THE FRONT ROW WITH JASON ELLIOTT: The miles made Hunt a champion

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As a sophomore in 2017, Timberlake High’s Logan Hunt was 80th out of 85 runners at the state 3A cross country championships at Eagle Island State Park.

A conversation with Tiger head cross country coach Shawn Lawler might have changed everything after that.

“We were eating dinner in Ontario, Ore.,” Lawler said. “While eating, he told me he wanted to be good. I told him a lot of kids want to be good. He repeated himself and said, ‘No, I want to be really good.’ I explained that miles make champions.”

Two years later, Hunt was really good in his final high school cross country race, running away with the state 3A title on Nov. 2 at the Portneuf Wellness Center in Pocatello.

“He just crushed the field,” said Lawler of Hunt, who joined Frank Lagrimanta (2005 and 2006) as the only individual state champions in school history. “Many say they want to be successful, but few follow through. He clearly is the exception. No one would have thought after not qualifying for state as a freshman, finish nearly last as a sophomore, then 18th as a junior, that he would crush the field and set a course record as a senior running 15:48. It’s an amazing story that I’ll retell the rest of my career.”

AS FOR what changed over the three years ...

“It’s nothing real intense,” Hunt said. “It’s just about getting out every day of the week, running, and trying to put in more time. It doesn’t have to be anything hard, but I just ran more.”

Running in Spirit Lake, as well as the surrounding areas, can be tricky at times.

“One time, coach Lawler and I were running in Bayview,” Hunt said. “It was super windy out, and a tree fell directly in front of coach Lawler and I. Then a power line came down about 20 feet in front of us. It was kind of scary that day. I’ve seen a few moose, foxes, rabbits and all kinds of wildlife running around.”

Lawler also recalled that Bayview run.

“It was 11 degrees with massive wind gusts,” Lawler said. “Well below zero with the wind-chill factor. When we crested the hill at Cape Horn Road, it nearly took our breath away. On the way back, the wind was blowing so hard it snapped a large pine that broke over a power line right in front of us. We were expecting to have live wires sparking at our feet. Fortunately the lines held and we were able to climb over the tree trunk and run back to Bayview. I will never forget that run.”

Hunt attributed his success to Lawler, who started the Timberlake cross country program in 2004.

“We’ve done a lot of runs together,” Hunt said. “He’s pretty much taught me everything he knows as of now. He’s prepared me really well for state each year, and runs a great program.”

It hasn’t been all running for Hunt since capturing the state title on Nov. 2. He’s been able to enjoy it a little bit.

“I took it easy the day after I got back home (from state), because I could,” Hunt said. “I had some candy from my birthday that I ate. I didn’t do anything else but chill out at home and relax, because I was really tired.”

HUNT WILL compete in the Elite Boys race at the Nike Northwest Regional Cross Country Championships today at Eagle Island State Park. Hunt was 63rd out of 228 competitors at the Bob Firman Invitational on Sept. 21, also at Eagle Island. Hunt hasn’t lost since.

“I just want to run a good race,” Hunt said. “It’s going to be nice to see everyone in the same race, because we don’t always get to race against these people. I don’t have any real expectations of how I’m going to do, but just want to go have fun.”

Hunt was second in the Farragut Invitational, which featured a handful of 5A schools, finishing in 16:14.8, three seconds behind winner Caden Byrer of Lewiston.

“That might have been the biggest race I’ve been in,” Hunt said. “But my best race was at state, and that’s what you want at that time of year.”

And whether it be the larger 5A schools, or those around the same size as Timberlake, Hunt welcomed the challenge.

“I just look at those other people as others to run against,” Hunt said. “Outside of what school they’re from, it really doesn’t matter who they are.”

Hunt won at the Connell Invitational, Can-Am Invitational and William Johnson Sandpoint Invitational, prior to running away with district and state titles.

“It’s nice,” Hunt said. “It was just kind of a relief to win because there had been a lot of pressure going in. It was nice to have everything go right for once.”

“I will miss his level of commitment and love for the sport,” Lawler said. “It’s not often you can discuss top runners in Idaho and around the country and have one of your own be completely engaged in the conversation. I hope that his level of commitment (50- to 60-mile weeks) will transfer to others in the program.”

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at (208) 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at Follow him on Twitter @JECdAPress.

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