ELLIOTT: Getting a good look at the finish line

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When it comes to the state cross country meet, two out of every three years, teams from North Idaho might be at a little bit of a disadvantage as far as knowing the course beforehand.

This isn’t that year.

And with regionals in the 5A, 4A, 2A and 1A classifications up next for Oct. 18 back at the course at the Lewiston Orchards, chances are the north could have a few teams to watch as the trophies are handed out at state on Oct. 27.

LAST SATURDAY, schools got a first view of the course — which will be the same for state — during the Inland Empire Classic at the Lewiston Orchards.

“There was a greater presence of southern schools this year,” Lake City coach Heather Harmon-Reed said. “The races were larger and more competitive than the previous years. Despite this year’s growth, the meet ran just as smoothly as previous years thanks to meet host Mike Collins of Lewis-Clark State College cross country.”

The Idaho High School Activities Association opted to rotate the site of the state meet between three locations — Eagle Island State Park, the Portneuf Wellness Center in Pocatello and Lewiston Orchards, which will host state for the first time time this year. Previous state meets in the north have been held at Circling Raven Golf Course (most recently in 2009), Hells Gate State Park (2012) and Farragut State Park (2015).

Still, Harmon-Reed noticed some differences in the times of the races.

“Many athletes ran of their best 5K times this weekend,” Harmon-Reed said. “The course seems to allow for fast times and we are also seeing athletes hitting their peak performances during the ideal portion of the season. I am excited to have a state course that allows for athletes to have a great showing through their race times. The new course makes use of a section of the old course. It covers the same distance, but in a smaller area with the middle mile containing many turns, including a couple of hairpin turns. The course is flat with some long gradual up and downhills. They are so gradual, it would be easy for athletes not to realize they are going up or down.”

“It’s a fast course and very spectator friendly,” Post Falls coach Brian Trefry said. “The layout is much different from last year, but on the same land. I think that will serve well as the state course.”

TIMBERLAKE, ALTHOUGH the Tigers won’t compete at regionals in Lewiston — the state-qualifying meet in 3A is Oct. 18 at Mirror Lake Golf Course in Bonners Ferry — has competed against some of the best competition they can find, finishing 4th out of 40 girls teams in the Bob Firman Invitational at Eagle Island State Park on Sept. 22.

“We lost to defending (state 3A) champs Sugar-Salem, (Montana state champions) Hardin and a very good Morgan (Utah) team,” Timberlake coach Shawn Lawler said. “Our boys were not full strength. With that said, that meet does help with confidence. Our runners know they can travel long distances and compete well against the best.”

Timberlake’s girls were 6th out of 17 teams last Saturday at Lewiston.

“The girls team has a very strong pack with a 1-5 gap slightly over a minute,” Lawler said. “The boys team wasn’t full strength yet, but still competed well and showed growth. Anytime you run well on the state course, confidence rises. In the next few weeks, we are running a few simulations to be even more successful.”

“Our goal on Saturday was to become familiar with the course, and I think we accomplished that well,” Trefry said. “In the previous two meets (the Mountain West Invitational at Missoula on Sept. 29 and the Battle for the 509 at Cheney on Sept. 22), we were trying to be as competitive as possible. Going forward, we want to use our experiences as a base for future success.”

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at (208) 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at jelliott@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter @JECdAPress.

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