EAGLE — Four of Bonners Ferry Cross Country’s best made the trip down to Eagle, Idaho, for the annual Bob Firman Nike Invitational at Eagle Island State Park.
Seniors Abigail Gorton and Hunter Smith were accompanied by sophomores Camille Ussher and Connor Alexander. They joined more than 5,000 athletes in a competition that drew competitors from as far away as Hawaii and Tennessee. Other states represented included Utah, Washington, Montana, Oregon, California, Idaho and Wyoming.
Bob Firman is annually one of the largest cross country events in the entire northwestern United States, giving these talented runners a chance to compete against some of the best in the region and across the country.
Eagle Island is also the site of the Nike Cross Regionals (NXR) every year and is part of the rotation of Idaho State Championship venues. The course is a full 5K and is mostly flat for the two loops, but with a 150 meter stretch of beach as well as a significant uphill and downhill section. The finish is also notable in that with approximately 200 meters to go the race makes a sharp J-turn to face the runners around to the finish line.
While there were multiple races including Elite divisions for each gender, the Badgers competed in the Varsity II divisions, running against similar sized schools. The boys started off the day in a race of 291 runners and 42 complete teams. Hunter Smith ran a season best 17:41, leading the way for Bonners Ferry. Hunter improved by over a minute from his time on the same course at State as a sophomore. Hunter’s time was also good enough for a 46th-place finish. Connor Alexander struggled to get his legs moving, but still managed a 19:02 and 144th place. The winner Carson Burian of Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, who finished in 15:48.
The two Lady Badgers finished up the day. For Camille Ussher this race was also significant as the official race starter, Nick Ciaccio, was her mother’s high school cross country coach. Abby Gorton started strong in the fourth position. Ultimately Gorton could not maintain the quick pace, but still finished in 13th place with a time of 20:11, her season best. Ussher came in at 23:59 for 141st place. In the Division II Girls Varsity race, there were 242 runners and 31 complete teams. The winner was Elli Kelsey of Bear Lake (Idaho) in 18:56.
Gorton also had a chance to run against southern Idaho 3A foes that she normally wouldn’t see until State. In the head-to-head competition Abby was second among 3A Idaho schools, following Serenady Price of Sugar-Salem (Sugar City) who ran a 19:44 for fourth place at Bob Firman.
The elite division winners were Thomas Boyden of Skyline (Utah) at 14:59 and Lexy Halladay of Mountain View (Idaho) at 17:31.
“It was great giving Hunter and Abby tough competition to push their season bests down early while also giving the young sophomores experience,” Coach Tyler Warner said. “For Abby to do so well is icing on the cake. These kids work so hard and are great teammates. It was awesome to see them enjoy success on such a large stage.”
The Badgers would like to extend their thanks to Capital High School (Boise) cross country for their hospitality at this meet. The Eagles invited the Badgers to their team spaghetti feed Friday night and two Capital XC families, the Cole and Taylor families, hosted the Badgers in their homes the night before the race.
Bonners Ferry next competes with the full team at Priest River Lamanna High School on Sept. 26; races begin at 4 p.m.
Complete Results here: https://bit.ly/2lftU8l