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Badger runners vying for state berths today

 
October 21, 2021

Photos by Alethia Ussher

With a bye week heading into districts, Badger Cross Country Coach Tyler Warner has been gearing the team up for the post season and pondering how the roster will shape up for state.

"Qualifying for districts has two possible elements; qualifying as a team or qualifying as an individual," he said. "To qualify as a team, a team must finish in the top half of the league, rounded up."

It's not as easy as it sounds.

"If there are five full teams in the boys race, then the top three teams qualify for state," he said. "However, Priest River has struggled to have at least five boys necessary to have a full team, so there will likely be four full teams, meaning only top two would go to state. So far this season there have only been three complete girls teams all season, so we will only likely qualify top two girls teams. We'll find out exactly how many qualifiers we'll have on race day."

Based on the fastest times of the season on Athletic.net, the Badger boys are expected to finish third in the Intermountain League.

"However, we never know who will have a good day or who will have a bad day," Warner said. "As a coach, all I can hope for is that everyone on our team is healthy, uninjured, and that I have managed their workload so that their physical fitness peaks on the day of districts. I want my guys to have the best day possible."

In the state-wide Athletic.net 3A standings, Keegan McGraw, Snake River, with a personal best 16:14.6, is ranked first, and Coeur d'Alene Charter's Logan Davis, 16:17.0, is ranked second, and first in the IML. Badger Connor Alexander, 16:26.0, is ranked fourth.

After a rough few weeks for injuries and illnesses, the Badger girls are all back to practice and ranked second in the IML, but CdA Charter is close behind.

"I anticipate we'll give them a run for their money," Warner said. "I just hope that the illnesses and injuries are far enough in the rearview mirror that the girls have the best opportunity to have their best day. If the girls finish 1st it will be their first district championship since 2007."

CdA Charter's McKenna Kozeluh is ranked number one in state 3A, with a personal best of 18:00.0. Badger Ceci Roemer is ranked 17th, and second in the IML, with a 20:37.0 personal best. Timberlake's Haileyann Johnson is 18th and third in the IML, and Badger Camille Ussher is 21st in state, fourth in the IML.

To qualify as an individual, an individual runner must finish in the top 1/3 of total competitors, rounded up. Each team can contribute a maximum of seven runners towards that number, though more runners may compete in the district race per district bylaws.

"So for instance, Bonners Ferry will have nine boys running, but only seven count towards the number to qualify for individuals," Warner said. "The maximum we could have with five teams, therefore, is 35, making the maximum number of qualifiers 12. I anticipate that not all teams will have at least seven runners, so chances are athletes will have to finish in the top 10 or better to qualify as an individual if their team doesn't make it. Last year, Camille Ussher, a senior this year, qualified by being the eighth place runner in a race of 24 runners, locking up an individual qualification.

"One of the nice elements of cross country has always been there is no bench, everyone gets a chance to run the course throughout the year whether it's JV or Varsity. In the IML, we allow all runners to compete in the district race, so whomever has the best day can rise and contribute to their team. I've seen instances where a runner who normally finishes eighth on the team would have a killer day at districts and finish fifth, which is great. It's an 'any-given-day' sort of concept that I enjoy. It gives every kid a chance to contribute to their team."

Districts are at 1 p.m. today at Priest River and the state 3A meet October 30 at Eagle Island State Park, Eagle, Idaho.

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