EAGLE Over the past 38 years, the Bob Firman Invitational has seen its share of changes.
For starters, the cross country meet wasnt always called the Bob Firman Invitational.
The inaugural meet was staged in 1975 at Ann Morrison Park in Boise, and was known as the Boise City Invitational.
Bob Firman, the head cross country coach at Borah High at the time, helped organize the first meet alongside coaches from Boise, Capital and Bishop Kelly. About 20 schools participated and runners covered only 1.5 miles.
Saturdays 38th annual Bob Firman Invitational at Eagle Island State Park was a much larger affair.
More than 2,500 athletes from 94 high schools and eight states participated in a race that tests runners over 5 kilometers of varying terrain.
The invitationals namesake was on hand Saturday as he has been nearly every year passing out medals and Nike backpacks to the top 20 finishers in each race.
I am humbly honored to be a part of this and what so many of these people in the city of Boise have done, Firman said. Its fantastic. It is one of the biggest cross country meets in the nation.
After Firman retired as Borahs coach in 1988 after 23 years, his colleagues decided the meet should be named after him. Firman is considered one of Idaho cross countrys founding fathers. He helped the sport take root in Idaho in 1964. It began as a boys-only sport, but soon added girls to the mix by the late 1960s.
I love cross country. Its one big family, Firman said. Its a lifetime sport. Its something that draws people together.
ELITE VARSITY GIRLS
Within a few minutes of winning her third consecutive Bob Firman, North Central (Wash.) senior Katie Knight was speaking and walking with ease.
As many of her competitors stretched out exhausted on the ground or hunched over, gasping for air, Knight was busy giving out hugs and encouraging other finishers.
Although her winning time of 17 minutes, 59.46 seconds did not surpass the course record she already owns (17.34.0, 2010), Knight was in command the entire race. She finished about 50 meters and 11 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor.
I love this course because its hard, Knight said. People are scared of this course because its rough terrain, theres sand and the hills and the starts all lumpy, but I feel like you have to brave those kinds of difficulties and use them to make you tougher.
Soon after Saturdays race, Knight left Eagle Island to make a recruiting visit to Colorado. She also plans to visit Stanford and Washington in the coming weeks.
Idahos top finisher was Boise High sophomore Emily Hamlin in 13th (19:00.85). Hamlin is the reigning 5A individual state champion. The Rocky Mountain girls had the best place among Idaho teams in fourth. Davis High (Utah) took the girls team title, placing all seven of its runners in the top 30.
ELITE VARSITY BOYS
On the downhill stretch leading up to the final 800 meters, Seattle Prep (Wash.) junior Joe Hardy assumed the race lead for the second and final time.
Hardy finished in 15:03.01, just ahead of second-place Taylor Wilmot of North Central (Wash.). It was a personal best for Hardy, who was competing at the Bob Firman Invitational for the first time.
I have been running against (Wilmot) since my freshman year. He really just pushes me every single time I run against him to do the best that I can, Hardy said. Its really close each time.
The race for the boys team title wasnt nearly as close. North Central placed six of its seven runners in the top 20 to win the team championship with 47 points. Arcadia (Calif.) was second with 127, Herriman (Utah) third with 141 and Davis (Utah) fourth with 142.
Pocatello High sophomore Elijah Armstrong was the first Idahoan to cross the finish line. Armstrong clocked a 15:35.62 to take sixth. Rocky Mountain High claimed the top spot among Idaho schools in 10th.
Rachel Roberts: 377-6422,Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX