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2022 Idaho Track and Field Preview
Here are the biggest names and teams to keep an eye on this year
Published: 3/22/2022 10:56:20 AM
Marlowe Hereford
Contributing Writer


The 2021 Idaho high school track season was the first complete one since before COVID 19, and it proved to be a memorable one.

State and school records went down, Borah's Nathan Green won two titles at national meets 24 hours apart, dynasties continued and several athletes and teams experienced notable "firsts.'

The first meets of 2022 have taken place, with bigger meets still to come. Here is a classification by classification look at stories to follow this spring.

Class 5A

The Boise girls had such a dominant weekend at last May's 5A state championships that the Brave were leading the team standngs by 44 points after day one.

Helped by 74 points (not including the 4x400) from their seven varsity cross country girls, the Brave accumulated 157 total points for the weekend to win the team title by an impressive 106 point margin.

Those 157 points were the highest point total of state track from 1A to 5A.
All those distance girls return save for Rosina Machu (now competing for Gonzaga), including the entire all-classification state record setting 4x800 team of Samantha Smith, Logan Smith, Allie Bruce and Jamie Hamlin. And the Brave enter this spring after a successful fall, having won their fourth consecutive 5A girls cross country state title.

"It's a great problem to have," said Boise head cross country coach Aaron Olswanger, who is also mid-distance and distance coach of the Brave. "Every kid is kind of on their own plan, especially early on. We're just balancing all the kids and schedules."

The balancing Olswanger is referring to includes club soccer for athletes like sophomore Bruce, who won the 5A individual state title last fall and is defending 5A individual state runner-up in the girls 1,600 and 3,200, and Nordic skiing for sophomore Samantha Smith, the defending 5A individual state champion in the 1,600 and 3,200. Bruce competed at the Lilac Grand Prix, an indoor track meet in Spokane, in February, placing third in the women's open mile in 5:09.65.

Post Falls senior Samantha Wood won in 5:06.70.

As for Smith, she was one of 24 skiers to represent Team USA at the FIS Junior and U23 World Cross Country Ski Championships from February 22 to 23 in Lygna, Norway. The 16 year-old, who also plays soccer, competes for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. She was a member of the women's 2x3.3k relay which placed fifth and was 11th in the women's 15k skate mass start--the second U.S. finisher in that event.

"She will be back during spring break for us," Olswanger said. Smith's older sister, senior and Stanford soccer commit Logan, is playing club soccer.

The Brave were close to a 5A state title sweep last May, as the boys title came down to the 4x400--the final event of the weekend --with Rocky Mountain edging Boise 88-83 in the team standings. The Grizzlies graduated medalists Marcus Heemeyer, Aidan Burbank, Nicholas Wong, Brock Gray, Jarell Lucas and Ben Blythe, but Olswanger still anticipates them to be tough competition. Key returning point scorers for the Brave include seniors Liam Murray, a Dartmouth commit and the defending 5A state champion in the 800, and Mason Lawyer, a Washington State commit and the defending 5A state champion in the 200, and Porter Coffield, who placed third in last season's 300 hurdles finals.

"You don't see kids like this come through all the time in high school," Olswanger said. "We're extremely excited about our boys group. We're really optimistic about our boys. We know we have the pieces." Olswanger is meet director of the Boise Relays, which will take place April 16 at Dona Larsen Park. He added that six athletes will compete at the Arcadia Invitational the weekend of April 9 in Arcadia, Calif. and Boise's team will travel to the Oregon Relays the weekend of April 23 at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field.

Green, now competing for Washington, went out with a bang last May wearing the Borah uniform for the final time, taking down Idaho's all-classification records for the boys 3,200 and and 1,600 with his winning times of 8:53.47 and 4:07.5, respectively. Green acknowledged the runner-up in both those races, then freshman Luke Athay of Idaho Falls, as a runner with a bright future ahead.

Since those second place finishes, Athay won the individual 5A boys cross country state gold, helped Idaho Falls place second as a team at state, qualified for and placed 20th at the Eastbay (formerly Footlocker) Cross Country Nationals in San Diego and was named Idaho's Gatorade Player of the Year for boys cross country. He took the winter to recover from an Achilles tendon injury, and started running again in late February.

He ran personal bests of 4:19.11 and 9:19.92 for the 1,600 and 3,200 last season.

"I have a goal to try to win both those events this year at state," Athay said. "I want to PR, but I don't want to set those up too high because of having no offseason. We'll just see how the season goes."

Athay said he is also hoping to compete at Arcadia, and he is looking forward to the Tiger-Grizz Invitational, which is cohosted by Idaho Falls and Skyline but taking place at Highland from April 29 to 30 this year due to Ravsten Stadium's track getting resurfaced. He added that he is enjoying the start of the season with his teammates.

