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Runners Return to Portneuf Wellness Complex for Bob Conley Invitational
East Idaho's premiere runners will be on display Thursday
Published: 10/6/2021 11:42:20 AM
Marlowe Hereford
Contributing Writer


( will live stream the VARSITY races starting at 1:20 p.m. Click here to watch.)

The annual Bob Conley Invitational scheduled for Thursday will be the first high school meet to take place at Pocatello's Portneuf Wellness Complex since last season's state meet.

Several familiar teams from last year's meet are back this year, including defending varsity A boys and girls champion Idaho Falls, varsity B boys champion Salmon and varsity B girls champion Raft River. A total of 39 teams registered by Monday evening's deadline, which meet director and retired Highland head coach Doug Hopster said he was happy to see.

"We host the state meet every three years and this is an off year," Hopster said Tuesday by phone. "We have a few more teams than we did last year. By having that competition, you hope your kids rise to the level of the competition."

The course is identical to the one used when state takes place at Portneuf Wellness Complex. Fast times have become the norm for the overwhelmingly flat course that also features tight, narrow turns and climbs.

"We always anticipate fast times on that course," Hopster said. "If we have cold, dry (weather), if the (surface) is hard, it's a lot faster than when it's rainy and not as cold."

The meet, which has traditionally taken place in October, has separate starting times for the varsity A and B races. Like the annual Tiger-Grizz Invitational in Idaho Falls, varsity A is for teams belonging to 5A and 4A schools and varsity B is for 3A, 2A and 1A schools.

The meet created the A and B divisions once Portneuf Wellness Complex became one of Idaho's three rotating state meet venues starting with the 2016 season.

Due to the ample space in the starting area, more varsity runners are able to toe the line for each team.

"I've always disliked having three or four varsity kids on the starting line," Hopster said. "One thing we like to do is make the starting lanes so seven kids can get in there."

While Hopster said there will not be as many COVID-19 protocols in place as last year's meet, there will not be water at the finish line or a collection of timing chips on Thursday. In addition, an awards ceremony will not take place in the traditional sense. Rather, Mr. Bob Conley himself will be present to distribute the awards.

Three of last year's individual winners have graduated: varsity A boys champion Will Dixon of Madison, varsity B boys champion Johnathon Simmons of Salmon and varsity B girls champion Karlee Christensen of Raft River. Current Bonneville junior Alivia Johnson won last year's varsity A girls title.

All four of those individual champions went on to win state medals last year, and Simmons went on to cap an undefeated senior season with the 2A individual boys state title.

Vector Timing will time the meet. Start times are as follows:

12:00 p.m. JV girls
12:40 p.m. JV boys
1:20 p.m. Varsity B girls
2 p.m. Varsity A girls
2:40 p.m. Varsity B boys 
3:20 p.m. Varsity A boys
4 p.m. Junior high girls
4:30 p.m. Junior high boys
5 p.m. Alumni will provide live streaming coverage of the varsity races, beginning at 1:15 PM.

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