Marshall Wheeler’s senior season was a year of firsts. It was his first state championship, he was Victory Charter’s first state champion and the state’s first 1A champion.
Wheeler finished a rainy, muddy race to claim the state title in 16 minutes, 46.8 seconds, nine seconds faster than the runner-up from Logos Academy, in the first 1A championship event. Prior to 2015, 1A schools competed at the 2A level.
It was Wheeler’s fourth straight meet victory, which began at the Melba Invitational in October. He also won the Winston Tilzey Invitational — it was where he set his personal record of 16:26 in 2014 — and the 1A District III championship.
For his achievements, Wheeler is the 2015-16 Idaho Press-Tribune Sports Stars Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
By far, his favorite race was at state. It was a new course in a new location, Farragut State Park in Athol.
“It was in this state park, lots of trees — the perfect time of the year with lots of pine needles on the ground, just kind of smells cool as you’re running through,” Wheeler said. “As we were running on Friday afternoon it was absolutely gorgeous and by far the coolest course I had ever run on. Then, Saturday, it decided to rain all day.”
Wheeler said the slick and muddy conditions weren’t a big deal, but it probably slowed his time a little. Victory Charter was also on the verge of capturing the team title, but a 55-point tie-breaker fell in the favor of Logos Academy. Wheeler said it was frustrating, but overall the season was satisfying for the team, which won the District III title for the first time in two seasons.
“It’s the closest we’ve come to a state championship, a little 1A school out of Nampa,” Wheeler said. “To have a shot of winning it was exciting. Everyone still looks back on that race and thinks it was awesome.”
Wheeler hopes his future takes him off the ground and into the skies. He has applied to the Air Force Academy, where he hopes to compete, and the Naval Academy and Northwest Nazarene are also options, Inspired by relatives who have attended the academy, Wheeler wants to get his wings.
“Everybody who I’ve talked to who fly helis, fighters, transports, they all love it,” he said, “but fighters kind of sound the sexiest. That’s probably what I’d have as a first choice. Who knows what will happen, but that’s definitely what I lean toward.
“You can do something cool and protect your country and serve and give back at the same time while having a blast. Every time I’ve talked to a pilot, they’re so excited about their job.”