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Records Get Personal For Wood River Runners
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Runners send it down Spectator Hill.
 
 
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Friday, September 29, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KEITH WILSON

Frost crunches beneath thousands of rubber soles on the grass of Eagle Island State Park this past Saturday.

Those wearing the shoes are erecting a tent city at the park outside Boise as rays from the sunrise shine through hints of changing leaves.

Among the 120-or-so canvas roofs is one that proclaims Wood River Wolverines with the mascot prominently displayed.

 
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McCallen Campbell and Emmett Stouffer fight for bragging rights as the fastest Wolverine.
 

The Bob Firman Invitational for which these runners have gathered is named after its legendary inspiration. Firman was a math teacher at Borah High School in Boise for 40 years, and he played a pivotal role in pioneering high school cross-country in Idaho as he coached the sport for 23 years.

His namesake 5K course has been run at Eagle Island State Park for a myriad of years, and it is no easy feat. There is a range of terrain, including grass, sand and dirt paths. Spectator Hill looms big with its 50-meter climb and 90-meter descent.

Throw in frequent turns, fierce competition, the shrieks of the crowd and the teams on the sidelines bursting with potential energy, and it's easy to see why spectators might be inspired to lace up a pair of running shoes.

The Cross-Country Wolverines are a small team of 16 runners. Just 10 of them are at Bob Firman. Joining them are bigger 4A Idaho schools, such as Bonneville, Canyon Ridge and Idaho Falls, but it doesn’t stop there. More than 150 teams attend the annual meet, including visitors from California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

 
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Emmett Stouffer leads a pack around a corner. Ames Sandefur rocks out In celebration as he exits the finish area.
 

In an open field, there are food trucks, more team tents and a cluster of white tents for race officials and the finish area. Music vibrates from speakers, blaring everything from The Doobie Brothers to Metallica to Taylor Swift.

The races begin with the freshmen girls: Elli Siegel and Lucy Jacoby representing Wood River.

“Don’t fight the hill,” says Mabel Thompson, a sophomore, to her teammates as they enter the chute for the start area behind a temporary fence. “Just send it on the way down.”

“You can think about it in sections,” says Scout Kendall, another sophomore from Wood River.

 
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There is excitement in her voice, and the same energy beams from her eyes.

“There’s the grass, the soft sand, and the big hill. Every part is different,” she adds.

By the end of the first race, Siegel and Jacoby have set the standard for the day, each achieving a personal record. Siegel crosses the finish line in 23 minutes 36 seconds and seven-tenth of a second and Jacoby in 25:18.3.

Following them is Asher Stouffer as Wood River’s solo freshman boy. He finishes with a personal record of 21:43.3.

McCallen Campbell and Emmett Stouffer are next for Wood River, representing varsity boys. The team has high expectations, and they stand in anticipation behind the flags to see another episode of their friendly intra-team rivalry unfurl.

Campbell enters the start area cautious of an aggravated hip. Stouffer looks stoic and focused as he jumps and bounces in the starting lane. After the gun fires, Campbell leaps ahead of Stouffer. Then Stouffer takes the lead over him. Both boys finish with personal records: 17:44.3 for Campbell and 17:16.8 for Stouffer.

Wood River’s solo varsity girl for the day, Mabel Thompson, follows her own advice and “sends it” on the downside of Spectator Hill. With gravity on her side, she glides effortlessly past the tent city both times. Despite indigestion and a lingering calf cramp, she runs 22:40.5, her fastest time of the season.

Levi Renner and James Sandefur represent Wood River’s junior varsity boys. Renner runs 22:02.2, a new PR, and Sandefur, also “sending it” finishes with a 22:56.7, who has come a long way since his time over 36 minutes as a freshman.

“I can run like that when it's downhill,” says Sandefur, humble in his words but not shy to put an arm in the air.

Junior Varsity girls are the final race of the day, and among them are Wood River’s Scout Kendall and Becca Atienza. “Dancing Queen” plays from the speakers, and Kendall’s ever-going energy radiates as she dances in their starting lane.

Atienza channels her own energy with raw determination replacing the usual smile across her face.

Kendall finishes with a time of 26:50.1, and Atienza finishes in 27:40.1 Sweat dumps from her brow to her neck. Her usual smile has returned. She has accomplished Wood River’s final personal record of the day.

The team munches on snacks and sips on drinks as the big yellow Blaine County bus chugs through the city, climbs over the pass, and arrives back in our mountain town. Next week brings a new block of hard training for their next feat.

 


 

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