Grizz XC girls gunning for more

Skyline cross-country runners Macy Olson, Breanne Herrmann, and Sariah Harrison pose for a photo at Tuesday’s practice at Skyline High School. John Roark /

Skyline cross-country runners Macy Olson, Breanne Herrmann, and Sariah Harrison run during practice Tuesday at Skyline High School. John Roark /

The Skyline High School cross-country program’s first year in 4A had a dream ending last season for the boys, claiming their first state title in 19 years to wrap up a season in which they won six of nine meets.

While the state meet at Pocatello’s Portneuf Wellness Complex marked the end of a chapter for Skyline’s senior boys, it provided a glimpse into the future for the girls team.

Despite not qualifying a full team for state, all three Skyline runners were among the 20 medalists: Breanne Herrmann, Macy Olson and Adria Roberts. All three were underclassmen.

Almost a year later, Skyline’s girls are compiling hardware. The Grizzlies won the varsity girls title at the Bronco Invite in Blackfoot on Aug. 25, placed third in the varsity girls race to defending 5A state champion Mountain View and 11-time defending 2A state champion Soda Springs at the 29-team Cardinal Classic in Soda Springs on Sept. 2 and placed second to Mountain View in the varsity A girls race of last week’s 39-team Tiger-Grizz Invitational at Freeman Park. They’ve also had at least three runners finish in the top 15 at each meet, and freshman Sariah Harrison has become their lead girl.

After seeing what they could accomplish with three state qualifiers last year, the Grizzlies are gunning for more success this year as a team.

“We were really disappointed our team didn’t come to state with us,” said Olson, a sophomore. “We were so close (to qualifying at districts).”

“I’m definitely happy with how we’ve done so far,” Harrison said. “We just have to keep working hard.”

Seeing his three state qualifiers win medals last year made Skyline head coach Sean Schmidt optimistic for this season as well as for the future of his girls program. He said he hasn’t had a group like this since Rilee Buttars, McKenzie Walton and Erica Wendt Richardson, a 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifer and a Skyline assistant coach. Those three were members of Skyline’s last girls team to win a state trophy: second place in 5A at the 2004 meet.

“They are hard workers,” Schmidt said about this year’s girls. “They give as much as they can, everything they can at every practice. They’re smart about what they do.”

Their similarities go beyond practice. Harrison said she has been running as long as she can remember. Olson and older sister, Skyline senior and fellow varsity runner Halli, come from a running family. Herrmann, a junior, remembers looking forward to running the mile in P.E. class, and she and Olson were track teammates in elementary school.

“I was really competitive in everything,” Olson said. “I wanted to beat the boys.”

They are still competitive, but it has not created any animosity. Olson and Herrmann have finished within seconds of each other at each meet so far and traded off as Skyline’s No. 2 and No. 3 girls, but they said they don’t worry about their order as long as it ultimately helps the Grizzlies.

“This year, it’s all about the team,” Herrmann said. “I’m glad I have Macy to push me.”

“If I didn’t run with Breanne, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am,” Olson said.

Herrmann and Olson looked forward to the addition of Harrison, who has had quite the high school debut. While her Bronco Invite win and third place finishes at the Cardinal Classic and Tiger-Grizz may be turning heads of those unfamiliar with her, Herrmann and Olson said they are not surprised at how she’s doing.

“She’s so hardworking and so knowledgeable on the details of running,” said Olson, who was Harrison’s teammate for a year in middle school.

The annual Bob Firman Invitational, which has 149 high school teams from seven states and one Canadian province registered as of Tuesday, is the next big meet the Grizzlies will compete in on Sept. 23 at Eagle Island State Park. Beyond Bob Firman, the Grizzlies hope to send a full team to the same venue for state on Oct. 28.

Schmidt and his top three girls all tabbed defending 4A state champion Twin Falls as the team to beat this year. Skyline has never won a girls cross-country state title, and this season’s trophy battle could be tight.

“We’ve all got to keep improving our personal bests,” Harrison said.

Although they are looking ahead, the Grizzlies are also appreciating the moment. Skyline’s top three girls all said they are enjoying being part of the program’s recent rise, and they hope to lay the groundwork for future teams.

“We hope the younger runners see the hard work we’ve put in,” Herrmann said.

“Hopefully they can push themselves and keep us going,” Olson added.