There was no heartbreak for Preston’s girls cross country program this team around.
The Indians placed all seven of their runners in the top 22 en route to blowing away the competition at the 4A State Championships, which took place Friday afternoon at Eagle Island State Park. Preston finished with 59 points, 30 fewer than district rival Pocatello, which accumulated 30 fewer points than defending champion Skyline.
A youthful Preston squad lost by just five points to Skyline a year ago. The Indians welcomed back all but one of their varsity athletes from that team, plus added a couple of standout freshmen. The end result was their first state title since 2008.
“It’s been their goal all year,” Preston head coach Tyler Jones said. “You know, last year they were so close to winning it and all season that’s been the focus, and today I thought they executed the race perfectly and were able to achieve that goal.”
Meanwhile, Preston was aiming for back-to-back titles on the boys side, but Blackfoot foiled those plans. The top four Broncos finished in the top 11, which was enough to offset the Indians having all five of their scoring runners in the top 18. Blackfoot’s best harriers went first and third, to boot.
Additionally, Jones said the Broncos’ No. 4 runner is typically a full minute behind their No. 3 kid, but the two were only separated by 10 seconds Friday.
Blackfoot tallied 44 points to Preston’s 57. Twin Falls was a distant third with 111 points.
“Coach (Carson) Campbell and I, we’ve just been going over (the results),” Jones said. “I mean, we put nine in the top 18 and going in, we thought if we’d get our top five in the top 20, it would put us in a great spot. ... I mean, our kids, I thought they ran great like they have all season, but Blackfoot just had one of those days.”
Nevertheless, it’s been a wildly successful four-year run for the Preston boys, which finished second to now 5A power Idaho Falls in 2018 and 2019 before breaking through with the gold trophy a year ago.
“Edison and Garrett have been our leaders all year and they’ve accomplished so much for our program,” Jones said. “Them both and Reynger (Davidsavor), all three of them, ran all four years at state and they were second as freshmen, second as sophomores, first as juniors and then second (as seniors). And so they’ve definitely left their mark on our program.”
Leffler capped of his high school career as a three-time all-state performer, and he earned a spot in the top 10 at state in each of his final three seasons. Leffler finished fourth Friday as traversed the 5K course in 15 minutes, 58 seconds — 15 seconds behind champion Eli Gregory of Blackfoot.
It was a breakthrough performance for Hale, who powered his way to sixth place and clocked in at 16:04. Hale was credited with the same time as Poky standout Sunny Gunn, who beat him by 42 seconds at last Thursday’s 4A Fifth District Championships. Gunn was able to nip Hale at the finish line.
“It was so awesome,” Hale said. “This summer I tried to get a lot of miles in to really improve my game, and it’s just really cool that I was able to pull it all together for this last race of the season. And to be able to be right there with Sunny Gunn at the finish, that was a cool experience.”
Davidsavor also garnered all-state accolades for Preston, as did teammates Luke Visser, a sophomore, and Gage Cordner, a senior. Davidsavor was 14th with a time of 16:34, while Visser was 16th (16:45) and Cordner 18th (16:46). Preston’s five scoring runners had a pack time of 48 seconds.
“It’s kind of sad that we have four seniors this year that are leaving and I just really hope that the next generation can step it up like we have,” Hale said. “... But yeah, it’s been cool to be in the running for that state title all four years and have such a good team to do it with.”
Likewise, Preston came through with a very impressive spread in the girls competition as its top five harriers finished with 39 seconds of each other, plus all seven of them were only separated by 57 seconds.
“It’s really good,” Preston sophomore Angelie Scott said of the well-rounded performance. “It definitely feels like you have a full team behind you, that you always have them to push you and, yeah, it’s really fun.”
“They just grouped together (really well) and, like you said, 39 seconds is a big deal, and six and seven were right there too,” Jones said. “And they just kind of fed off of each other and just kept moving up. The first half of the race they were probably all about 15th to 30ish, and then that last loop, last mile, they just surged all up together, pulled each other through and it was just awesome to see them all move up and finish like they did.”
Scott made a major splash during her freshman season on the track as she shattered program records in the 1,600 (5:09.97) and 3,200 (11:11.11) meters. She was able to parlay that success over to the fall and was the bronze medalist Friday with a time of 19:19.
“Yeah, (track and field) definitely gave me the idea that I could run a lot faster for this year, and made me excited for the cross country season,” Scott said.
McKinley Scott, Angelie’s older sister, crossed the finish line 10 seconds later and in the No. 7 position, and she was followed by fellow Preston all-state performers Oakley Reid (14th, 19:54), Tenley Kirkbride (17th, 19:58), Maren Leffler (18th, 19:59) and Elly Jeppsen (20th, 20:05). Preston’s Ashley Scott was 22nd (20:16).
Both Scott sisters, Leffler and Jeppsen also secured all-state honors a year ago. McKinley Scott is a senior, but the other aforementioned six Preston girls are either freshmen or sophomores, suggesting the future is extremely bright for the Indians.
In Jones’ 18 years at the helm of both Preston cross country programs, the girls and boys have teamed up for four state titles and 11 runner-up trophies.
West Side is only two victories away from defending its championship in Idaho’s 2A classification. The top-seeded Pirates prevailed in four sets in each of their matches on Day 1 of the state tournament, which is being contested at Lakeland High School.
West Side (29-4) dispatched of No. 8 Declo (25-18, 25-27, 25-13, 25-13) in the first round, and then No. 5 Cole Valley Christian (18-25, 25-17, 25-12, 25-17) in the semifinals of Friday’s winner’s bracket. The Pirates are now guaranteed of finishing in the top three of the tourney.
“We have served tough, played great defense and have worked as a team,” WS head coach MeLinda Royer said. “Looking forward to playing in the semifinals (Saturday) morning.”