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Hellgate's Kensey May, Sentinel's Tanner Klumph race to honors from Missoulian/Republic Services

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She's won back-to-back Gatorade cross country athlete of the year honors and took first at the AA cross country state title meet two years in a row.

Safe to say in her short time competing in Montana high school cross country for one of the state's top programs, Missoula Hellgate departing star Kensey May has made her mark after she and her family moved from Virginia — where May won a title at the lowest classification.

She became Hellgate's first individual XC title winner since former Knight and Northern Arizona runner Paige Gilchrist and this past fall May became the first repeat AA champ since Kalispell Glacier runner Annie Hill won two in a row in 2014 and 2015.

She dominated the courses in Montana with 12 finishes in the top three including eight first-place finishes and a fourth-place showing at last fall's prestigious NXR Northwest Regional Championship 5K running alongside some of the best in the area. She was the highest finisher at the event from the state of Montana, placing ahead of in-state friendly rivals Kylie Hartnett (Helena High) and Hayley Burns (Bozeman). 

Now, she is taking her stellar career to a new challenge when she competes at Syracuse for the school's cross country and distance squads over on the track after she most recently capped off her high school career by winning both the mile and two mile AA track titles.

"It's been really good," May said at the Western AA divisionals a few weeks ago. "Looking back on last year, I had good times and good races but I definitely feel like I'm in a different state right now than I was. I don't know what changed between now and then, but I've been able to push myself farther and start my training early and being smart about it. And I've been smart about it."

Running in the lead of the pack on the boys side at just about every race May did,  Missoula Sentinel's Tanner Klumph played a key role in another one of the most successful distance programs in the state.

Like May, and let's be honest most runners, he is soft-spoken but competitive. He relished each chance to race against the stellar boys runners for Hellgate — and those from across the state but the in-town rival is always special. 

He was jubilant after winning the individual boys AA title this past fall, even if his efforts came for the runner ups with Hellgate capturing the title away from the defending champs by a mere four points, 62 to 66, as Hellgate placed five runners in the top 21 to Sentinel's four in as close of a finish in the sport you can find.

At the one-mile mark of the race, Klumph was in a pack with some of the top-flight runners: Hellgate's Finneas Colescott, Glacier's Sam Ells and Sentinel's Chase Green; plenty of familiar names and faces who at this point Klumph knows well.

From there, Klumph steadily paced ahead, taking first by 11 seconds with Colescott in second. Klumph had been in the runner-up spot the year before, making the win that much sweeter for the soon-to-be Minnesota runner.

“I’ve been working for this forever and it hurt a lot, but I finally got it done so I’m speechless,” he said last fall. “It’s definitely special. I’ve been working for so long for this and to finally get it done is amazing. … It’s the best way to end it. It’s all I have been working for so it is just amazing.”

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