"I think we've got a really great team this year," Athay said. "I have a lot of people I can run with and train with. I'm excited to see what our team can do."

Class 4A

Bishop Kelly swept 4A boys and girls track titles last May for the fourth time in six seasons, adding to its 4A track dynasty. Paige Tekippe (four medals last year) graduated, as did Baylor Harrison (two golds last year) and Keegan Crouteau (three medals including two golds last year), but athletes such as senior and defending boys 100 state champion James Onanubosi, junior Cole Miller, junior Kevin Corrigan, senior Anna Schmautz, junior Grace Shirley and senior Isabella Reyes return.

Skyline head coach Chase Meyer, whose girls took second to Bishop Kelly in 2021 and 2019 and whose boys won in 2019, expects the Knights to reload as they usually do and continue to be the 4A girls and boys teams to beat. He added, however, that the Blackfoot boys and Pocatello girls are definitely teams who could contend with Bishop Kelly. Meyer said the Thunder have talent everywhere this spring, and Blackfoot's first boys cross country state title since 1976 last fall should carry over into success in relays and individual events.

"Poky (girls), they could challenge them," Meyer said. "Blackfoot is gonna be really good. Those kids will make great relays, and they've got some good 400 runners."

Skyline's girls pushed Bishop Kelly in last year's title race clear to the 200 and 4x400 finals, where the Knights scored 22 combined points to win their sixth consecutive state title.

Combining for 60 points for the Grizzlies were Claire Petersen (gold in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, open 100, 4x100) and Nelah Roberts (gold in the 1,600 and 3,200) and both are back this spring after making their way into Skyline's record books last season.

Petersen, a junior and Skyline's school record holder in the 100, was one of two girls in Idaho last season to break 12 seconds for the 100 with her personal record of 11.95 in prelims at the 4A District 6 championships. She also went undefeated in both hurdles events and competed in the 100 at the Nike Outdoor Nationals at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field last summer.

"I want to be able to beat my personal best times and I want to go to state again and make finals and be state champion again," said Petersen, who has personal bests of 44.44 (300 hurdles) and 15.07 (100 hurdles).

"I want to run 14s for the 100 hurdles, 43 (for the 300 hurdles) and it would be amazing if I ran 42. I want to try to get (the 100) to 11.7."

Roberts, a sophomore who holds Skyline's records in the 1,600 (5:03), 3,200 (10:54.28) and in 5k cross country races (17:50), is Idaho's two-time defending 4A girls cross country state champion who was named Idaho's Gatorade Player of the Year for girls cross country in January. She placed 25th at the Eastbay (formerly Footlocker) Cross Country National Championships in December in San Diego and competed in three indoor track meets this winter, including the Nike Indoor Nationals on March 12 in Staten Island.

Like Petersen, Roberts is aiming to bring down her personal bests.

"Defiintely sub-5 for the mile is what I'm chasing after," Roberts said. "For the 2-mile, sub-10:30. I'm going to Arcadia (Invite on April 8 and 9 in Arcadia, Calif). and I heard a girl at nationals say she ran a 10:05 there."

Another athlete to keep an eye on this spring is Emmett senior Landon Helms, who has signed with Texas A & M, and is two-time defending 4A state champion in 110 hurdles and pole vault. Helms, who holds Idaho's 4A boys pole vault state record (15-6), has pole vault personal bests of 17-0.75 (indoor) and 16-1.25 (outdoor) and has competed at New Balance Outdoor Nationals, New Balance Outdoor Nationals, Nike Outdoor Nationals, Simplot Games, National Pole Vault Summit and the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Championships.

Class 3A

It is still March, but longtime Sugar-Salem coach Brett Hill already knows who the top team contenders in 3A will be.

With brothers Jaxon and Gatlin Bair combining to score 56 points for state champion Kimberly, Hill said Kimberly remains the boys team to beat. Jaxon, a senior this year, has already broken 51 seconds for the 400 this month, while Gatlin, a sophomore, has already run 10.8 for the 100, 21.83 for the 200 and jumped 22-6.5 for long jump.

"Those two boys will score 80 points," Hill said. "There's no ifs, ands or buts about it."

Hill's Diggers won the girls title, their first since 2017, and he said Sugar-Salem have the pieces to vie for both 3A state titles in May if his athletes stay healthy. For the girls, the Diggers return senior and defending 400 state champion Ryley Klingler (four gold medals last year), senior and defending 800 state champion Jaresa Jackson (four medals including two golds) and state qualifiers Natalyah Nead (senior), Cambree Shawcroft (sophomore) and Jayla Jackson (sophomore).

"We have a lot of depth back this year," Hill said. "Staying healthy is a big key and figuring out where those pieces go. Last year was almost all track points.
This year, I hope we score those track points but I hope we get points from the events we've traditionally been very good in."

