XC; girls crosstown XC (copy)

Helena High's Claudia Downing and Capital's Abby McBroom battle early in last year's annual crosstown race at Bill Roberts Golf Course. Downing won, while McBroom took fourth.

Gary Marshall, BMGphotos.com

The annual Fairmont Cross Country Invitational will raise the curtain on the new season for the four local Class AA harrier teams. The meet takes place next Tuesday, and is hosted by Butte Central.

The Helena High girls were the top placing local club at last year’s State Meet, finishing eighth with 223 points.

The Bengals are led by three runners that finished in the top-42 at State; senior Claudia Downing (35th), junior Katelyn McKay (31st) and sophomore Alyssa Plant (42nd).

Rounding out the Top 6 runners are Jasmine Wilkerson, Morgan Oie and freshman Claire Downing. Veteran HHS coach Linda Paull said there are five girls battling for the No. 7 slot.

“Right now we have 24 girls out for cross country, with seven seniors,” according to Paull. “As coaches, we feel we had a great summer and are excited about the new season.”

Capital’s girls finished closed behind Helena at the 2016 State Meet, with 235 points for ninth.

The Bruins' Top 6 are seniors Hannah Rohrer-Fitzhugh, Alana Tonidandel and Meghan Robinson; sophomores Willa McCardle and Zoey Wall; and freshman Ella Crum.

Tonidandel and Rohrer-Fitzhugh placed 39th and 49th at State, respectively.

“We have a strong core group of girls who have been putting in a lot of work since spring,” Capital coach Katie Gilboy said. “They’re surrounded by new and returning girls who are excited to be a part of the team and are already working hard to reach their potential.

“And we have a great opportunity to have a successful season.”

Longtime Bengal boys coach Kelley Gilbert said that his team, which came in 11th at State, “is really young.”

The senior captains are Jacob Rice and Devin Seyler. Rice placed 24th at State, which was the highest finish of any returning local AA runner.

The best of the rest are sophomores Kyler Campbell, Jonah Fisher and Clayton Ryerson, although Ryerson will not have enough practices to run in Fairmont.

“It’s been a tough preseason, with all the smoke,” explained Gilbert, who is entering his 20th season as HHS’ harrier skipper. “We’d like to improve on our State finish, but we are in a rebuilding phase, looking to the future.”

The Bruin guys placed 12th at the 2016 State Meet. Their top returners this fall are Bryce Maxson and Spencer Bartow. Maxson took 34th at State last year.

Next are Peter Lund, Jesse McMurtry, Jake Bubb and Cameron Holston.

“Once again, no superstars, but many experienced, good runners,” stated CHS coach Tom Furlong. “We have a lot of underclassmen who are enthusiastic about the upcoming season, and everyone’s working hard.

“I’m excited to see how the new runners do in their first race, and how much the returnees have improved.”

Curt Synness is on Twitter @curtsynness_IR and can be reached at curt.synness@lee.net or curt52synness@gmail.com

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