The Idaho State Men’s Cross-Country team is a division one collegiate running squad that competes in distance races ranging from three kilometers to ten kilometers. Idaho State University first introduced the Cross-Country team to its athletic assembly in 1963. Since then the Men’s team has competed against a variety of competitors throughout the last fifty-five years. ISU Cross-Country is a member of the Big Sky Conference alongside ten other institutions including: Eastern Washington University, University of Idaho, University of Montana, Montana State University, Northern Arizona University, University if Northern Colorado, Portland State University, California State University – Sacramento, Southern Utah University, and Weber State University. The Conference was established in 1963 by six charter members – Idaho, Idaho State, Gonzaga, Montana, Montana State and Weber State. “The name originated in a novel written by A.B. Guthrie of Great Falls, MT, entitled “The Big Sky”. The name “Big Sky” was adopted by the six presidents of the charter members as the name of the new conference on February twenty-fifth, 1963.”
Every season, each participating cross-country team in the conference gather at the Big Sky Cross-Country Conference Championship to compete against one another for the conference title. Each team is only allowed to race seven runners total and only the top five of the seven runners for each team are considered scorers. Meaning the first five runners from each team to cross the finish line receive points that correspond to their place. The first-place runner receives one point, the second-place runner two, the third-place runner three, and so forth. The team that achieves the lowest score wins. Although the sixth and seventh runners do not affect the overall team score, they can displace other scoring runners forcing the opposing teams score to be higher. A perfect score in a cross-country race is fifteen points.
Over the past fifty-five years the ISU men’s cross-country team has won the Big Sky Cross-Country Conference Championship title five times. The first was in 1964 at Ogden, Utah. The team scored a total of thirty points, with Idaho State’s very own Art Scott winning the overall 3.95-mile race in nineteen minutes and twenty-six seconds. Scott is the only Bengal in ISU cross-country history to have won an overall individual title at a conference championship and was inducted into the ISU Sports Hall of Fame later in 1989. The second title was won in 1966, hosted in Bozeman, Montana where Idaho State scored thirty-eight points on a four-mile course. The overall winner was Doug Brown from the University of Montana with a winning time of 19:44.8. The third title was won in 1968 at home in Pocatello, Idaho with a score of 36 points on a four-mile course. The overall finisher was Wade Jacobson for the University of Montana running a 20:02.0. The fourth and fifth titles were won back to back in 1981 and 1982. In 1981 their meet was held at home in Pocatello, Idaho. The team finished at an all-time high winning score of 49 points. Steve Bishop from Montana State University was the overall individual running the 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) course in 30:47.0. The following year the championships were held in Salt Lake City, Utah where the Bengal’s won with a score of twenty-five points. The overall performer was Derrick May from the University of Nevada running the 10-kilometer race in 30:15.3.
Idaho States 1981 and 1982 seasons were, and still are the most outstanding seasons to be carried out by any team in ISU cross-country history. During both these years the competing Bengal runners advanced on to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Cross Country Championships otherwise known as Nationals or the NCAA’s. There, they competed against other top schools from around the Nation. No other team in Bengal Cross-Country history has qualified to compete at the national level for the last thirty-six years.
On November 23rd, 1981 the Bengals placed 23rd of 23 teams at the national meet located at the Echo Hills Golf Course in Wichita, Kansas. Though the team took last place, not all was lost. Bengal runner Greg Burrell placed 49th of the 200 plus runners and was the 22nd American citizen to cross the finish line, making Burrell the second ever All-American ISU runner since Art Scott in 1963. This was a surprise as ISU’s most consistent top runner Phil Stephenson was predicted to have been “ISU’s best chance for individual honors” but ran poorly due to blood blisters and shoe troubles. The season finished with high hopes for next year with Glenn Alford, the sports journalists closing statement: “prospects for the cross-country future at Idaho State are bright with Stephenson the only graduating senior in the 1981 team.” This was proven true in the following season.
In 1981, head cross country coach Jerry Quiller commented in a pre-national interview saying, “I’m afraid it’s right that the first time you are in a championship event it’s a real honor to be there and the second time, you go out to win.” This statement held truth to some degree, the Bengals advanced to nationals and raced on November 22nd, 1982 in Bloomington, Indiana. However, the Bengals fell far from their goal to win and even a top ten finish when they placed 18th of the 22 teams present. Fortunately, Greg Burrell once again earned an All-American award finishing 31st overall and was the 23rd American citizen to cross the finish of the barely earning the title at 25 being the cut off. Burrell was the second distance athlete to have won back to back All-American titles behind Tom O’Riordan who earned his in 1958-9 when cross-country had not yet been formalized at ISU. Head Cross-Country coach Jerry Quiller stated that “It was a great season, but the NCAA’s were a bit anti-climactic.” He followed by saying he is “looking forward to the indoor [track] season.”
Since 1982, ISU cross-country has yet to finish a season in higher standings than the 1981-82 squads. In 1985 a new head cross-country coach Brian Janssen stepped in. Janssen coached the Bengal runners to a 2nd place team finish in 1993. Janssen coached for almost 30 years as a Bengal until 2015 when he was relieved of his coaching position. Following Janssen was Coach Nate Houle, a former competitor for the Southern Utah cross-country team. He is the current head coach as of 2015 and has been credited for coaching ISU’s most recent top ten finisher at the 2018 Big Sky Conference Championships: Wyatt Didericksen. Held in Sacramento, California Didericksen clocked a speedy eight-kilometer race in a time of 23:48.0. finishing seventh place overall. The highest finish for over 13 years.
– Jesse Allen
Alford, Glenn. “Burrell Wins Second All-American Award; ISU 18th at NCAA Cross-Country.” Idaho State Sports News, November 30, 1982.
Alford, Glenn. “Greg Burrell is Cross-Country All-American.” Idaho State Sports News, November 24, 1981.
Alford, Glenn. “ISU Men’s Cross-Country to NCAA Championships.” Idaho State Sports News, November 17, 1981.
“Big Sky Conference Championships.” TFRRS | Track and Field Reporting System. October 27, 2018. https://www.tfrrs.org/results/xc/14946/Big_Sky_Conference_Championships
“Big Sky History.” Big Sky Conference. 2018. https://bigskyconf.com/sports/2008/6/5/BSHISTORY060508.aspx
“Big Sky Cross Country.” 2018 Men’s Big Sky Cross Country Record Book. 2018.
“Idaho State Sports Journal.” Tentative Cross Country Schedule, June 3, 1963.
“USTFCCCA InfoZOne: Single-Meet Report.” USTFCCCA. 1981.
“USTFCCCA InfoZOne: Single-Meet Report.” USTFCCCA. 1982.
 “Idaho State Sports Journal.” Tentative Cross Country Schedule, June 3, 1963, 1.
 “Big Sky History.” Big Sky Conference.
 Ibid. Big Sky.
 Alford, Glenn. “Greg Burrell is Cross-Country All-American.” Idaho State Sports News, November 24, 1981.
 Ibid. November 24, 1981.
 Alford, Glenn. “ISU Men’s Cross-Country to NCAA Championships.” Idaho State Sports News, November 17, 1981.
 Alford, Glenn. “Burrell Wins Second All-American Award; ISU 18th at NCAA Cross-Country.” Idaho State Sports News, November 30, 1982.
 Ibid. November 30, 1982.
 Ibid. November 30, 1982.
 “Big Sky Conference Championships.” TFRRS | Track and Field Reporting System. October 27, 2018.