MISSOULA — Kalispell Flathead cross country runner Tori Noland-Gillespie spent Tuesday night and Wednesday dealing with an illness that had her throwing up.
Not feeling 100 percent Thursday, she still threw down with the other racers at the Sentinel Invitational at Fort Missoula Regional Park and emerged with a win that gave Flathead a sweep as Ben Perrin won the boys’ title.
“I was like, ‘Do I even want to run,’” Noland-Gillespie recounted afterward. “Then I was like, ‘Either way, during the race, you know it’s going to be tough, so might as well just do it.’ Once the gun went off, all my worries went away and I was a little bit more confident.”
Noland-Gillespie planned to try to stick with the top group during the first lap on the flat, grassy course. She kept a good pace and was just a handful of seconds behind the leader, Sentinel freshman Brooke Stayner, after that lap.
As Noland-Gillespie started the second and final lap, she decided to go all out. With about a half mile left in the race, she heard her coach tell her it was time to make a final push at a higher gear.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh, gosh, either I’m going to be in pain now or be regretful on the bus ride home. So, just got to go,’” Noland-Gillespie said.
She overtook Stayner and crossed the finish line in 19:46.66 for a five-second victory. Her time was a season-best by three seconds and gave her a third victory in three races this season.
Noland-Gillespie and Flathead’s next four finishers all placed in the top 10 for a total score of 30 to win the team title. Senior Meaghan Fisher was fourth, senior Sadie Wilson was seventh, sophomore Hannah Perrin was eighth and senior Hailey Allen was 10th.
Sentinel was second in the team standings with a score of 50. Stayner paced the Spartans with a time of 19:51.70.
In the boys’ race, Flathead senior Ben Perrin ran a personal-best time of 15:29.07 to place first.
Perrin started off with a slow pace in the first half mile like his coaches suggested before going all out. He led by 10 seconds after the first lap and won by 43 seconds.
“I think this is actually great weather for the race. It’s not too hot, not too cold,” Perrin said. “It’s a fast course. There’s not a lot of hills. There’s a lot of straightaways, which was nice.”
It’s his third win in three races this season as he and the team are doing strength training, speed workouts and stretching for flexibility as they gear up for the Mountain West Classic on Sept. 29.
“We’re trying to not be in the best shape right now,” Perrin admitted, which could be a scary thought for his competition going forward. “We’re using this as training opportunity to get better every week. I’m trying to take care of my body.”
Kalispell Glacier’s Aren Alexander-Battee was the runner-up at 16:12.50. Teammate Simon Hill finished third.
Sentinel placed five runners in the top nine to win the team title with a score of 33. Junior McKay Hunter ran a time of 16:40.43 to place fourth, senior Calvin Quindry was fifth, senior Otto MacDonald was seventh, freshman Tanner Klumph was eighth and senior Kegan Morris was ninth.
Glacier took second place with a score of 40.