Scheduling conflicts kept some of the Libby High School cross country team from competing at the Flathead Invitational last Friday, but those who went got a taste of large-scale competition.
The boys junior varsity field held nearly 200 runners, and the boys and girls middle school competitors ran in fields of 152 and 119 respectively.
Weeks of restricted training due to outdoor air conditions showed in the results, and several runners expressed disappointment in their times, said Libby Head Coach Rodd Zeiler. But Zeiler still felt his runners did well for a tough meet.
Especially for the younger runners, it was an opportunity to experience the challenges of running in a larger crowd from the start, he said. “Some of these runners had never seen that big of a crowd before.”
The challenge of navigating a large crowd -- avoiding trips and falls -- can be daunting. But they also have to deal with a quick start and trying to secure their postion, then recovering while still running, Zeiler said.
“And there’s no way to really coach that other than to just get out there, make them aware of it, and then see how they deal with it,” he said.
With better air quality in Libby, Zeiler said he expects to see improvement for the runners over the following weeks as they get into harder training.
While no one looks forward to the pain of pushing themselves through difficult training, the Libby runners understand the benefits and rewards of putting the time in, he said.
Zeiler talked about one of his younger runners who told him that during her first race, she wanted to quit cross country altogether. By the time she was finished, she felt she had to run another race.
It’s important to teach children what “grit” means, and how to handle it when life is difficult, Zeiler said. “As an educator, that’s job one.”
Zieler looks at the lifelong and big-picture benefits of cross country for the student athletes in a number of ways.
Some of the runners he was especially careful of with smoke conditions where those on the team who have asthma, he said. “I have several kids that are learning to run with asthma.”
Another student athlete is recovering from surgery to his Achilles tendon, using the sport to help him lengthen the tendon, Zeiler said.
“I try to advertise my program as a way to have a healthy lifestyles,” he said.
The Libby High School cross country team will run next on Saturday in Coeur d’Alene, with the event scheduled to start at noon.
Flathead Cross Country Invitational
Friday, Sept. 7
Boys JV 5k
1. Sentinel 35, 2. Glacier 57, 3. Lincoln County 57, 4. Flathead 119, 5. Parkland Immanuel Christian 186, 6. Ronan 202, 7. Ronan 202, 8. Loyola-Sacred Heart 205, 9. Columbia Falls 217, 10. Corvallis 226, 11. Hamilton 270, 12. Whitefish 319, 13. Browning 331, 14. Libby 352, 15. Stevensville 428
Top three: 1. Noah McNelis (Sentinel) 17:27.4, 2. Alex Lowe (Eureka) 18:02.9, 3. Daniel Woehler (Sentinel) 18:13.4
Also for Libby: William O’Connell 20:59, Lucky Martin 21:21.1, Dawson Rose 23:48, Vance Ward 24:21.3 , Freddy Moore 25:39.5
Boys MS 2.5k
Top three: 1. Jeff Lillard (Kalispell) 9:00.9, 2. Tyler Avery (Kalispell) 9:31.3, 3. Ruedi Steiner (Whitefish)
Also for Libby: Greyson Thompson 10:18.1, Sam Brumbaugh 11:58.5
Girls MS 2.5k
Top three: 1. Emily Maughan (Seeley Lake) 9:25.6, 2. Finley McCarthy (Whitefish) 9:31, 3. Madeline Jellison (Bigfork) 10:08.7
Also for Libby: Aurora Smith 12:15.5, Annika Benner 12:18.5, Willow Williamson 13:30.1, Katelyn Huff 15:31.9