ETHETE – One of the most fun, unique and competitive moments in every fall season is the cross country meet that takes place at Wyoming Indian High School (WIHS) which once again occurred under beautiful weather conditions this past Saturday. The football field was full of multi-colored tents housing schools from all over Wyoming, including almost every team from around the county as well, all running for more than a personal record (PR).
They all obviously worked hard to get to the times they put in on Saturday afternoon, but the hand-sewn moccasins that are featured as the prizes is one of the most distinguishing differences between running in Ethete and running anywhere else. Thirteen schools sent their JV and varsity runners to the home of the Chiefs, including four from out of state with Montana’s Lodge Grass High School and Utah’s Manila High School and South Dakota’s Little Wound High School and Pine Ridge High School,
All of the varsity girls ran first, splitting up from the crowd after following WIHS sophomore Adriano Brown riding the classic white horse in front of the runners. The tradition is one of the many things that makes running in Ethete so much more interesting and fun, going along with the moccasins and the beautiful location.
“We do some things that other races don’t, like our traditional club and the dance before the race, the moccasins … Everything is unique,” WIHS sophomore Colton SunRhodes said after the race.
At the end of the first race, Lander Valley High School (LVHS) had reason to celebrate as their star runner Ameya Eddy (21:03.95) finished in second behind Jackson Hole’s Madison Antonino (19:26.80) who finished three seconds faster than Eddy’s state-championship winning time (19:29.21) from Ethete last season. LVHS also had sophomore Blue Blackburn (22:17.75), Alandra French (22:57.60) and Twyla Beason (23:25.63) all finish within the top nine with Riverton’s Kiana Swann (22:31.61) splitting them up in seventh place. Swann, a senior, was joined by her senior teammate Alexis Whiteplume (23:54.21) in the top ten.
One of the aspects of the Chiefs Nation Invitational Meet that everyone seems to agree upon is that the course is a very favorable one in multiple ways. For instance, after Eddy finished second she reiterated that she “loves this course” because “you get the uphill out of the way at the beginning” and that the flat nature of it helps runners pace themselves better.
“I really like the harder, hilly area at the beginning,” Blackburn added alongside her teammate. “It’s really helpful, and [today] is not the same pressure as State so it felt really nice.”
A couple other noticeable names near the top was Thermopolis senior Jada Griffin (24:14.43) in twelfth and Wyoming Indian freshman Dai’Onna Posey (24:34.15) making her mark as the only freshman in the top fifteen outside of LVHS’ Beason. In fact, along with Posey, the Wind River reservation was well-represented thanks to the addition of St. Stephens’ superstar senior Georgetta Moss (24:40.03) along with Wyoming Indian’s Camellia Brown (24:40.56) and Shye Killsontop (24:43.43), below, all finishing within the top twenty.
As for the boys, the LVHS team had even more reason to scream at the top of their lungs after senior Diego Lobatos (17:17.19) rounded the final mile with a purpose, beating out two Jackson Hole runners who were pacing in front of him the entire race. Lobatos’ first-place finish was a long time coming for the senior who has only gotten better as this season has progressed.
“I went out slow, really slow actually,” Lobatos explained his strategy after winning it all. “I was really surprised when I came through mile one and I just felt so good. Usually i go out and my first mile sub-five usually, which is not the best, and I just struggle to finish races but today I felt so good. I felt so, so good.”
Lobatos was 17 seconds ahead of the next-best runner, Boomer Weisman, who ran out of gas with one mile to go. Weisman, a junior from Jackson Hole, has ran at Ethete four times now and even admitted his mistakes after catching his breath once the exquisite race was over.
“Diego got a hold of me on the last mile,” Weisman said between water breaks. “I think I took it out a little too hard beforehand … [But] I like the challenge of the course, on a hot day without shade too.”
Other local names in the top ten included Thermopolis’ Jadeth Elder (18:35.84) in seventh, just one place ahead of LVHS senior Reed McFadden (18:40.51) and barely squeaking past the hometown hero, SunRhodes (18:41.89), who finished in ninth in front of friends and family galore.
“It feels real good running here,” SunRhodes said after the race. “Basically my whole family is here [and] it felt good to hear them cheering me on.”
SunRhodes was not the only WIHS Chief or Lady Chief that brought a caravan of people with them though and it could be felt whenever a red-and-powder-blue track uniform crossed the finish line. One of those unis belonged to sophomore Heeyei Niitou Monroe-Black, who was greeted and hugged by his family after finishing in the top fifteen with a PR of 19:21.57.
“It feels good because it’s our home course [and] my own people are around,” Monroe-Black said. “They’re all cheering me on, they all know me and I know all of them, it’s good.”
Sandwiched between Wyoming Indian’s SunRhodes and Monroe-Black were four-straight LVHS Tigers including junior Mack White (18:44.23) who rounded out the top ten. All of this was great for their team’s overall points, but it wouldn’t be enough to beat out Jackson Hole (32) at the end of the day as LVHS (42) finished in second. The same happened on the other side of the race as the LVHS girls (39) only finished behind Jackson Hole (22) who also beat out Wyoming Indian (77) who finished third in the girls varsity scores.
Manila, Utah’s junior varsity runners ended up taking first in both the boys’ and girls’ races with LVHS freshman Logan Heller (20:07.65) finishing in third for the JV boys and Wyoming Indian’s freshman Justice Isis (26:15.56) finishing in fifth on the girls’ side.
BY: Shawn O’Brate