4A division the last three seasons, Idaho Falls will look to chase for their fourth consecutive state team title in the gauntlet that is the 5A division. The No. 1 ranked team in Idaho has been upfront all season long led by Mitchell and Luke Athay, and the 2019 4A individual champion Zac Bright is finally coming around for the Tigers. But it won't be an easy task winning this year's title when facing a predominant team this past decade in Rocky Mountain, who has won the last three 5A team titles the previous four seasons. This will also be the very first match-up of the season between these two schools.

From an individual perspective, it's all about Borah's Nathan Green and what he can do in his final cross country race in a Borah uniform. The UW commit holds the Portneuf course state 5k record, which he set last season at 15:14 and he has already run 14:54 this season. However, the race for second will be a good one. Madison's Will Dixon is having the best season of his cross country career running a PR of 15:37 and Idaho Falls' Mitchell Athay is not too far behind running 15:40. Between those two, Dixon has the best shot to compete with Green for the first half of the race.

The Runner WA's Individual Pick: Nathan Green

- Green is just too far ahead of everyone at this point in the season. There is a good reason why he is No. 1 recruit in the nation.

The Runner WA's Team Pick: Rocky Mountain

- Rocky Mountain comes out on top because of their experience competing in the 5A division led by two-time state champion participant, Marcus Heemeyer. Idaho Falls is a great team, but I feel like the Grizzlies are just slightly ahead.

5A Girls

Race Time: 2:00 p.m. (MST)

Individuals To Watch For: Lizzie Dildine (Eagle), Samantha Wood (Post Falls), Allie Bruce (Boise), Rosina Machu (Boise), Rilyn Stevens (Mountain View)

Teams To Watch For: Boise, Eagle, Mountain View, Post Falls

Here's The Run Down:

- The headline coming into this meet is whether or not Eagle's Lizzie Dildine can repeat as an individual champion, but from my perspective, we need to look at the underclassmen talent in this field. Boise's Allie Bruce is having an incredible freshman season running the third-fastest 5k time in the state at 17:43 and has been one of the key reasons to the Braves' success as the nations top team. Another freshman from Boise in Samantha Smith, who has the second-best best time in the state at 17:35, didn't race at the District meet so it's questionable if she is a go for Friday. Post Falls' Samantha Wood is making her mark too with an undefeated racing record and a 5k personal best time of 17:49.1. Between Dildine, Wood, and Bruce, this will be the race of the day to watch.

Boise is about as good as a team as you can have. With all seven runners ranked in the 5A division's top 15, this is the most dominant team in all of Idaho, and perhaps the whole country. Rosina Machu has the chance to end her career as a part of three state championship teams, while also placing high on the podium. As for the other top tier teams, just like the 5A boy's individual race, the battle for second place is going to be close. Mountain View, Eagle, and Post Falls all have solid five scorers and any of them could beat each other on any given day. But it might come down to the sixth runner for these three schools to dictate placing, which in this case is in favor of Mountain View.

The Runner WA's Individual Pick: Lizzie Dildine

- Since she was able to take down the top runner in all of Idaho last season, Dildine knows what it takes to win a state title. This year's race might be as close as last year's finish, but it's hard not to go with someone who is a three-year medal winner at state.

The Runner WA's Team Pick: Boise

- No. 1 team in the country? Don't need to explain this one. I'll say this team scores 24 points or less en route to their win.

4A Boys

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

Individuals To Watch For: Shane Gard (Pocatello), Nikolai Braedt, (Sandpoint), Sam Jeppsen (Preston), Cruz Flores (Caldwell), Jett Lucas (Sandpoint)

Teams To Watch For: Preston, Sandpoint, Pocatello, Blackfoot

Here's The Run Down:

- With Idaho Falls moving up, it's anyone's chance now to win the team title. Towards the beginning of the year, it looked to be Sandpoint with the incredible depth they have, but both Preston and Pocatello have put themselves in the mix with late-season performances. Pocatello had the upper hand on Preston early on in the year beating them twice at two invites, but Preston has won the last three meetings including last week's District V Championship. Of the two schools, Pocatello may have the best one-two punch, but Preston's five-man spread is 33 seconds faster at 53.3 seconds. On paper, Preston, Pocatello, and Sandpoint are within six points of each other in the hypothetical meet.

