Unseating the best boys high school cross country team in all of Idaho proved to be too much for the Indians, but they still capped off a gratifying season with one more memorable performance.
For the second straight year, Preston finished only behind Idaho Falls at the 4A State Championships, which were contested last Saturday at the Portneuf Wellness Complex in Pocatello, Idaho. Additionally, the Indians, plus 4A third-place squad Kuna, outperformed the champions of the other four classifications.
Preston’s top five runners completed the 5-kilometer course with an average time of 16 minutes, 6 seconds, which was 18 seconds faster than the fivesome from 5A champion Timberline. Preston held off Kuna for the second-place trophy by two points, 75-77. The Tigers, whose top five harriers averaged a 15:54, prevailed with 54 points.
“We had a tremendous season,” Preston head coach Tyler Jones said. “This is the fastest team we have had in school history. Obviously, we wanted to win the state championship, but to have three kids run under 16 minutes this season and be in the top 10 at state, that’s a great accomplishment. ... All year the boys worked hard and were determined and gave it their best shot, and that’s all you can ask as a coach. They are a tight group and their motto all season was family, and they did some great things.”
The silver lining for the Indians is five of their seven varsity competitors are underclassmen.
“On a positive note, IF is 5A next year and we have a lot of kids returning,” Jones said.
Once again, Preston was led by the dynamic duo of senior Riley Reid and junior Sam Jeppsen. Reid was the medalist at the district meet a week ago and was also his district’s top performer at state as he was fourth with a time of 15:39. Reid, who powered his way to eighth at state as a junior, had the eighth-fastest time regardless of classification last weekend.
“Me and my team (are) like family, so being done is kind of hard,” Reid said. “We’re there for each other all the time. We’ve done everything together.”
Jeppsen finished third in a loaded district and sixth at state. The junior clocked in at 15:49 in his final meet of the season.
“We all definitely tried our best and I’m proud of them doing their best,” Jeppsen said. “That’s all you can ask for. If it’s not our day, it’s not our day.”
Joining Reid and Jeppsen in the top 10 was teammate Edison Leffler, who earned the No. 10 spot by crossing the finish line in 16:00. Leffler is only a sophomore.
It was a solid prep finale for Preston senior Josh Harrison, who covered the course in 16:18, which was good enough for the No. 25 position. Harrison would have placed in the top 12 in any other classification. In fact, if it wasn’t for some significant health problems that didn’t allow Harrison to train at all during the summer, he would have been a legitimate top five contender last weekend.
“Josh had some health issues and it was great to see him contribute as a senior all season, and end the season with his best time of the year,” said Jones, who also praised his other varsity athletes by name, plus senior captain Wyatt Crowther, Preston’s No. 8 runner.
Also scoring team points for the Indians was Garrett Hale, who placed 41st and clocked in at 16:42.
The medalist was Zac Bright of Idaho Falls, whose time of 15:23 was faster than anybody with the exception of the 5A titleist. Reigning supreme in the 4A girls competition was Mattalyn Geddes of Twin Falls, whose time of 17:30 was the best out of all five classifications.
It was another outstanding effort from Preston’s Andie Bell, who like Reid and Jeppsen secured all-state honors for the second year in a row. The sophomore was fourth with a time of 18:43.
“It didn’t feel good right after (the race), but now if feels better,” Bell said. “Next year, I definitely want the school record.”
Fellow sophomore Michayla Robertson placed 40th (20:33) for Preston, which was seventh in the team competition with 178 points. The Indians will welcome back five of their seven varsity athletes in 2020. Idaho Falls claimed the team title with 65 points, while Bishop Kelly was second with 88.
West Side’s Jacob Moffat capped off his resplendent high school career by capturing the silver medal in the boys 2A race. Moffat was a four-time all-state performer and never placed lower than sixth at the 2A championships. He was sixth as a freshman and third as a sophomore and junior.
The two-time district champion outkicked a pair of runners to claim the silver medal with a season-best time of 16:24. It was the senior’s third time competing on this course in 2019, and it made a difference.
“Just knowing that I have the long hill on the backstretch, the last part, it’s smart to try and conserve enough energy in my legs,” Moffat said.
There was no stopping Salmon’s Johnathon Simmons, who breezed his way to the title by breaking the tape in 15:56. Three of Simmons’ teammates also secured a spot in the top seven as Salmon dominated in the team competition with 22 points to runner-up Soda Springs’ 72.
“(Simmons) was too far ahead for me to stick with him,” Moffat said. “I just wanted to secure myself second place, and I just waited and took the moment that I needed to. That’s what I was hoping for.”
Moffat powered the Pirates to the fourth-place team trophy as they accumulated 112 points, which was only four out of the No. 3 position. Teammate Brentan Noreen also earned all-state accolades for West Side with his 14th-place clocking of 16:56.
Also scoring team points for the Pirates were Braydn Noreen (33rd, 17:31), Gideon Beutler (37th, 17:53) and Alex Winward (39th, 18:05). West Side will only lose a pair of athletes from its varsity squad.
The Pirates were also represented on the girls side by a pair of all-state athletes in juniors Natalia Lewis and Ashlyn Willis, who both broke the 20-minute barrier. Lewis was 11th (19:45) and Willis was 13th (19:47).
The West Side girls were arguably one of the top five teams at the 2A level, but didn’t qualify because the Fifth District only gets two bids to state. Those top two teams from the Fifth District, Soda Springs and Bear Lake, swept the top two positions at state. The Cardinals captured an astounding 14th consecutive state title and amassed 49 points to Bear Lake’s 67.
McCall-Donnelly’s Sophie McManus was the medalist with her impressive time of 18:30, which was 14 seconds faster than runnner-up and 2018 medalist Elli Kelsey of Bear Lake. The three Kelsey sisters finished in the top five.
Note: All of the quotes used in this story with the exception of those from Jones were provided by the Idaho State Journal.