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Last week was a very encouraging one for both Preston cross country teams.

For starters, the Preston boys edged Pocatello and finished second at the prestigious Bob Conley Invitational in the varsity A division last Thursday at the Portneuf Wellness Complex in Pocatello, Idaho. Poky is currently ranked first among Idaho’s 4A programs, while Preston is second.

Meanwhile, the Preston girls also shined by placing third at the meet. The Indians only finished 12 points — they tallied 80 points — behind champion Idaho Falls and 10 points behind Skyline, which is arguably the best 4A team in the state.

“Both (the boys and girls) have been really determined this year,” PHS head coach Tyler Jones said. “They put in a lot of miles this summer and they’re focused and improving each week. With the girls, we’re just so young, but ... week by week they’re just stepping up and running great times. And Pocatello, they’re really good too on the girls (side), and the last couple of meets we’ve beat them.”

On the boys side, Preston edged Poky by two points and Madison by three in a very competitive field. Idaho Falls, which might be the best team in all of Idaho, finished with 61 points to Preston’s 72.

“We hadn’t ran against (Poky) for a couple weeks, but the first couple meets they beat us pretty good, and we just wanted to keep improving,” Jones said. “And it was close, two points, but it shows that we’re there now and at least we have a chance, so that was great to beat them ... and kind of give us some confidence with just one meet to go before the district meet.”

Athletes from Pocatello placed third and sixth in the boys competition, but Preston had enough depth to hold off its rivals. The Franklin County Indians had three of the top 12 finishers.

As he has been all season long, Sam Jeppsen was Preston’s top runner as he powered his way to the No. 7 spot and covered the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes, 17 seconds. All five of Preston’s scoring runners broke the 17-minute barrier, to the delight of Jones.

Edison Leffler placed 10th for Preston with a time of 16:24, and he was followed by teammates Garrett Hale (12th, 16:33), Dawson Leffler (20th, 16:49) and Reynger Davidsavor (22nd, 16:56).

As for the Preston girls, they had all five of their scoring runners finish in the top 25, and four of these athletes are freshmen. Angelie Scott was eighth and clocked in at 19:59. She was followed by older sister McKinley (12th, 20:09), and then fellow freshmen Elly Jeppsen (17th, 20:32), Maren Leffler (19th, 20:34) and Oakley Reid (24th, 20:52).

West Side was also in action at the meet as it competed in the varsity B division. Aubrie Barzee placed fourth with an impressive time of 19:42 and beat the No. 5 girl by 36 seconds. Teammate Ashlyn Willis was 17th (21:07).

Leading the way for the West Side boys was Brentan Noreen, who was 18th and completed the course in 17:23. The Pirates finished ninth in the boys field and 11th in the girls.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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