MISSOULA — The Hellgate girls’ cross country runners are believed to be the first Montana team in 11 years to beat Bozeman when the Hawks ran their full varsity squad, according to 13th-year Knights coach Anders Brooker.
Hellgate’s top five finishers combined for a placing score of 36 at the Bozeman Invite, while 11-time defending state champion Bozeman was second with a 45 on Saturday at Bridger Creek Golf Course.
“Our girls have some big goals for this season and getting an early season win like this after being second to them for so long helps build some confidence that the goals these kids have set are realistic and we are heading in the right direction,” Brooker said. “It was fun to pull off the win, especially for our senior girls who have been working hard for four years to get to this point.”
The Knights’ top three runners were among the first seven placers. Senior Ember Stratton took second, behind only Billings Senior’s Tiahna Vladic. Seniors Ella DeGrandpre and Elise Stearns crossed the finish line back to back in sixth and seventh.
The Knights showed their depth with five other finishers in the top 18. Senior Madeline Swanberg, sophomore Sage Brooks and junior Katie Munro finished 10-11-12, senior Wren Cilimburg was 16th and junior Cassie Berg was 18th.
“We have 10 girls who on any given day can be our fourth (or) fifth runner,” Brooker said. “We have never had this kind of depth before, and that showed with our JV girls also winning their race.”
Bozeman’s top group ran as a pack instead of going all out, but that group finished 3-4-5, so there wasn’t much room to make up the nine-point difference between them and the Knights.
Bozeman third-year coach Casey Jermyn said his team hadn't lost in 2016 or 2017, but he was unable to confirm farther back. Previous Bozeman coach Clint May, who started there in 2006, didn't return a phone call by press time. Online results for Bozeman only go back to the 2009 season.
On the boys’ side, Hellgate junior Ian Curtis won the individual title with a time of 16:09.58. He edged out Bozeman senior Brooks Peters, who finished in 16:11.29.
The Knights placed second as a team with a score of 109. Bozeman ran away with the title, scoring a 29.
Hellgate, which swept both individual titles at its season-opening invite, will compete in Great Falls on Friday but will hold out several of its top runners who are training for a bigger upcoming meet.