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Multiple Districts Represented in Tiger-Grizz Victories
Raft River, Skyline, North Fremont and Rocky Mountain all saw top finishes
Published: 9/10/2022 6:36:06 PM
Marlowe Hereford
Contributing Writer


Districts 3, 4 and 6 all had individual champions in the varsity cross country races of the annual Tiger-Grizz Invitational on Friday afternoon at Freeman Park in Idaho Falls.

Racing in much cooler conditions than the previous year, four underclassmen claimed the individual titles.
Raft River junior Allie Black won the first varsity race of the day, completing the course in 20:08.9 to claim the varsity B girls race which consisted of runners from 1A, 2A and 3A schools. It was the second win so far this season for Black, the defending individual 1A girls cross country state champion.
"I didn't think I could do it, but I'm proud of myself," Black told's Brandon Baney after the race.
It was Black's first time racing Tiger-Grizz since her freshman season, when she placed 24th in the varsity B race. Firth sophomore Kynzie Nielson was second on Friday in 20:28.1 and Salmon sophomore Brylin Bills, who led the race early, was third in 20:55.2.
Eastern Idaho teams finished atop the leaderboard in a tight team race. Defending 2A state runner-up Soda Springs won the varsity B girls team title 103 to 106 over fellow District 5 school Malad, while Ririe was not far behind in third with a score of 108. Raft River was the lone 1A school in the race with a complete seven-member team, placing sixth with a score of 141.
Black told Baney after her win that Raft River, which is in its third season of having a complete girls cross country team, is wanting to 'prove that even though you're a small school, you can still do great things.'
The lone repeat individual varsity champion of the day was Skyline junior Nelah Roberts in the varsity A girls race, which consisted of 4A and 5A schools. Her winning time of 19:08.9 bettered last year's winning time of 19:24.9. 
Conditions were a big difference from last year to this year. Race day temperatures in 2021 were 95 degrees while Friday's weather was much cooler.
"Last year, Tiger-Grizz was a super hard race for me," Roberts said Saturday morning by phone. "I was hurting the whole time and was ready for it to be over. Yesterday it was like perfect weather."
Two-time 4A individual state champion, Idaho's reigning Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year and the lone eastern Idaho girl to ever break the 18-minute barrier multiple times, Roberts has won all four races she has competed in this season. Finishing second on Friday was Thunder Ridge junior Courtney Earl in 19:39.2 and in third was Roberts' teammate Marina Renna, who crossed the finish line in 19:54.1 and prompted an enthusiastic reaction from Grizz head coach Sean Schmidt.
It was the best time and finish so far this season for Renna, also a junior like Roberts.
"It was super cool to see," Roberts said Saturday. "I kind of started out how I normally do and she started out faster than she normally does. Sometimes when the course looped, you could totally see the other girls. I could always see where she was. Coach also said she dropped back to fifth and came back and got third."
Roberts, who qualified for and competed in the Eastbay Cross Country Nationals last December in San Diego and is hoping to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals this year in Portland, said she is taking this season week by week, anticipating to push herself at smaller meets and anticipating to be pushed at larger meets. Tiger-Grizz is special to her due to the familiarity of the course and being a member of one of the co-host teams.
"I really love Tiger-Grizz," Roberts said Saturday. "I love the local meets where I know a lot of the people."
Rocky Mountain claimed the varsity A girls team title with a score of 71, edging defending 4A state champion Preston, which had six runners finish in the top 20 to place second with a score of 73. Skyline was third with a score of 115.
The youngest individual varsity champion of the day came from the varsity B boys race as North Fremont sophomore Corbin Johnston won the title in 17:01.2.
A malfunction with the timing chip on his shoe led to a delay in finalizing official times and finishes, something he was made aware of upon his finish when his chip wasn't read by the timing system. Official times were finalized with help of the finish line camera.
Soda Springs senior Kayden Gentry was second in 17:20.7, Sugar-Salem senior Dylan Ball was third in 17:30.6 and Johnston's older brother, North Fremont senior Zack Johnston, was fourth Friday in 17:43.
"It's nice to be able to train with someone and it definitely pushes us faster," Johnston said Friday to Baney on being teammates with his brother.
Idaho's top returning 2A boy runner from 2021 upon the graduation of defending individual state champion Grady Mylander of Nampa Christian and the departure of defending state runner-up Danny Simmons, who moved from Salmon back to his hometown of American Fork, Utah, for his junior season this year, Johnston said he is wanting to improve his times from last year.
"One goal is I want to get into the 15s," Johnston told Baney, referring to breaking the 16-minute barrier for the 5k. Johnston's personal record is 16:11.5 from last year's state meet, where he placed third.
Seven-time defending 3A state champion Sugar-Salem claimed the varsity B boys team title with a score of 86, West Side was second with a score of 100 and defending 3A state runner-up Snake River took third place with a score of 144, four points ahead of fourth-place North Fremont.
Defending 5A state champion Rocky Mountain claimed both the varsity A boys individual and team titles in impressive fashion on Friday. Landon Heemeyer, a junior, won the race in 16:10.1 and led four Rocky Mountain runners to top-five finishes and ultimately the team title with a score of 30. Taking second was defending 5A state runner-up Idaho Falls, back in 4A this season after two years in 5A, with a score of 64 and Skyline was third with a score of 121.
Heemeyer said he and his teammates entered the race aware of the elevation change from the Treasure Valley, as well as all the climbs, loops and turns of the Freeman Park course.
"We knew it was gonna be a tough course," Heemeyer told Baney following his win. "We were 
just trying to get as close to sub-16s as possible."
Heemeyer said the Grizzlies have a big goal this season to do something that has never been done before by an Idaho boys cross country team.
"We're trying to be the first Idaho team to make it to (Nike Cross Nationals)," Heemeyer said to Baney.
Nike Cross Nationals, also known as NXN, returns to Portland, Ore., in December for the first time since 2019 following two years of COVID-19 cancellations. The top two teams and top five individuals qualify for NXN through seven regional meets and some nationwide at-large teams and individuals are also selected. Last season, Rocky Mountain won the Nike Cross Northwest Regional meet at Eagle Island Park in Boise. All seven regional meets took place, but there was no Nike Cross Nationals due to COVID-19, and regional team and individual awards were instead presented. Nike Cross Northwest Regionals are scheduled for Nov. 12 at Eagle Island State Park and will serve as a qualifying meet for NXN.


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