Terry Jensen is a trendsetter of sorts when it comes to cross country — and cheerleading — and his lifelong dedication to running will be recognized during Thursday’s Bob Conley Invitational cross country meet at the Portneuf Wellness Complex. Jensen, who is a graduate of Idaho Falls High School and a former IFHS track and cross country coach, will be honored around 4 p.m.
Jensen’s long list of cross country-related accomplishments includes earning scholarships to run at Brigham Young University and Montana State University, becoming the first cross country runner at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) and helping start Montana State’s cross country program.
He earned another first at Ricks College — first male cheerleader.
Jensen’s most-glowing and longstanding achievement in regards to local cross country may be starting the annual Tiger/Grizz cross country and track and field meets. The events, which were started by Jensen and former Skyline High School cross country coach Deloy Roberts, were first held in 1973 and draw dozens of teams from around Idaho and neighboring states.
Originally named the Gem State Invitational, the Tiger/Grizz meets also included college teams at first, but were ultimately narrowed to prep teams. The meets are some of the largest in the area each season.
“They have both been very, very successful, and we’ve had a lot of fun expanding those,” Jensen said.
Jensen was also hired by Idaho Falls School District 91 to coordinate athletics and physical education and organize elementary school physical education programs. He was honored by the Idaho High School Activities Association twice — with the Dick Fleischmann Memorial Award in 1991 and a Hall of Fame nod in 1998.
Jensen has been a starter at track and cross country meets for the last 20 years “just to keep in contact with the kids,” and has imparted his love for running to his family. All four of his children ran in college, and his granddaughter, Lauren Benson, is a junior at Highland.
Her sister, Sophie Benson, enters high school next year and is also a runner.
“It’s been a lifetime activity for our family,” Jensen said. “To be honored by your peers such as (Highland cross country coach) Doug Hopster is quite important.”