LEWISTON — The Badgers Cross Country team went to state, which took place on Saturday at the Lewiston Orchards course. The 5K course featured a lot of turns with some uphills, but oddly created a lot of downhills. As a result, times were very fast for the eight Badgers who competed. The 3A girls were the first race of the day at 10 a.m.
“By that time it was evident that we would have clear skies and ended up being very warm and sunny,” said Coach Tyler Warner. “This was ideal for Abby Gorton who was placed directly in the middle with a handful of individual qualifiers from around Idaho. She got out to a fast start and ran with the front pack for the first half mile or so. Then she started to pull away from the pack.”
Gorton ran strong and hard for over a mile while the lead pack started to fall behind. Then the pack started to catch up.
“It wasn’t that I went out too fast. I actually felt pretty OK. I just think the other girls were feeling much better,” said Gorton.
Nine of the top 10 girls finished either with season records or personal bests. Despite losing hold of the lead, Gorton wasn’t that far behind the front pack. Emma Hillam, a freshman from Fruitland, went on to win the individual girls championship with a time of 18:47. Gorton finished fifth with a time of 19:27.98.
“Abby’s finish is the best individual finish, for boys or girls, in Bonners Ferry in almost a decade. Her time of 19:27 is also a new school record for 5K according to times we have been able to prove.”
The previous record of 19:30 was held by Jordan Young who set the record in 2017 on the Lewiston course. Gorton is a junior with another cross country season ahead of her, but she was overheard telling her teammates she’s already looking forward to track season in the spring where she competes in the 3200m and 1600m races.
Other notable finishes in the girls race included Timberlake’s girls squad, which finished in second place overall with a score of 63. Sugar-Salem took the overall team win with 43 points.
The boys ran at 11:45 a.m. after the 2A and 4A girls races, making them the first men’s race of the day. As the gun went off Hunter Smith got out to a fast start and instantly put himself up among the top 20. His teammates Conner Alexander and Sam Gorton were the next closest Badgers behind early on, but were beyond 20th place. Ty Grigg was coming in fourth and Austin Donn held at fifth, and first-year cross country runner Tyler Lucas was close behind Donn. Levi Bonnell, the seventh runner for Bonners Ferry, ran in place of the injured Duncan McKechnie who suffered an ankle injury earlier in the week.
Hunter locked in early on IML foe Caleb Gleason from Priest River. The two had battled throughout the season, splitting victories over each other nearly evenly. The two kept working their way through the top 20 pack, battling against each other as much as the rest of the field. Other injuries began to rear and the Badgers began to spread out. Austin Donn had to back off and Tyler Lucas stepped up for the Badgers in that moment, taking over the critical fifth place spot. Ty Grigg also began to feel the effects of the long season, but continued to shrug off his injury.
In the end Hunter was passed by Gleason, but not before securing 16th place and a time of 17:00. Gleason took 14th place with a time of 16:58. Conner Alexander pulled away from Sam to take 38th place with a time of 17:51, while Sam in his final high school cross country race took 48th and a time of 18:08. Ty Grigg finished at 55th with a time of 18:24 while Tyler Lucas ran a PR with a time of 18:38, good enough for 68th place. Austin Donn gritted through the race and managed to finish in 18:47. Levi Bonnell came in 76th with a time of 19:45. There were 80 competitors in the boys race. In team scoring Bonners Ferry finished eighth out of ten teams, beating Teton and Fruitland. Priest River finished seventh and Timberlake took home a fourth place trophy.
“Even though we didn’t take home any team awards, I’m proud of how the team performed,” said Warner. “They gave 110 percent of their potential in this race, even when things were not going their way. It takes a lot of courage to endure 11 weeks and then have injuries crop up and still run through them. The boys have a great foundation for next year with Hunter and Austin being juniors, Levi and Conner are just freshman, but Duncan, Ty, and Tyler are all sophomores. We are very talented and graduating only Sam from our varsity squad. We’ll look to be even more competitive next year.”
Hunter Smith is bib 148, Conner Alexander is 142, and Tyler Lucas is 146
“We’re also very proud of Abby for the work she put in during the off-season, for also taking on the responsibilities of team captain, and trusting her coaches and the overall process of the season. She handled the opportunity well and raced the best race she could manage on Saturday. We’re excited for her finish, her new record, and the humble, positive attitude she demonstrated the whole season long.”
The Badger XC Awards night is Nov. 7 where lettermen will be announced as well as team MVPs and distinguished performances.
Complete results can be found on athletic.net.