Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Chase Un-Equalled

As happens to most us, our doorbell rings from time to time, and we open the door to a smiling face of a child, young man or young women, on the fundraising circuit. They are hawking candy, popcorn, magazines or coupons to local eateries in the name of a club, a cause, a scholarship or a school program.

So it has been these last four years when the young man across the street rings our doorbell each fall and spring. In the fall he sold coupon packages to help support the Bozeman High School cross country team. In the spring, the sales supported track and field team. Our neighbor is a runner. His name, appropriately enough, is Chase -- Chase Equall. In addition to the 3 mile and 5K cross country races, he runs 800, 1600 and 3200 meter races for the Bozeman High School track team. 

When Chase stopped by last fall I asked straight up, "What kind of times do you run?" He mentioned a 3 mile time with a 15-minute handle. "Wow, that's motoring!" I said. I started paying attention.

During the school year I am up early and into town taking one of my daughters to "0" period class at the high school, and/or headed to the Swim Center (attached to the high school) for my early morning laps. Last fall and winter I saw Chase most every morning running through town at 7:00 am whatever the conditions, rain, sleet or snow.

Chase Equall wins the Bozeman Invitational.
The 2015 Bozeman High School Hawks boys cross country team won its eighth straight state title. Chase competed as the number two runner on that team and finished fourth in state individually.

Last spring Chase finished second in state at 1,600 meters.

1600 Meters  Class AA - Finals

1.12Jake Perrin4:12.06aFlathead
2.11Chase Equall4:13.59aBozeman
3.12Peter Kirgis4:15.99aHellgate
4.12Aidan Reed4:20.12aHelena
5.11Dawson LaRance4:20.78aBillings Senior
6.11Riley Collins4:21.42aBozeman
7.11Iain Anderson4:25.42aHelena
8.9Ben Perrin4:25.84aFlathead
9.11Peder Rickbeil4:28.34aBillings Senior
10.10Cooper West4:29.81aCharles M Russell(Gr...
11.11Marshall Beatty4:30.11aSentinel
12.12Caleb Allen4:30.13aBozeman
13.12Collin Buck4:31.94aCharles M Russell(Gr...
14.12Jacob Calles4:33.43aFlathead
15.10Teagan Olson4:33.59aGreat Falls

During the spring season Chase began beating his teammate and long-time cross country rival Riley Collins. Chase showed steady and strong improvement, besting his sophomore year record of 4:31 and freshman year record of 4:45. Chase's 4:13 1600 meter time at the state meet is the equivalent of a 4:15 mile, quite a feat for a high school junior.

When Chase rang the door bell this September I said "Hey, don't underestimate yourself. Shoot for the moon!" He is doing exactly that. He has left teammate Riley Collins, and virtually every other runner in the Pacific Northwest, in his wake.

This last September, Chase beat the field in a 50 school race, which included competitors from Washington, Idaho and Montana.

