IDAHO FALLS — If you’ve driven around Sandpoint in the past year, there’s a good chance you’ve passed a group of SHS runners, along with coaches Matt and Angie Brass, putting in some road work to get in shape for the cross country season. The hard work paid off last weekend, with the girls team claiming a state championship.
While Claire Pierce’s 89th place finish might have been a little slower than Mikhaela Woodwards sixth place finish among the 108 runners competing in the girls 4A cross country championship on Saturday in Idaho Falls, it was every bit as important.
The Bulldogs finished with 101 total team points, arrived by adding the places of all seven varsity finishers, to edge runner up Preston by just one point, claiming the school’s second cross country state banner.
That’s the funny thing about cross country. What appears as a mostly individual sport — as each runner races 5K as fast as possible — at the end of the day is actually one of the ultimate team sports, as the scoring doesn’t stop adding up until the final runner crosses the tape.
It took a collective effort of Mikhaela Woodward (6th), Rainey Woodward (8th), Corrine McClelland (22nd), Sydney Foster (28th), Bre Jones (56th) and Pierce to ensure the Bulldogs won the team title, as every second and every place mattered.
It’s not uncommon to see runners puking at the end of cross country races, the result of pushing the body past a point where it can handle the pain. Sometimes the person trying the hardest finishes in the middle of the pack, pushing for the sake of the team.
Senior Sam Levora capped his high school cross country career with another second place finish, cursed to be in the same division at the same time as one of the best distance runners in the West. It’s been a burgeoning rivalry the past few years between between Levora and Pocatello’s Elijah Armstrong, and it figures to play out for the final time in the 3,200 and the 1,600 during track at state in the spring.
In certain other years, Levora’s time was fast enough to win a state title, but such is sports. On the same course, Armstrong’s time was 14 seconds faster than the 5A winner, so there was no shame in finishing second for Levora.
Levora is being recruited by Washington State, Boise State and Montana, and will go down as the top male distance runner in Sandpoint history. It’s safe to say he’s one of the top three distance runners in the state, and he’s attracted the interest of several colleges.
Sam Powell (39th), Alan Orr (70th), Chris Cordova (80th), Matthew Cloud (81st) and Mark Kennaly (97th) rounded out the Bulldog boys finishers.