Between individuals, Shane Gard is sitting out front with a 15 second lead over the next best runner with his 15:40.6 5k time. That may seem by quite a bit, but it doesn't matter what you run early on in the season. Eight runners are heading into the state meet all running under 16 minutes, giving each of them a chance at winning an individual title. Sam Jeppsen is the latest runner to break the mark running 15:56.3 at last week's District V Championship. Along with Gard, his teammate Brevin Vaughan comes in with a 15:58.5. Sandpoint also has a great duo in Nikolai Braedt and Jett Lucas as they run 15:55 and 15:59.4. With seven of the top eight runners being seniors, this is surely to be a battle to the end.

The Runner WA's Individual Pick: Shane Gard

- A lot is at stake for Gard. Not only is he potentially leading his team to a potential team title, but he's trying to redeem himself from a 30th place finish last season and end his high school career with the highest individual honor. Given that the state meet is also in his hometown, you know Gard is going to bring his best effort to make Pocatello proud.

The Runner WA's Team Pick: Pocatello

- As the hometown host of the state meets, you best believe Pocatello wants this state title more than anyone racing on Friday. It's been four years since the Indians last won a state championship, and Friday is the perfect opportunity to bring home another state title.

4A Girls

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

Individuals To Watch For: Cassandra Vasquez (Nampa), Alivia Johnson (Bonneville), Nelah Roberts (Skyline), Alexia Corona (Ridgevue), Bailey Bird (Pocatello)

Teams To Watch For: Skyline, Preston, Pocatello, Bonneville

Here's The Run Down:

- The 4A individual title race features two of the more successful runners of all classifications this season in Nampa's Cassandra Vasquez and Bonneville's Alivia Johnson. Between the two, their combined racing record is 13-2 and their PR's are within two seconds of each other with Vasquez running 18:13.9 and Johnson running 18:15.1. There's much at stake between the two though. Vasquez will be racing the final time in a Bulldog cross country uniform and was eighth overall at state last year, while Johnson was last years state runner-up as a freshman. As of right now, it's a clear toss-up as to who really can win since this will be the first time they will race each other since last year's state meet.

Skyline has come a long way this season and it's because of their freshman star Nelah Roberts. With the third-fastest time in 4A, Roberts is on the brink of contending with Vasquez and Johnson in the front pack of the individual race, but the focus will be on leading the Grizzlies back to the top of the 4A summit for the first time since winning the school's first state title in 2017. Preston is on the outside looking in but has the best chance to compete with Skyline for the team title. Both Angelie and McKinley Scott need to finish in the top eight if they want to give the Indians the best shot at winning. Because of the depth Skyline has with four runners in the top 20, this could be a challenge for Preston to compete with. It also may boil down to how Pocatello's Bailey Bird and Bonneville's Kennedy Kunz run as well.

The Runner WA's Individual Pick: Alivia Johnson

- Johnson has proven she is not afraid of racing at the biggest stage. She competed well with Post Falls' Samantha Wood, one of four contenders for the 5A individual title, at the Inland Empire Challenge. This is a young runner with a ton of grit and a bright future for the next two seasons.

The Runner WA's Team Pick: Skyline

- Teams with depth are the ones who get the job done, and that's been my main focus when it comes to this Skyline group. It may have been an up and down year for the Grizzlies, but this is a race where I think they will be on the upper end.

