HELENA — Saturday marks the 58th annual running of the State Cross Country Meet, which returns to Bill Roberts Golf Course after a three-year hiatus.
The Class AA boys will run at 1:40 p.m., and the AA girls are scheduled for 2:45 p.m. A complete schedule can be found on the mhsa.org web site.
The Bozeman High teams have held a stranglehold on the AA championships over the past decade, with the Hawk girls capturing the last 10 titles and the boys winning nine straight.
And the Bozeman contingents are again favored to sweep the championships this year. At Missoula’s Mountain West Classic, the Hawks won the boys division and the girls placed runner-up (but well ahead of the Montana schools). Two weeks ago, Bozeman swept the Capital City 7 of 7 Meet at Bill Roberts.
The AA battle appears to be for second-place in both divisions. In the girls, among the favorites are Missoula Hellgate, Kalispell Flathead and Helena Capital. In the boys race, Glacier, Flathead and Hellgate should be in the hunt.
Individually, vying for the girls title are Billings Senior’s defending champion Tiahna Vladic, Annie Hill of Glacier (if she’s healthy) and Bozeman's Camila Noe. Vladic won the Mountain West and Noe won the 7-7, although Vladic was not there. And Hill is a former two-time state titlist, in 2015-16, as a freshman and sophomore.
On the boys side, a few of the favorites include Great Falls CMR's Cooper West, Duncan Hamilton of Bozeman, Flathead’s Ben Perrin and Isaac Schmidt of Hellgate. West captured both the Mountain West and 7-7, and Hamilton was last year’s State runner-up.
Capital girls seeking first trophy in 14 years
Locally, the Capital girls have had the strongest team all year. The Bruins placed fourth at both the Mountain West and the Capital City 7 of 7. Last week they captured their first crosstown victory in 11 years, and are now gunning for their first state trophy in 14 years. In fact, current coach Katie Gilboy was an all-state freshman when CHS placed third in 2003.
Coach Gilboy’s runners are led by senior Alana Tonidandel, who took 24th at Mountain West, and recently won the crosstown title with a time of 20:21 over the 5K course on a cold, blustery day.
Rounding out CHS’s state lineup are Hannah Roher-Fitzhugh, Nina Bracht-Bedell, Willa McCardle, Meghan Robinson, Ella Krumm and Emma Rohrer-Fitzhugh. All six went under 21 minutes at the intra-city meet. Bracht-Bedell, Emma and Krumm are freshmen.
“I can’t wait to see what we do as a team at state,” Tonidandle said after her team beat Helena for the first time since 2006.
Helena High boys finished in top-6 twice
Helena High’s boys placed ninth at Mountain West (fifth among Montana AA schools) and sixth at the 7-7.
The Bengals are led by sophomore Jonah Fisher, who ran the team’s fastest time at 7-7 with a clocking of 16:48, before winning the crosstown crown.
The rest of longtime HHS coach Kelley Gilbert’s state team includes Jacob Rice, Clayton Ryerson, Zane Rousch, Devin Seyler, Kyler Campbell and Trystan Brewer. Sam Sullivan is the alternate.
“I’m excited to see how this young group of guys performs,” said Gilbert, referring to the fact that four sophomores and a freshman make up the team. “They’ve worked hard, and we’re hoping to improve on last year’s (11th) placing.”
Coach Linda Paull’s Helena High girls team finished ninth among the AA teams at Mountain West, and eighth at the 7-7. At the intra-city meet, senior Katelyn McKay paced the Bengals with a fourth-place showing, in 20:36.
Making up the rest of the red-and-white’s squad for Saturday are Alyssa Plant, Claudia Downing, Jasmine Wilkerson, Claire Downing, Jordynn Greve and Morgan Oie. Maddy Murgel and Tatum McNamara will serve as alternates.
For the Capital boys, senior Bryce Maxson finished runner-up at the recent crosstown, just four seconds behind Fisher with a 17:06.
The Bruins placed 15th at 7-7, 12th among Class AA schools.
Rounding out CHS coach Tom Furlong’s State crew are Jesse McMurtrey, Spencer Bartow, Peter Lund, Jake Bubb, Cameron Holston and Bryson Jones.
In the other three classifications, the defending boys team champions are Frenchtown/Alberton in Class A, Townsend in Class B and Manhattan Christian in Class C. Last year’s girls titlists were Hardin in Class A, Manhattan in Class B and Winnett-Melstone in Class C.
The Townsend boys reigning state champs lost three all-staters to graduation last spring. Their current squad is led by 2016 all-stater Jack Dolan and Louis Ingalls. On the girls side, Bulldog senior Grace McDonnell is seeking her third all-state medal, having placed seventh as a sophomore and sixth last year.
Jefferson’s top runners at the 7-7 were Hunter Henschel and Abby Supalla.