At 4,500 feet, the Simplot Games in Pocatello, Idaho isn’t the sort of meet that typically draws a crowd of distance runners looking to run a fast time.
So it takes someone like Dallin Farnsworth, a Pocatello resident, Idaho state champion and Foot Locker finalist, to bring intrigue to the Simplot Games 3,200.
Farnsworth, of Highland High, is going after the meet record of 9:11.05 set by Josh Rohatinsky in 2000. (Rohatinsky was the 2006 NCAA cross country champion his senior year at BYU).
He isn’t worried about the altitude. Not only does he live close to 5,000 feet – uphill from downtown Pocatello – he is very familiar with the Holt Arena track and the Idaho State University campus. Already this winter he has run 4:17 for the mile there and he said the altitude didn’t bother him.
“I’ve trained for this, so it should be easier for me,” Farnsworth said.
Farnsworth and his main competition, Pocatello High freshman Elijah Armstrong, have a prelim on Thursday and the final on Saturday afternoon.
In his first three appearances at the Simplot Games, Farnsworth ran the 1,600 meters and he ran personal bests each time. Last year, he placed second to Twin Falls’ Erik Harris in 4:19.72.
He is also well known to the runners on the campus of Idaho State. Farnsworth’s father is a dean and professor of health. And he frequently runs workouts with ISU track team members.
“There’s lots of trails here and I’ve run all of them,” he said. “Pocatello is perfect if you like hills to run on. No matter where you go, there’s hills.”
Out the door from Farnsworth’s home, there is little choice. To begin almost any run, it is straight down at the start and straight up to get back home again.
Last fall during cross country, after winning the Bob Firman Invitational near Boise for the second year in a row, Farnsworth began to take greater notice of Armstrong, a promising freshman coming up in his hometown.
“I didn’t know much about him,” Farnsworth said. “But I knew he was pretty good. We go on a lot of distance runs together on the weekends. It’s great to have another good distance runner in town. I’m excited to see where he ends up.”
Farnsworth said he tried to encourage other members of the Foot Locker field to consider coming to the Simplot Games when he was in San Diego in December. He didn’t get any takers.
The fact that one of the largest indoor track meets in North America comes to out-of-the-way hometown every year is a source of pride. In the same way that he has represented his home state with honor at the Bob Firman Invitational, Farnsworth feels a sense of hospitality and civic pride mixed with opportunity at Simplot.
“The thing I like about it is I usually have friends come out and stay (at my house),” Farnsworth said. “(The meet) is great because a lot of people in the community have a chance to come and volunteer and my friends can come and watch me. It’s great for the economy of Pocatello. Every hotel room within 50 miles is booked. It’s a high point in the indoor season and it’s always great to run a fast time before you make goals for outdoors.”
Harris, Farnsworth’s friend from Twin Falls, will stay over after Saturday’s final session.
Farnworth doesn’t feel stuck, or isolated, in Pocatello, located two hours southwest of Yellowstone National Park. He lived in Orange County, California until he was seven, and also lived there between 10 and 12.
“I really enjoy (Pocatello),” he said. “It’s got enough stuff to do. It’s easy to get around and there’s lots of room. It’s a great place with great people.”
Farnsworth recently signed with Brigham Young University, where he will run in the footsteps of his older brother Taylor.
Harris and Brad Nye, this week’s favorite in the 1,600, have also signed with BYU.