HS cross country: ELEVEN YEARS RUNNING — Soda Springs unveils newest state championship banners to end historic season
SODA SPRINGS — As Soda Springs’ state championship banners were unveiled, a familiar movie theme blared over the gymnasium speakers.
The famous Star Wars intro composition welcomed the Cardinals’ two newest souvenirs of success — a pop-culture ode to prolonged excellence.
The Cardinals boys and girls cross country teams swept the 2A state meet Oct. 29 at the Portneuf Wellness Complex — a fourth straight championship for the boys and a record 11th in a row for the girls. No other high school sports team in Idaho had strung together more than 10 consecutive state titles.
At the beginning of Monday’s celebratory assembly, assistant coach Linda Siepert reminded the crowd what the world was like the last time Soda Springs wasn’t the top cross country program in Idaho — all the way back in 2005.
“You went to the video store to try to decide which DVD to rent,” Siepert said. “You watched people actually smoking in a restaurant. If you wanted someone’s phone number, you had to look it up in a phone book.”
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
“You might say winning is a tradition,” Siepert said. “I would say it’s learned behavior.”
Cardinals seniors Riley Simmons and Alexa White spoke to their peers as four-time members of state championship squads. Simmons is the only Cardinal boy to win four cross country state championships, and White is the second girl in school history to finish in the top five at the state meet four year in a row after Kelsey Yamauchi.
Simmons took second as a senior to lead his team to a sixth 2A title in eight years.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘Running is easy, anyone can run, why would you do that to yourself, I can beat you if I practice for a little while,’” Simmons said. “But sometimes, I just sit there and think to myself, ‘Running isn’t easy, and I’ve put in a couple miles since I’ve started just so I can get to where I’m at.’”
White and Simmons both opened with quotes referencing hard work — Simmons’ from the 2007 comedy Hot Rod, White’s from T. S. Eliot.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go,” White said.
That’s the big secret in Soda Springs. There’s no magic water spouting from the geyser.
What began as a mangy startup with low numbers in the 1980s has grown into the premier cross country program in the state.
Cardinals head coach Jeff Horsley was one of two Soda Springs runners to qualify for the state meet in 1988. He took the head coaching job 10 years later and has 18 state titles to his name in 19 years at the helm. The Cardinals boys and girls have swept the state meet seven times with six individual state champions.
Horsley was the last to speak to the crowd, standing at a podium next to a table full of blue trophies without a square inch to spare.
“When I was thinking about what to say today, I sat there at my computer and could only stare at a blank screen,” Horsley said. “It’s kind of hard to put into words what these last 19 years have meant to me.”
Nineteen years, 18 championships, a dynasty cemented and a legacy still being written.
A nearly perfect movie script.
“Not in a million years,” Horsley said. “I wouldn’t even have scripted it like this if I could.”