New Coach, New Team, Fresh Start: Raft River Girl's XC Chasing Big Dreams

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

Trojans Looking for First-Ever State XC Team Title in School History.

(L-R) Raft River's Varsity Seven: Livy Smith, Libby Boden, Jennie Gilbert, Kaybree Christensen, Karlee Christensen, Heidi Harper, Allie Black. Photo courtesy of Brooke Christensen.

Raft River, ID - It hasn't been the easiest of journeys for the Raft River girls' cross country team.

From not having a team since 1999 and to have the program taken away due to lack of participants, cross country has been out of the picture for a long time.

2020 has been a year of chaos for everyone, but the Trojans cross country program's rebirth has brought new meaning in overcoming adversity and taking on the "Underdog" role.

This is their story.

Where is Raft River?

Just West of Interstate-84 and right on the southern border of Idaho and Utah is the small town of Malta, Idaho, named after the Mediterranean island with a population of 205 people.

In the heart of the town is Raft River High School, a small 1A classified school in the Idaho High School Activities Association with an enrollment of 149 students.

During the fall sports season, football has established itself as the dominant program for the Trojan's athletic programs and has had quite the history in winning five state championships, with their recent being in 2016.

Along with football, volleyball is the only other sport that students can participate in until this school year.

If there has been one sport in particular that has been non-existent in Raft River athletics' history, it's cross country.

It's been non-existent to a point where the school hasn't formed a team since the 1999 school year for both boys and girls.

According to Raft River Athletic Director Randy Spaeth, it's been non-existent to a point where only one girl participated in 2001 in the entire program, and the school was forced to cut the program due to budgets.

"At that point, we didn't have any participation to keep funding a coach," said Spaeth on the disbandment of the cross country teams.

"1999 was the last full team we had with five girls running, and it's not clear if that team made it to state or not. In 2000 our numbers dropped to two boys and two girls, and of course, the next season we had the one girl."

Since 1997 when he first started working for the school, Spaeth, in his eighth year as Athletic Director, has been around plenty of successful teams, including a track and field program that has won a total of 16 state team titles between the boys and girls programs.

Those state championship track teams didn't have any distance runners competing for them in years past, but a strong core of sprinters and throwers.

Karlee and Kaybree Christensen

Two of those state titles have been recently won by the girl's team in 2018 and 2019 with Spaeth as the head coach. Part of their success the last two seasons weren't with those typical athletes they had; it was a pair of twin sisters who took on the distance running roles.

Karlee and Kaybree Christensen joined the track team during their freshman