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Alexander, Ussher lead Badger effort at state

 
November 3, 2021
 
Badger cross country coach Tyler Warner, left, has nothing but good things to say about his runners, who ended their season with a solid performance at state.

Camille Ussher photo
Badger senior Connor Alexander came home with hardware,
finishing 10th at state.
Per usual, the Badgers were the furthest traveling team in the state just to get to the State 3A Cross Country Championships in Eagle October 29-30. They were watching the 4A and 5A races on Friday on the way down and making notes, so they expected that times were going to be slower, but Coach Tyler Warner assured them that their races would be a matter of places and points, not necessarily times.

The race took place at Eagle Island State Park, near Meridian. Weather was a little on the cool side, but the course surfaces were nice. Sometimes cooler temperatures with dew on the grass makes the course slippery, but not in this case.

The course is deceptive, because it's pretty flat, but there is a large hill in the middle of the course, and since it's a two-loop course, they have to hit it twice. It's got a lot of little technical turns, a section of about 50 yards of sandy beach and a lot of grass.

"I've been preparing the team all year like this would be our course, so we did a lot of work with accelerating out of turns, especially the last 180 degree turn towards the finish line," Warner said. "Overall I'm very pleased with how the teams did running the course on very little rest after a long bus trip."

The girls race was led by former champion Emma Hillam of Fruitland and McKenna Kozeluh of Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy. Camille Ussher and Ceci Roemer led the way for Bonners Ferry, both eyeing top 20 medals this year.

"We talked a lot about not going out too fast in the first mile and letting folks fall back to you," Warner said. "State is tricky because kids want to start out really fast or get caught up in the nerves, so we preached staying focused on running our own race and not going out too fast early. Both girls did this very nicely. On the second loop Camille and Ceci passed a lot of girls who had gone out very quickly, maybe over a dozen. While they ended up in 25th and 26th place, I'm still very pleased with how they did. Both were surprised to find out how many girls they'd passed at the end."

The rest of the pack; Jaden Byars, Leah Moellmer and Sydney Beckle, ran very well. Sydney came in third for us, finishing her season with a PR. Leah and Jaden were also on pace for PR's early and still had good days despite not getting them. Senior Liliana Brinkman finishes her career at state, a worthy accomplishment for a kid who began running at BCMS XC with Coach Bonnell, and Freshman Trina Johnson finishes her first season at state as well with a PR as a nice bonus.

In the team scores the Badger girls squad finished 8th out of 11 teams.

Photo by Ellen Smith
Camille Ussher finished the state girl's 3A race in 25th place.
"Beating Timberlake at State and Fruitland as well are definitely firsts for me in my coaching career," Warner said. "It's been a while since we beat either of those teams."

CdA Charter's McKenna Kozeluh took the State 3A girl's title with a time of 18:46.76. Ussher led the Badger effort with a 21:19.11 time, with Roemer right behind at 21:27.77. Beckle finished at 21:55.02 and 35th place, Moellmer came in 59th at 24:11.55 and Byars 62nd at 24:28.88. Brinkman finished in 75th at 27:07.18 and Johnson 77th at 28:07.56.

Snake River won the team title with 67 points, Sugar-Salem took second with 69. From the Intermountain League, CdA Charter finished seventh with 187 points, the Badgers eighth with 197 and Timberlake 11th with 274 points.

The boys race started out with a large pack and Connor Alexander running in the top 20 amid a field packed with Sugar-Salem and Snake River runners.

"We had much the same conversation with Connor about going out too fast," Warner said. "Last year at Pocatello he ran the first mile in 4:48, which was way too fast. The pace was much more conservative this time and Connor played a smart, patient game, letting the guys in the lead pack fall back to him and some of the other top finishers from the IML. Connor ran a very analytical, tactful race. At one point I remember telling him to relax, you could just see on his face he was a little uptight, but he passed a handful of guys before the end and finished 10th, good for Bonners Ferry's first boys medalist since Hunter Smith in the 2019 season."

The pack of second through fifth place Bonners Ferry boys did not hold together as they usually had, though they did finish fairly close to each other.

"Ultimately we finished 10th out of 11 teams," Warner said. "While finishing towards the bottom of the state tournament seems disappointing, I reminded the boys that there are a lot of teams in 3A who did not even qualify for the race. To finish top 10 in Idaho 3A is still worthy of recognition in my books."

Snake River's Keegan McCraw took the boys championship at 16:19.29, followed by his teammate Lincoln High at 16:21.19. CdA Charter's Logan Davis was the first runner from the IML to cross the finish line, coming in at 17:03.45 in sixth place.

Alexander finished his final high school cross country race with a time of 17:11.01.

Levi Bonnell was the next Badger across the finish line, coming in at 63rd with a 19:02.23 time, Colin Fairchild came in at 19:10.01 at 67th. Justin Strugar came in at 20:09.76 for 75th place, Wyatt Smith on his heels for a 20:10.58 finish.

Ryan Beckle was the 80th runner to cross the line at 20:29.05, and Carson Dineen finished 86th with a 22:29.54 time.

In team scoring, Sugar-Salem took the state trophy with 42 points, Snake River came in second with 47. Timberlake led the IML's state effort, finishing seventh with 208 points. CdA Charter finished 10th with 239, the Badgers 11th with 268 points.

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