For Equall, the win was the culmination of a steady climb since the seventh grade. 
"I always wondered what it would be like to win it," said the Bozeman senior, who was 11th last year. "It’s awesome, I’ve seen it so many times, so many iterations. To be on top my last time here, I couldn’t ask for more than that."
Equall and Beatty were neck-and-neck for much of the race.
"It went out more conservatively than I thought it would," said Equall, who won with a time of 14:58.95.
"It was just (Beatty) and a few guys, then a pack behind him, which actually I was very pleased with because I wanted to start out more moderately and then accelerate, which I did.
"There was a pack of guys all gunning for Marshall and I decided to go with them at about a mile-and-a-half and I think it paid off pretty well."
Amir Ado of Spokane Ferris finished second in 15:01.47, followed by Ben Perrin of Kalispell Flathead in 15:18.90. Beatty finished fourth at 15:21.65.Equall was happy the runners were only required to traverse the hill once, as opposed to twice in last year's race.
"I was very glad," he said. "It’s a variable that’s hard to contend with."
Equall's win helped the Hawks to the team title with a score of 62. Lewis and Clark was second at 123 and Ferris was third at 177.
Montana Sports named Chase athlete of the week in mid October.
Bozeman – Cross Country runners take off as a group, and usually stay together for awhile, but by the time they get close to the finish, this year anyway, Bozeman senior, Chase Equall, has been all alone. However, he never considers himself lonely.
“I think it’s almost never lonely,” says Equall. “Both because of the fact that you know that there is a guy right behind you who wants to eat you for lunch, and that your teammates are there supporting you and pushing you. I know that some people feel like it’s more of an individual sport, but it never feels like that. because there are four guys that are scoring and six other guys on your team that are there behind you pushing just as hard.”
Equall (his name is pronounced Eck-wul) has been sensational this year, with a 14:55 clocking in the three mile at the seven on seven meet in Helena, and one of the best times in history at the Sunfair in Yakima. But it all starts with his grueling workouts.
“Chase is just a smart kid,” states his coach, Casey Jermyn. “He runs really smart. Kind of calm, cool, and collected. And he just puts in a lot of the hard work that you need to do and pays attention to a lot of the little details, morning runs, afternoon runs, kind of all the above.”
For Equall, who has been running since middle school, it’s an act of love. “I love racing with my teammates, racing against others, pushing ourselves and seeing what we can do.”
Chase also loves his studies. He has a perfect 4.0 grade point average and for all of that, we are awarding him a beautiful plaque from Bozeman trophy, as our Outstanding Athlete of the week.
He just got home from a recruiting trip to the University of Washington, and he’s also being recruited by Montana, Southern Utah and Georgetown. “Chase will go to the next level,” promises his coach. “He will run in college, and will run well, will compete really well. and will be a good athlete.
And that is definitely something Equall wants to do. “I think my times both in track and in cross country make it clear that I can compete at that level. In terms of what other people have run in their high school career, and I also think I have the will and drive to do that so yes, I’m 100% planning on doing that.”
The Hawks boys reveled in their ninth consecutive Class AA state title Saturday in Kalispell, but they agreed this isn’t close to what they can accomplish.Even though senior standout Chase Equall set a new classification record with his individual win, and even though Bozeman finished well ahead of runner-up Billings Senior (30-97), they asked, “What if?”
No. 2 runner Orrin Clark didn’t compete because of a knee injury, and No. 4 Dylan Humberger had an asthma attack. Head coach Casey Jermyn didn’t hide his excitement for what he believes his team can accomplish when at full strength at the Nike Cross Regional Northwest meet Nov. 12.
“We still were dominant. This is not our peak,” Equall asserted. “State is important to us and we wanted to perform well. On the cool-down run we were talking about regionals.”
“Wow. These teams are really special,” Jermyn said. “There is still work to do. It’s going to be an exciting end to the season.”
Chase Equall surges to the lead in the state meet at Kalispell.
Bozeman’s dominance shocked no one, but Equall’s 14:40 placed him among the state’s all-time best. He said he was aware of the all-class record of 14:37 set by former Montana State and Eureka great Shannon Butler in 1985, but not the AA mark.
“I’m just very satisfied,” Equall said. “The race went great and my team did great. It’s what I was hoping for. To do it my senior year means a lot because I love this sport and I hope to continue to do this.”
Jermyn said Friday that he didn’t expect many personal bests because of long, thick grass at Rebecca Farms. The first-year coach said a concrete roller flattened the route and helped produce fast times.Equall executed his strategy perfectly, Jermyn said. His pupil ran a steady first mile, took over in the second and then cruised.
“I knew he had that in him,” Jermyn said.
Two weeks later the Hawks surged to the regional title in Boise, led by Chase's second place finish.
If there was pressure, the Hawks had it under control.They were the focus throughout fall — the online rankings that labeled Bozeman’s cross-country teams tops in the northwest. Hawks head coach Casey Jermyn did his best to shield his runners from outside expectations, but all were aware of their status.
There was comfort, however, in racing again Saturday afternoon at the Nike Cross Northwest Regional in Boise, Idaho. Last season, the girls won a second title there and the boys took second. These runners knew what needed to be done, Jermyn said, and didn’t disappoint.
Bozeman delivered its most declarative statement yet. The Hawks claimed both regional titles for the first time and will head to the national meet in three weeks to continue adding to program history.
“It just shows you how good these teams really are,” Jermyn said. “There’s a lot of coaches around the country that look at us and say, ‘What’s in the water? What’s going on?’”
What’s happened is first-year coach Jermyn listened to his runners’ desires to win more than state titles. While in previous years Bozeman’s focus has been on being the best in Class AA, this fall goals were affixed to qualifying for and competing in Dec. 3’s national meet in Portland, Oregon.
That’s why the Hawks are only scratching the surface in terms of how fast they can go.
“You set these goals early in the summer and it’s something they look forward to,” Jermyn said. “To see it come to fruition is a special thing.”
There’s no better example than senior Chase Equall, who went from being a top 20 runner in the region to one of its best. Things didn’t go according to plan from the outset of the 5-kilometer race, though, and he was slowed at the start.
“He got boxed in,” Jermyn said. “He was cool, calm and collected and slowly worked his way to the front. He took the lead at about the 1-mile mark, and kept the pace honest and broke up the front pack.”
It was then a dual between him and Tacoma, Washington’s James Mwaura. Mwaura edged Equall by five seconds in 15 minutes, 13.2 seconds. Junior Duncan Hamilton (15:40.1) wasn’t far behind in sixth.

Followed by a parade up Main Street.

Way to go Hawks. Way to go Chase!