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2007 Bob Firman Invitational

Saturday September 22, 2007

Eagle Island State Park, Boise ID
Meet Preview
by Dave Devine, DyeStat Northwest editor

Boise, Idaho— For the last few years, the Bob Firman Invitational at Eagle Island State Park near Boise, Idaho, has been growing in size and stature, but with the announcement this past summer that the venue would be the site of the nascent Nike Team Nationals Northwest Regional, the event took on even greater import. Top teams from around the region looking to preview the terrain they’ll encounter in November—as well as those from outside the Northwest hoping to test their mettle—are journeying to Boise this weekend for the 2007 version of the venerable Bob Firman.

The boys’ elite race is shaping up to be a barn-burner, with two of the top-5 Harrier Magazine preseason teams in the nation competing (North Central WA-US#2 and Trabuco Hills CA-US#5), along with five of the top ten ranked teams in the Northwest, a top-ten team from the Southwest and a host of teams considered “bubble squads,” on the verge of being regionally ranked. The girls’ elite race is stacked at the top as well, if not quite as deep overall, with the #4-ranked team from the Southeast traveling all the way from Alabama to meet the #2 and #5 teams from the Northwest and the #3 Southwest team.

A closer look at teams and individuals likely to shine
North Central WA after their Spokane triumph Wednesday -Photo by Lori Wordell

Boys Elite Preview

Last year, Trabuco Hills CA came to Boise on the heels of a great (and surprising) 2nd-place run at the Woodbridge CA Invite and upended a field heavy with Northwest favorites to take the title. This year Trabuco Hills enters, perhaps more highly regarded, but seeking redemption after a 13th placing at Woodbridge while they awaited the return of Riley Sullivan, expected to pair with Scott Blair at the front of their formidable pack. Sullivan is said to be returning for Firman, but he and his Trabuco Hills teammates will their hands full with a young, talented squad from North Central WA looking to cement their own status as a national force to be reckoned with. North Central, led by Andrew Kimpel and Leon Dean, are coming off an historic and confidence-building win over all the major Spokane powers in a weekly league meet, including NW#7 Mead, ’06 NTN 3rd placer Ferris, and NW#3/US#24 Central Valley. It remains to be seen if that Wednesday race, only three days before Firman, took too much of a toll on the Spokane schools, but if not, look for North Central and Central Valley to be in the hunt with Trabuco Hills, and Mead not far behind. Two other Northwest squads certain to make some noise are NW#4 Crater OR and NW#6 Gig Harbor WA, both led by solid frontrunners and both keying on this race as a regional reputation builder. Dark horse contenders looking to capitalize on front end slip-ups or off days include Mountain View ID, coming off a big win at the Tiger/Grizz Invite over a state-wide Idaho field, and Utah teams from Orem (SW#10) and Mountain Crest high schools.

In the individual race, it’s difficult to pick against top returner and 9-flat two miler Luke Puskedra of Judge Memorial UT. Puskedra was 2nd last year to FL-finalist Taylor Farnsworth, but Farnsworth has graduated and Puskedra is having a wonderful fall thus far. If anyone steps up to challenge, it might be another senior having an eye-opening autumn, Miles Unterreiner of Gig Harbor. Unterreiner has won everything he’s lined up for this season, and has the added incentive of leading a contending squad. Trabuco Hills’ Scott Blair stepped from the shadow of the Sullivan brothers (Riley and graduated sibling JT) last track season and will certainly be in the lead pack, as will Riley Sullivan if he’s healthy and ready to roll. Other to watch for include Mead’s top gun, Kelly Lynch, Kimpel and Dean from North Central, soph Eric Fitzpatrick of Boise, racing in his own backyard, and a pair from Utah—Stephen Clark (Skyline UT) and Spencer Gardner (Springville UT).

Girls Elite Preview

In the 2006 Bob Firman girls’ elite race, a very good Boise squad, intent on defending home turf and climbing from their NW#6 ranking, found themselves third to Gig Harbor WA and Davis UT after several of their top runners succumbed to illness. The illness may not have mattered against a Gig Harbor team more than 60 points ahead, but Boise walked away feeling they could have done better. They get another chance this year, where they enter ranked #5 in the Northwest and again face a very talented Gig Harbor WA squad, currently NW#2. Both teams will have to contend with a highly regarded squad from far outside the region, however, as SE#4 Mountain Brook AL brings their 41-second compression all the way from Alabama to the rolling hills of Idaho. Davis UT is back for more as well, ranked SW#3 and fronted by a formidable pair—defending Bob Firman champ Candace Eddy and teammate Natalie Haws. The Trabuco Hills CA girls will look to mirror the exploits of their boys’ team, and Idaho squads like Bishop Kelly, Eagle and Bear Lake will hope to play the spoiler in their home state.

Individually, the aforementioned Candace Eddy of Davis UT has to be considered the favorite, holding as she does the course record and the distinction of top returnee. Hailey Knettles of Judge Memorial was a surprise 2nd to Eddy last year, but she won’t sneak up on anyone this year, and neither will recent Tiger/Grizz Invite champ Nicole Nielsen of Borah ID or Boise’s Kate Jamboretz, a freshman who has exploded on the Idaho scene but is relatively untested against out-of-state competition. She’ll get plenty of it here, from those noted above, as well as Gig Harbor’s leader, Alyssa Andrews, Mountain Brook, Alabama’s #1, Madeline Morgan, and Davis’ second option, Natalie Haws.

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