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Missoulian editorial: Congratulations to the cross-country state champs

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Kensey May at state

Missoula Hellgate's Kensey May repeated as state AA girls individual cross country champion Saturday at the UM Golf Course.

Well-deserved championship huckleberries to the western Montana cross-country athletes who earned top honors in the state meets last weekend.

In Class AA, Missoula Hellgate knocked off defending champion Missoula Sentinel in a nail-biting finish for the boys crown. It is the Knights’ first state title since 2007.

Hellgate’s Kensey May repeated as the individual girls champion, and Sentinel’s Tanner Klumph claimed the individual boys title.

“It is fun to see the Missoula running community so vibrant and excited,” said Hellgate coach Anders Brooker, in a nod to the Sentinel rivals. “… That competition brings out the best in the community … and that competition brings out the best in both of us.”

In Class A, the Hamilton boys repeated as champs by a wide margin, and Brinson Wyche of Corvallis took the individual boys title. Columbia Falls narrowly beat Corvallis to win the girls team title, and Columbia Falls’ Hannah Sempf won the individual girls title.

In Class B, the Bigfork Vikings won their first boys title since 1975.

Cross-country is a tough, often thankless sport, in which the athletes don’t get the same level of attention that their football classmates enjoy.

We salute their hard work, determination and sportsmanship. And it’s great that Missoula teams have become the epicenter of the state’s AA success.

Top-ranked huckleberries to the western Montana high school football teams that secured No. 1 rankings heading into the playoffs.

Zac Crews and defending state champion Missoula Sentinel were ranked No. 1 to start the season in Class AA, and that’s where the Spartans landed after finishing the regular season unbeaten.

Hamilton in Class A and Drummond-Philipsburg in 8-Man cruised through the regular season unbeaten and were rarely tested. Polson is undefeated and ranked No. 2 in Class A.

And in Class B, Florence-Carlton moved into the top spot after the first week and remained there the entire fall.

May the best team(s) win, and we’re rooting for the hometown boys. Good luck this weekend!

Bitter chokecherries to the revelation that Gov. Greg Gianforte’s administration has not disbursed tens of millions in federal money for COVID-19 contact tracing to local officials for that purpose.

The Missoula City-County Health Department has been swamped in the last few months with case investigation, contact tracing and case monitoring, according to county health officer D’Shane Barnett. Meanwhile, the department has been forced to switch to more automated contact tracing and case investigation procedures due to a budget and staff crunch.

“This is practically criminal that (the state is) not sending the money out and I feel like there’s something we should do,” said Pam Boyd, a member of the Missoula County Health Board, during a meeting last week.

The state was allocated $143.4 million specifically for testing and contact tracing, said county chief administrative officer Chris Lounsbury.

“So far, they have not released any of that funding to any local jurisdiction, so it’s not that they have just not released it to Missoula County, they haven’t released it to anybody,” he said.

Jon Ebelt, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said in response that the state has only received $63 million from the feds, and that the money was not earmarked specifically for health department contact tracing.

State Rep. Mary Caferro, a Democrat representing a portion of Helena, sits on the state ARPA Health Advisory Commission. She said Gianforte's administration is moving too slowly to get money to local jurisdictions.

"They're moving at a pace that's not keeping up with the need obviously," she said. "They're not responsive to what's happening in the communities. Our people are in a crisis and this administration is just dragging their feet to get this money out the door and invest in people's health."

Somewhat quieter huckleberries to the news that train horns that have long tormented Missoula residents in the lower Rattlesnake and downtown neighborhoods will soon be falling mostly silent.

Last week, the Missoula Redevelopment Authority approved spending $200,000 in public works contingency funds to replace the horns with “wayside horns” that are placed near the train crossings in that area, and the sound will be focused on a much-smaller space.

Residents in the area have complained to the Missoulian that the noise is driving them crazy.

"We are assaulted every day and at all hours of the night and early morning by the deafening sounds of train horns as the trains cross Madison Street and Taylor Street," local resident Robert Schultz said.

It isn't clear how long the installation will take to complete, although city public works spokeswoman Lori Hart said they can be installed and put to use within a few months.

As one letter writer pointed out to us, this project won’t eliminate the intense coupling and crashing sounds the trains make, or the idling of their engines, or the diesel exhaust. Short of removing the railroad altogether, we don’t think it’s possible to entirely eliminate those problems.

But the quieter horns sound — no pun intended — like a step in the right direction. Let’s hope this fix can be implemented quickly.

This editorial represents the views of the Missoulian’s editorial board — Publisher Jim Strauss and Executive Editor Jim Van Nostrand.

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