3A Boys

Race Time: 9:45 a.m. (MST)

Individuals To Watch For: Logan Davis (CDA Charter), Owen Rogers (Gooding), Keegan McCraw (Snake River), Lincoln High (Snake River) Jack McManus (McCall-Donnelly)

Teams To Watch For: Sugar-Salem, Snake River, Timberlake, Teton

Here's The Run Down:

- Since the 2015 season, Sugar-Salem has been, if not, the most dominant team in all of Idaho winning five consecutive state team titles and they are well on their way to winning the sixth one come this Friday. This Diggers team is the only team with all seven runners running faster than 17:45 for a 5k, but no one has broken the 17-minute barrier. Needless to say, it's not necessary for them because of their five-man spread in an astonishing 22.3 seconds. Snake River has the best duo in Keegan McCraw and Lincoln High who are sitting right next to each other with times of 16:48.6 and 16:48.9, but I don't know if that is enough to contend with Sugar-Salem.

CDA Charter's Logan Davis was one spot away from the podium last season at the 3A state meet but has made a big turnaround this year coming into this state meet with the top overall time of 16:18. But he won't be alone when it comes to race time as Gooding's Owen Rogers is the top returning state finisher placing third last fall. Only eight seconds behind Davis, Rogers comes into the state meet with a 16:26.2 5k time but has a faster personal best time at 16:12 and more state medals than the current 3A top runner. As mentioned earlier, Snake River's McCraw and High are another pair of runners who could be in the mix with Rogers and Davis. It might be a challenge to go first and second for Snake River's top two runners, but one of them may win it.

The Runner WA's Individual Pick: Owen Rogers

- I'll give credit to Charter's Davis, he's having a great year. But Gooding's Rogers wants to get this state title just as bad as anyone because he's been so close and just hasn't put together the right race at the right time. That will change this Friday.

The Runner WA's Team Pick: Sugar-Salem

- The Diggers will reign again this fall for a sixth consecutive year. It may not be their best team compared to previous state teams, but they are good enough to get the job done this season.

3A Girls

Race Time: 9:00 a.m. (MST)

Individuals To Watch For: Sophie McManus (McCall-Donnelly), Jaresa Jackson (Sugar-Salem), Hailey Raymond (Snake River), Ryley Klingler (Sugar-Salem), Mckenzie Winegar (South Fremont)

Teams To Watch For: Snake River, Sugar-Salem, Teton, Kimberly

Here's The Run Down:

- Sugar-Salem comes in with a three-year state team title streak, but that's looking to be stopped this Friday by Snake River. Led by freshman Hailey Raymond, the Panthers are seeking their first-ever state team title in program history, and with five runners ranked in the top 20 individually and spread of 48.7 seconds, things are shaping up to be in their favor. However, in the times Sugar-Salem has faced off against Snake River, the Diggers have conquered the Panthers with their most recent win coming at the Bob Conley Invite. Should make for an interesting race in Pocatello given the Panthers are coming in ranked higher in the hypothetical meet than the Diggers.

Like the 5A boy's race, this 3A girl's race might be out of hand because of how far ahead the top athlete is and that's McCall-Donnelly's Sophie McManus. McManus's 5k time is 18:47.1 and is almost a minute faster than Sugar-Salem's Jaresa Jackson's time of 19:40.1. Given that McManus is the returning state champion, she is easily the heavy favorite going into this meet, but that doesn't mean Jackson won't contend for the first mile or two of the race. Also, as mentioned, if Snake River wants a chance at a team title, Raymond is going to need to run another PR and finish third or better as an individual.

The Runner WA's Individual Pick: Sophie McManus

- I just think McManus is so far ahead of every runner at the 3A division right now, it might not even be close when the results are done.

The Runner WA's Team Pick: Sugar-Salem

- Sugar-Salem has the upper hand over Snake River this season and mentally that can get to teams. Surely Snake River will come to compete, but at the end of the day, it's Sugar-Salem who wins.


For more information on the 2020 ISHAA State Cross Country Championships, click here.

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