|Northwest Region |
Eagle Island State Park, Boise ID
November 10, 2007
About Eagle Island Park, Boise ID, scene of many major meets and now the host of the first Northwest Regional championships of the Nike Team Nationals cross country meet. Top two teams at the regional will qualify for the 4th Nike Team Nationals at Portland OR on December 1.
|by Dave Devine|
DyeStat assistant news editor and Northwest Regional Editor
Eagle Island State Park, on the outskirts of Boise, Idaho, is a picturesque, championship-tested
cross country course that challenges competitors by requiring constant adjustments to a variety of
surfaces including grass, sand, packed dirt, open field, and asphalt (but only 9 meters of the
black stuff). The course also requires competitors to constantly adjust pace as they negotiate a
number of turns and complete two loops which feature a double trip up and down Spectator Hill,
with its 50-meter climb and fast, 90-meter descent.
Gig Harbor WA coach Patty Ley, traveling to Bob Firman for the first time in 2006, said her
athletes enjoyed the challenging layout. "They all liked the course. They got done jogging it and
said 'It's hard, but we really like it.'"
Coach Jack Recla of Trabuco Hills CA, whose team has twice raced the course at the Bob Firman
Invitational, expressed a similar sentiment. "This course is a great course. It's a true cross country
course. We have a lot of races in California where they're more like road races-- run on flat, fast
surfaces. This was different. Our kids liked it a lot."
At an elevation of 2,724 feet, the course is very spectator friendly, with multiple vantage points
for viewing the race and a long straightaway to watch the finish line drama. The park has been
actively used for cross country meets since 1989. It has been the site of the Bob Firman
Invitational, numerous district meets, four state championship meets, the WAC championships,
and will be the site for the 2007 NCAA DII West Regionals. And of course, the site of the 2007
Nike Team Nationals Northwest Regional meet.
So let's take a look at what's in store for the teams that travel to Boise:
THE START AREA: The races begin in a wide field with a starting line that can accommodate
38 teams using standard six foot boxes. It's a roomy, open space making this a team and
spectator-friendly start area. There's a 230-meter straightaway to the first corner, featuring a
surface that's slightly less friendly. Most of the year this is a hayfield; the terrain is mostly flat
when mowed, but the ground is rutted and uneven in places. Teams would do well to watch
their footing here. When runners reach the first major turn, the course streams onto...
THE FOX TRAIL: After powering across the rutted opening expanse of the start, the runners
are funneled toward a twisting gravel trail that winds along a lake bank to the left, bordered on
both sides by low scrub. This section is where spectators and coaches, watching from across the
water, start to see the first separation in the pack. The terrain is mostly flat, with small rolling hills
and a combination of packed and loose dirt. There is moderate cornering and a stretch where the
runners curve out of sight, only to reemerge along the near side of the lake, hugging the bank as
they come toward....
THE BEACH: This is where the legs turn a bit mushy. The beach winds along the lakefront and
features 200 meters of speed-sapping sand. The first mile marker is halfway across the beach,
and the crowd has great access to runners as they skirt the waters edge and then double back
across flat, mowed grass toward the base of....
Luke Puskedra is alone on the beach with a commanding lead just before the one-mile marker
in his rout of the 2007 Bob Firman Invitational field. photo by John Dye
SPECTATOR HILL: The course's single most intimidating feature is aptly named, as spectators
line the entire left side—two and three deep—to witness the runners charging up the hill. The
climb feels somewhat like a tunnel, with a roaring crowd in one side and a tall fence surrounding
a waterslide attraction on the other. The ascent is nothing major— 50 steep meters and then a
thrilling 90-meter downhill, immediately after the crest—but the descent, especially on the
second loop, is where tight races are typically broken open. In 2006, Bob Firman champ
Candace Eddy (Davis UT), used the backside of the hill along the towering waterslide to power
away from the early leaders and blow the race open. 2007 champ Nicole Nielsen (Borah ID),
repeated the move.
"I remembered last year," Nielsen said, "Candace Eddy took off at the second hill and then she
just left everyone. The whole race I was anticipating when I'd hit that hill, knowing I just had to
go." Nielsen surged up the hill on the second loop and crested in first, then used the downhill
momentum to gap Madeline Morgan (Mountain Brook AL) by 15 meters as they headed toward
The hill's terrain is mowed grass, but if the course is wet, things can get slick in a hurry. Muddy
or dry, runners tackle the hill, cross a short flat populated by team tents, and angle right, onto...
POPLAR LANE: Coming off the course's loudest section, runners take a 180-degree corner to
find themselves sheltered by a long stand of noise-quieting poplar trees. The "lane" is flat,
packed dirt with a right turn upon entry and a sharp turn in the middle. Since runners make two
loops of the course, if they're concluding the first loop they head back into the Fox Trails at the
end of the lane, but if they're nearly done, they enter into kick mode after that second sharp turn
and give it everything they've got toward...
THE FINISH STRAIGHT: Twenty meters wide and 175 meters long, this is where the closing
drama unfolds. The finish is at the edge of the hay field where the race starts, so the terrain is
the same deceptively flat, but fairly rutted surface. Driving arms and lifting knees seem to keep
most runners from trouble. Just like on Spectator Hill, cheering crowds press close and loud
music brings runners home through a long, sustained kick to the finish.
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