|2006 Bob Firman Invitational|
9/23/06 Eagle Island Park ,ID
by Dave Devine, NTN Northwest Regional Editor
2006 Bob Firman Invitational
While the eyes of many US high school cross country fans will be justifiably focused on Hoover, Alabama and its Great American Cross Country Festival this weekend, an equally compelling drama will be playing out on the other side of the country at the 2006 Bob Firman Invitational in Boise, Idaho. Nationally ranked teams from the Northwest, Southwest and California NTN regions will be colliding at spectacular Eagle Island Park for a meet that will surely shake up the standings. If anything, this year’s version of the Bob Firman Invite is even stronger than last year’s, a competition which drew four NTN team finalists, eight NTN ranked teams, and a whole raft of individual and state championship teams. The Boys Elite race features six NTN ranked teams from three different regions, led by NW#3 Central Catholic. The Girls Elite race isn’t far behind, with three NTN ranked teams, led by NW#2 Gig Harbor. With so many highly-ranked teams, and upstarts looking to make a name for themselves, there’s no doubt the races will be tight and the competition fierce.
Boys Elite Preview
Let’s start with two squads out to defend their home turf—Borah and Boise. With a host of talented interlopers from places like California and Arizona, the hometown kids have their work cut out for them, but Borah, especially, may be up to the task. Ranked #7 in the Northwest and undefeated this season, they’ve reeled off a series of wins behind their tough front duo of Sawyer Bosch and Sean Huey. Boise High isn’t quite the team they were last year (when they ranked NW#4), but they’ve been rounding into form, and frontrunner Nick Bolinder has been authoring a great individual season. Look for him near the front of the pack. Fellow Idaho teams Mountain View, Firth and Bishop Kelly are dangerous as well, with Mountain View, in particular, considered a tough team with the sort of pack that can slay favorites in large invitationals.
Speaking of favorites, NW#3 Central Catholic of Portland, OR, CA#4 Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo, CA and SW#4 Davis of Kaysville, UT have to be considered top contenders for the team win. Central Catholic has just one race under their belt, but it was a dominant win with a deep and seemingly interchangeable cast of harriers falling in behind #1 Taylor Morgan. Trabuco Hills is fresh off a fantastic finish at the Woodbridge Invite, where they upended CA#3 El Toro and came in second to CA#1 Royal’s all-time run. Davis was second to SW power Mountain View UT at BYU, after winning the American Forks Relays in impressive fashion.
Besides the Idaho locals, look for SW#5 Desert Vista and NW#10 Gig Harbor to turn back the favorites and seek the spoiler role. Desert Vista is defending AZ state champion and fresh off a win at the Chandler Invite with a 47-second spread. Gig Harbor is a team of upstarts, coming off a win at Salt Creek and led by a front pair as good as any in Charlie Williams and Miles Unterreiner.
Girls Elite Preview
If the Borah boys are top picks to defend hometown pride in the Boys Elite race, look for Boise to be the standard bearer for the girls. Currently ranked #6 in the Northwest, all they’ve done is win since an early season stumble at Jimmy Driscoll. Hot off a victory at the Tiger/Grizz Invitational, they have three frontrunners in Sarah Olson, Anne Lovelace, and Jacque Sahlberg and the incentive of a return trip to NTN to fuel the fire. To do so, they’ll have to get past NW#2 Gig Harbor WA, a team that was pre-season #1, but slipped after a so-so run at the Capital Invitational. Now, riding the momentum from a win at the Salt Creek Invite and the frontrunning of Kesslee Payne, they have everything to prove with their trip to Idaho. The third NTN-ranked team in the field is SW#10 Mountain Crest of Hyrum, UT, another defending state champion with a state individual champ (Macinze O’very) as its lead runner.
Seeking to upset the formchart will be a quartet of unranked Idaho teams with no intention of handing state bragging rights over to Boise High. Runner-up to Boise at the Tiger/Grizz Invite was Bear Lake, a tough squad who put five ahead of Boise’s fifth, but lost on points. Mountain View ID has been flying just below the radar, but appears to have a dangerous and tightly-packed team. And then there’s Borah, a pre-season ranker that hasn’t had the success of their boys squad, but is rounding into form and could be a threat. The biggest splash from outside the NTN rankings, however, could come from Bishop Kelly, a perennial Idaho power who beat Boise at Jimmy Driscoll, lost to them at Caldwell, and has won two invites since. They are a legit squad with everything to prove, and the opportunity to do so. Finally, venturing outside the state again, you should never count out a team that travels all the way from New York to Idaho for a cross country meet. Warwick Valley, even without graduated superstar Aislinn Ryan, wouldn’t be making this trip if they didn’t think they had the pieces to put together a strong showing.
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