WALNUT, Calif. – Makena Morley’s cross country domination has extended beyond the borders of Montana.
The Bigfork junior and three-time State B cross country champion won the West Regional of the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships on Saturday.
The 5K girls’ race at Mount San Antonio College features the top prep runners from 12 western states. The top 10 finishers for boys and girls qualify for the national finals next weekend in San Diego.
Morley posted a time of 18 minutes, 5.7 seconds, the fastest girls’ finish by nearly 20 seconds. She won the State B title in October in Missoula by two and a half minutes with a time of 16:35, though that was on the considerably more relaxed University of Montana Golf Course.
Saturday’s conditions were wet and rainy as runners dealt with a muddy course.
The Bigfork runner took third at this race a year ago and shaved 12 seconds off that time. She was also third the year before, giving her three straight trips to the national meet.
Her best finish at nationals, which takes place at the aptly named Morley Field in San Diego’s Balboa Park on Dec. 14, was as a freshman when she took ninth with a time of 17:40. Morley was 24th a year ago.
Of the 104 seeded female racers – the top grouping – to finish the regional this year, Morley was the only Montanan.
There were seven Montanans on the boys’ side of the seeded competition. That included Anthony Schmalz, a Hamilton senior, who took 45th as the top male placer among Treasure State residents. Kalispell Glacier’s Kade McCutcheon was close behind in 47th, only a tenth of a second behind.
Helena High’s Aidan Reed was 52nd, Brock Sandry of Glacier was 58th and Sylas Schutt of Kalispell Flathead was 65th.
Morley’s sophomore brother, Logan, also raced, finishing 147th with a time of 18:02.9. Flathead’s Chance Kittle wrapped up the Montana boys with a 158th-place finish.
Matthew Maton of Bend, Ore., captured the boys’ title in 15:38.9
Makena Morley set multiple records during her junior prep season this fall, including the all-class mark at the state cross country meet (16:35.31) and the top time in Montana’s largest race of the year, the Mountain West Classic (16:43.42).