Lake City senior long-distance standout C.J. Helbling returned Thursday.
Helbling was physically present at the 5A Region I cross country meet, but he still struggled with a quad injury that has pestered him since late September. Helbling toured the 3.1-mile layout at Circling Raven Golf Course near Worley in 16 minutes, 14.8 seconds to capture a regional title by nearly 11 seconds.
Coeur d’Alene, which was running without top runner Cody Curtis, had more than enough depth to win a second straight regional title as the Vikings finished with 23 points, 23 ahead of LC. Both teams advance to state, Oct. 31 at Circling Raven.
“It’s still a little tender,” said Helbling, who finished second at state last year. “It’s a weird pain. It’s not like a muscle soreness. It’s an ache. We can’t figure it out.”
In the girls race, CdA junior Kinsey Gomez continued her season-long dominating style. Showing no hint that she had broken a sweat, Gomez finished in 18:41.5 – well ahead of runner-up Rhianna Grossman of LC (20:10.5).
LC’s girls won for a second consecutive year, finishing with 32 to edge CdA by three. The Vikings were without senior Dayna Drager, their second-best runner. Both Curtis and Drager will be able to run at state because their teams qualified. Both were held out because of minor injuries.
Gomez, who is ranked No. 1 in the state among 5A runners, was plotting strategy for state as she ran.
“I wasn’t really going for time, I just wanted to see the course and how it went,” said Gomez, state runner-up last year and a state champ as a freshman. “It’ll be a good course for state.”
The 4A, 3A and 2A state-qualifying meets also were held at Circling Raven.
•4A Region I: Sandpoint’s boys (23) and Moscow’s girls (18) easily captured team championships. Moscow’s boys and Sandpoint’s girls also qualified for state.
David Marienau, Danny Pfeifer and Alex Charvoz led a 1-2-3 finish for Sandpoint’s boys. Marienau had a time of 17:00.1.
In the girls, Emily Paradis of Moscow took first (19:03).
•3A District I-II: Timberlake’s girls snapped Bonners Ferry’s eight-year reign as district champ. Timberlake – which had a 1-2-3 finish from Ashley George, Alex Turbin and Kelsey McCaslin – had 17 points to Bonners Ferry’s 48. Both teams advance to state.
George, a freshman who has led No. 1-ranked Timberlake, had a time of 20:33.6.
Bonners Ferry’s boys snapped Timberlake’s string of four straight district titles. The Badgers’ 23 points easily topped Timberlake’s 61. Both teams advance to state.
Timberlake senior Brian Tucker captured a second straight district title. His time of 16:59.2 was more than 39 seconds better than runner-up Dylan Sweeney of BF (17:38.6).
Tucker thought it was one of his better races this season.
“I was pretty happy with it,” he said. “My strategy was to go out hard. My goal is to win state.”
•2A District I-II: The Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy girls took first with 25 points, well ahead of runner-up Culdesac.
Taylor Hewett of Culdesac won in 20:41.4. Sadie Iott led CCA, finishing second (20:50.1).
Grangeville’s boys won with 36, 17 ahead of CCA.
Daniel Pinkerton of CCA took the individual title (17:56.7), winning by nearly 13 seconds over Dillon Zarpentine of Kootenai (18:09.2).