Returning boys include seniors Brigham Dalling (two medals last year), Toby Pinnock (shot put medalist), Boyd Sorensen (discus medalist) and Jonah Schulthies (state qualifier in long jump and pole vault) and junior Porter Holt (four medals last year, including two golds).

Like his girls team, Hill said the Sugar-Salem boys also have depth.

"My throwers, I've got an incredible group this year," Hill said. "I've got four boys that are gonna be competing close to a title in shot and maybe a few in discus. Our real good core sprint group is juniors."

There are a plethora of girls teams to also keep an eye on as the season progresses, including Timberlake, Fruitland, Bonners Ferry, Kimberly, Weiser, Snake River and McCall-Donnelly.

Watch for Bonners Ferry, Timberlake, Fruitland, Gooding and Snake River on the boys side.

Class 2A

While the Melba girls won their third consecutive girls track state title last May, the Salmon boys won their first track state title since 2003 to bookend a school year that began with Salmon's third consecutive boys cross country state championship.

Melba graduated Kate Clark, but return medalists Meya Young (junior and reigning long jump state champ), junior Kendall Clark (two medals last year), sophomore Ahna Shaffer (four medals last year) and sophomore Tayler McCoy, who is reigning runner-up in discus. Anticipate Orofino, West Side, Soda Springs, Aberdeen and Firth to challenge Melba in the trophy race.

Salmon graduated a solid core of point scorers in Utah State commit Johnathon Simmons (four medals last year), Treygan Bragg (three medals last year), Blazen Burgess (three medals last year), Griffin Mylan (three medals last year) and Will Garrett (four medals last year, three of them gold). Simmons' younger brother Danny, a sophomore who placed second in last fall's 2A cross country state championships, third at Nike Cross Northwest Regionals and broke the 15-minute barrier for a 5k by finishing 21st at the RunningLane Cross Country nationals, expressed excitement for this year's Salmon team.

"I think we've got quite a few athletes that are shooting to be state champions this year," Simmons said. "If we can pull our guys from field events and hurdles, those other team members, if they can get the points they're trying to reach for, we have another shot of winning again this year."

Simmons, who won three medals last May, has big goals this spring after such an accomplished cross country season. He competed in two indoor meets, the Utah Distance Challenge and BYU Indoor Invitational, winning the 2-mile title at the BYU meet in 9:45.39.

"Right off the bat, I want to run at least a 4:15 in the mile and at least a 9:10 in the two mile," Simmons said, referring to the 1,600 and 3,200 distances. "Later in the season, I want to get closer to 4 and closer to 8:40."

Simmons moved from Utah to Idaho when he was younger, and he said it has been fun to see and experience the level of competition of Idaho high school running right now alongside runners such as Green, Athay, Eli Gregory and Matt Thomas of Blackfoot, and Nampa Christian senior Grady Mylander, who won all three 2A boys distance event state track titles last May and the 2A individual cross country title last fall.

"It's pretty unique because when I moved from Utah to Idaho, I wasn't very close to the best in Utah," Simmons said. "Here in Idaho, it's pretty cool seeing how there's a bunch of people that, we're all fighting to be the top No. 1."

Salmon's biggest competition might come from within its own district. North Fremont edged Salmon at both the district and state championships for a program first boys cross country state title last fall, and the Huskies have switched gears to track as those runners look for success in various events.

Among them are senior Max Palmer, junior Zack Johnston, senior Tyler Burke and freshman Corbin Johnston.

Class 1A

Attention should be on the Raft River girls and Carey boys this spring as both programs pursue defense of their state titles.

Raft River extended its girls track state championship streak to three last May, helped by a combined 97 points from Libby Boden and twin sisters Karlee and Kaybree Christensen. The Christensen twins have continued their careers at Utah State, but the Trojans return a plethora of point scorers and medalists from that state championship team. Among them are senior

Boden, who won four state gold medals last year and opened this season with a 12.36 100 time, senior Sadie Campbell (four-time medalist last year), junior

Jessi Knudsen, four-time medalist and sophomore Heidi Harper (reigning 400 state champion with a personal best of 57.93) and sophomore distance runner

Allie Black, an athlete Raft River cross country coach

Brooke Christensen spoke highly of early last fall and went on to claim the 1A individual girls cross country state title.

District 4 completed a 1A state title sweep last spring as Carey made history upon claiming its first boys track state title. The Panthers did graduate multiple point scorers from that team, including Ashton Sparrow, Hunter Smith, Sawyer Mecham and Dallin Parke. Returning athletes include junior Riley Morey, who won four state track medals last year and already has three victories early in the season, junior Connor Simpson and junior Ellis Jensen.

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