Updated: Sep 14
Sandpoint, ID - Last season, Post Falls' Samantha Wood ran the race of her life at the IHSAA 5A State Cross Country Championships running a time of 18:15.1 placing her fourth overall.
Fast forward a year later, Wood obliterated that time in Travers Park this Friday, August 28, 2020, in Sandpoint, Idaho.
In an impressive solo effort, Wood ran a 5k personal best time of 17:59 in the girl's race to open up the 2020 cross country season against Inland Empire League foes Sandpoint, Coeur d'Alene, and Lake City.
From the get go, Wood was in total control leading from start to finish, as it was just her and the lead pace bike who were racing against each other for the majority of the three-lap speedy course.
As a sophomore, Wood was three seconds off the course record time last season, and coming into the first meet of this year, that was all she could think about.
"Last year we ran this course, and I was so close to breaking the course record, so that was in the back of my mind," said Wood. "With everything that has been going on, I just wanted to give it my all for my team today."
Like many states around the country, Idaho had cancelled their spring sports due to the Coronavirus pandemic, leaving these athletes with nothing to compete for in track and field.
For athletes like Wood who haven't raced since late-October, early-November, the last few months of training have been tough with no certainty of a cross country season even occurring this fall.
"With coronavirus, it's just been a grind since track season," said Wood. "Just training on my own all spring, and then finally getting to do summer conditioning with my team made it really special. I think that was the motivation for today."
Although it's only the first couple of weeks into the season, Wood now has the fastest time in all of Idaho, which isn't a surprise after an impressive sophomore season where she had beaten an elite runner and BYU commit, Lexi Halladay, at the state championships to place fourth overall.
Despite all the numerous awards she has collected and the fast times she has run up to this point in her high school career, there's more meaning to running for Wood, and the coronavirus hasn't stopped her from doing what she loves.
"Running is what keeps me going and we are fortunate to have great places to run in our town," said Wood. "But if I don't go for the wins or the fast times, I just really love running and everyday it makes me happy so I could never stop."
Not only did Wood gather the individual win, her team also came away with a 21-58 victory over host Sandpoint as Post Falls had a total of five girls finish in the top 10.
Along with Wood, Anna Peters (3rd, 19:39.53), Leah Holding (4th, 19:49.89), Alahna Lien (5th, 19:54.61), and Kaley Bohl (8th, 20:06.27) were the other four runners to make the top 10 for the Trojans.
Second-place Sandpoint was led by Mackenzie Suhy-Gregoire and Camille Neuder who were seventh and 10th running 20:05.82 and 20:52.42.
Angelyca Champman of Lake City was the runner-up in a time of 19:34.78. Coeur D'Alene's Elliana Rietze and Abby Buzolich finished sixth and ninth running 19:57.81 and 20:24.53.
In the boy's race, Sandpoint's Jett Lucas and Nikolai Braedt were first and second with Lucas taking the win in a time of 15:59.39.
Lucas, who was 15th at the IHSAA 5A State Cross Country Championships last fall, comes into his senior year winning two consecutive races and is only five seconds off his personal best 5k time from a year ago.
Mentally, Lucas feels he is more prepared than ever coming into this cross country season because of the long off-season work due to the Coronavirus and not being able to train with his other teammates.
"It's been a long road running through this Coronavirus," said Lucas. "When you go running out on your own, and you can't run with your teammates and friends, it's really difficult, but I think it made me stronger as a runner."
Braedt, who ran 16:02.6 for second place, is looking for a bounce back year in his senior season after a 34th place finish at the state meet running 16:29, which for him was not where he wanted to be given he had run a personal best time of 15:35. But having a teammate like Lucas, Braedt feels he can improve upon from last season.
"Last year, Jett and I lost each other from a training and racing perspective," said Braedt. "But this year, I feel like we are much stronger runners. I think the big thing for us is to use the power of our team and that's what is going to bring us the times we want."
Unlike the girl's race, the boy's race was much more competitive and started off with a tight pack of five runners, including Lucas and Braedt, for about the first mile of the race.
When mile two came around, the pace began to slow down and Lucas and Braedt were able to break away from a couple Post Falls and Coeur D'Alene runners.
"The race was more metric for us," said Lucas on their race plan. "We had a certain pace we wanted to hit from the start, and right off the bat I think it was little off having some of those other guys go out so fast, but we knew we had to stay where we were and perhaps they would fade eventually, which they did."
Led by Lucas and Braedt, Sandpoint also won their second consecutive meet as a team beating Post Falls, 29-47.
Three other runners from Sandpoint finished in the top 10, including Keegan Nelson placing seventh running 17:10.05, and Spencer Clark II and Nathan Roche were ninth and 10th running 17:19.77 and 17:22.61.
Last fall, Sandpoint finished fifth at the 4A state meet and return four runners. With this early hot start, the Bulldogs are feeling pretty good about this year's group and want to prove they belong with the best in Idaho.
"I see some real grit out of our guys," said Braedt. "Last week, we ran a very hilly race and we did great on attacking those hills. Nearly everyone had a massive PR at that race, so it's exciting to see how tough we are this year."
Post Falls' Brycen Kemption and Alex Peters were Post Falls top runners placing third and fourth running times of 16:18.67 and 16:20.53.
Right behind Post Falls' top two were Coeur D'Alene's Braden Dance and Ethan Garner placing fifth and sixth running 16:39.62 and 16:41.36.
Lake City's Maximillian Bazler placed eighth running 17:16.48.
All four schools will run at the Post Falls River Run Meet next Thursday, September 3, at Kiwanis Park in Post Falls, Idaho.
For more results from this meet, click here.
For more photos from this meet, click here.