Nicole Wagler didn’t train much her first few summers, but going into her senior season she went all in. She was part of the team’s run up the McCullough Peaks – she recalled it being hot and dry – as she and the others trained for the chance to defend the Cody girls cross country team’s state title.
After the opening meet Saturday in Powell, the training for both the girls and boys looks to be paying dividends. The Fillies ran away with the top spot – Riley Smith (19:19.26), Ava Stafford (21:01.03) and Ashton Powell finished (21:01.58) 1-2-3 – and the Broncs finished a close second to Worland on the strength of a 1-2 finish by Wyatt Becker (17:09.22) and David Juergens (17:43.37), as well as a pack of five boys all placing in the teens.
“I thought everybody ran great,” coach Maggie Kirkham said. “It’s fabulous for our first day out.”
Wagler finished seventh amongst a group of four Fillies who came in 6-9. That included Keira Jackson (21:41.30) sixth, Wagler (21:55.23) seventh, Elise Wachob (22:23.00) eighth and Raelyn Mong (22:43.74) ninth. Sierra Vogt ran a 25:41.31 and Ellie Osborne a 26:46.55 to round out the Fillies.
“It was good,” Wagler said. “It was really good.”
For the top Cody runners the main issue was being too far ahead of the pack and thus unable to figure out the pace.
“I did want to run faster but I can’t be too hard on myself,” said Smith, who finished well before any other runners had come into sight along the home stretch. The plus side was it allowed her to cheer on her teammates.
“We had a strong finish,” she said. “It was a smaller meet, but it’s good to see where the girls are.”
Stafford credited her strong finish to preparation, especially her training alongside Powell, who finished just behind her.
“It helps a lot,” she said. “It helps us push each other.”
Kirkham said seeing some of both the Broncs and Fillies clump together to finish was a positive sign. She also praised Jackson, a freshman, in her finish. Kirkham said while the team has trained a lot, it was important to have them all compete for the first time since at least indoor track, if not the last cross country season.
“We’ve trained hard,” she said, “but not as hard as this.”
Kirkham credited Becker’s dominant win – a personal record – to his summer training. Becker had hoped for even better, but said running by himself at the end hurt him.
“Sheridan will come over for our home meet, and a lot of them are faster than me, so they’ll be able to push me,” he said.
Juergens likewise said finishing without other runners around him slowed him down. He finished roughly half a minute behind Becker but half a minute ahead of the third-place finisher.
“I was caught in no man’s land,” he said. “When you’re in no man’s land it’s hard to know how fast you’re going.”
Riley Nielson didn’t have that problem, as he finished at the head of a pack of teammates and competitors.
“We have a really close team,” he said. “And points-wise I’m sure it really boosts our score.”
Kirkham said she’d never seen the top seven Cody boys all finish under 20 minutes.
Nielson finished (19:00.16) in 10th, along with Charlie Hulbert (19:07.67) in 11th, Marshall Brookins (19:15.31) 15th, Kyle Graham (19:19.32) 16th, Ian Graham (19:39.49) 20th and Noah Vogt (21:44.18) 28th.