Houle, Goss brothers propelling Devils Lake cross country to new heights
If you were to roll a three-sided die to predict the winner of a Devils Lake boys varsity race, with the sides representing senior Gabe Houle and sophomores Brady and Tyler Goss, any result is fair game to win.
The trio out in the front for the Firebirds has been unpredictable, but one thing is certain, all three will be finishing in or near the top 10 in just about every race. They're teammates, friends, and in the Goss's case brothers, but every race the three are aiming to have an edge over the other.
"My goal every race is usually to beat these guys because it's my last year," Houle said. "They're young, but they have a lot of potential."
The competitive aspect between the three is one that is not just new for two underclassmen competing with a senior, but for the Tyler and Brady as well. Tyler said sixth-place finish at the Graham's Island Invite on Sept. 12 was the first time he had beat his brother. Tyler would pull in front of his brother again in West Fargo on for a third-place finish on Sept. 19.
"It's a new feeling just to be out in front of him," Tyler said. "Normally, I'm looking at the back of his head."
"Him being in front of me is something for me to go after," Brady said. "It's definitely different."
The duo says that the competition between each other has heightened this year, as Tyler is aware that Brady is going to try to catch him in the middle of the race. As of now, Brady has the edge, finishing in third at Grand Forks this past weekend, ahead of Tyler and Houle. Both finished with personal records at Grand Forks, with Brady finishing in 13th with a time of 16:56 and Tyler finishing in 18th with a time of 17:10. Brady's finish was also 10 seconds ahead of Houle
The Goss twins have stood out as passionate runners to Firebirds head coach Nick Kavli for almost five years. Tyler and Brady ran for the middle school program and also competing in road races with their parents. They're energy and passion for running had Kavli excited for when they would arrive at the high school program two years later.
"Even as young as seventh and eighth graders, they impressed me even more with their times," Kavli said. "On the boy's side, they showed everyone else around them how fast you can be and they've been chased since they've arrived here."
While results have been close throughout the season, and almost every race has seen a new top finisher for the Firebirds, if there's an edge to give this season, it's gone to Houle. He has held the first place spot for Devils Lake in four of six finishes this season, seeing time improvements in every race except for one. It wasn't until Grahams' Island where Houle was challenged for that number one spot.
However, Houle has stayed driven at beating the two whenever he can. Houle said he credits a strong start to help him stay ahead for as long as he can. With his final Eastern Dakota Conference Championship race coming up, Houle is focused on an overall strong finish.
"My goal during EDC is probably to be a little more competitive than friendly against these two," Houle said. "It's my last year, and it's been rough, but I'm just looking forward to that top 20 or top 15 spot at EDC. I'm looking to break 17 minutes and put everything out there."
Houle had his breakout season as a year, standing as the only Firebird to pick up All-EDC honors with a 16th place finish at the EDC Championship and a time of 18:19. Due to the cancellation of spring sports, Houle was disappointed he was unable to carry his success in cross country over to track. However, Kavli said that has just added to his drive to compete in his final cross country season.
"The track season cancellation has really motivated him to run hard at every race because you never know when your last race is going to be now," Kavli said. "I've never seen Gabe this focused in a season before as far as wanting the best result at every race. He is here to train and work. I hope for the best for him in this race this weekend."
Houle, Tyler, and Brady's fight at the top have had a chain reaction down the line. It has motivated other runners to step into and embrace other roles on the team while pushing younger runners to catch up to the veteran runners. At their last race, four out of the five varsity runners set either season bests or personal bests, which bodes well as they will be running the same course in Grand Forks for the EDC Championship.
"It's a reminder every day of what you're capable of if you put in the work," Kavli said. "These guys train like the race and they're going hard all the time. Everyone sees that, can compete off of that, and just realize the potential that is there."
There's something to contribute all around the roster. Devils Lake's fourth position runner Jacob Vaagen has stepped into a leadership role and has helped the team's mental drive. Sophomore Taylor Reed, who is in the fifth position, has seen some competition for his spot from younger runners according to Kavli.
While the Firebirds are focused on a team perspective heading into EDC, trying to lift their five runners as much as possible, the trio has a chance to make history in Grand Forks. Houle has achieved All-EDC accolades before, but Devils Lake has the chance to add two more into that category.
"Those three have put us in the best position we can be in right now, but to be competitive in the EDC it takes five strong runners," Kavli said. "We're looking at our four and five runners to make up as many points as we can. I would like to see all three of them become all EDC. That would be something I haven't seen on our team in the years I've been coaching."
Gabe Houle, Tyler Goss and Brady Goss finishes this season
Fargo Public Schools Kick off - 4th place - 18:07
North Valley Invite - 18th place - 17:49
Grahams Island Invite - 9th place - 17:42
Valley City - 2nd place - 17:21
Ian Alves Invite - 8th place - 17:26
Grand Forks Invite - 14th place - 17:06
Fargo Public Schools Kick off - 9th place - 18:46
North Valley Invite - 21st place - 17:53
Grahams Island Invite - 6th place - 17:25
Valley City - 3rd place - 17:35
Ian Alves Invite - 17th place - 17:32
Grand Forks Invite - 18th place - 17:10
Fargo Public Schools Kick off - 7th place - 18:38
North Valley Invite - 20th place - 17:51
Grahams Island Invite - 7th place - 17:26
Valley City - 4th place - 17:41
Ian Alves Invite - 16th place - 17:30
Grand Forks Invite - 13th place - 16:56