Andrew Rafla doesn't count experience as one of his assets in cross country. In fact, the Timberline High senior probably has logged fewer miles than most of his competitors.
Despite his inexperience, Rafla ran like a veteran Saturday at the Bob Firman Invitational at Eagle Island State Park, finishing tops among District Three runners in eighth place. He clocked a personal-best time of 15 minutes, 34.6 seconds on the 5-kilometer course in just his second season in the sport.
"I am fairly inexperienced, so every race I am learning," said Rafla, who had part of his shoe ripped off by another runner's spikes in last year's race.
It hasn't taken long for Rafla to discover he's a natural runner. He joined the Timberline track team at the request of a friend when he was a sophomore, and then tried cross country the fall of his junior year.
A nagging hip injury flared up at last year's 5A District Three cross country meet, forcing Rafla to withdraw from the state meet. By spring, Rafla was back on his feet, and faster than ever. He finished second at state in May in the 1,600 and 3,200.
"Andrew is the kind of kid that when he does something, he's going to do it to the fullest extent of his ability," Timberline coach Ty Axtman said. " He does everything he possibly can to make himself as good as he can be."
Rafla ranks among the top three in the state in any classification, according to athletic.net, and his success has sparked interest from Portland, San Jose State, Washington, Columbia and Montana, his coach said.
"Last year was his learning year, and this year he can really put his gas pedal to the floor and go," Axtman said. " He's very motivated and he's just learning how much of a gift he does have."
Kai Wilmot of North Central in Spokane won the boys elite race. Wilmot finished in 15:10.0 to help his team take second behind Gig Harbor.
Lucy Biles of Herriman, Utah, won the girls elite race in 17:57.4. It was her first win in six tries at the event. Davis of Kaysville, Utah, claimed the girls team title, with five of its runners in the top 20.
Reigning district and state champion Emily Hamlin of Boise led Idaho finishers in the girls race. Hamlin, a junior, crossed the finish line in 18:41.2 for 12th place. The Braves also had the best showing among Idaho teams in eighth.
Rachel Roberts: 377-6422, Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX