Saturday's Mountain West Classic cross country race was more notable for who didn't win than who did.
Two-time defending champion and course record-holder Annie Hill faded over the last mile -- she collapsed at the finish line -- allowing Tiahna Vladic of Billings Senior to be the easy winner of the girls' race at the UM Golf Course.
Missoula Sentinel's Marshall Beatty, considered the boys' favorite coming in but battling a balky back, was passed by Bozeman's Chase Equall just before the hill and the Hawks' senior held on for his first win at a meet that draws upwards of 2,500 runners in all.
Hill was helped to a tent to receive treatment for feeling faint and was still laying flat on the ground a good 15 minutes after the finish of the race. It put a damper on the showdown between herself and Vladic. Hill, a junior, came into the race ranked No. 2 in the country; Vladic, just a sophomore, at No. 13.
"I just worked really hard, I don’t know if it’s an upset," Vladic said. "We both worked really hard."
Vladic won with a time of 17 minutes, 4.63 seconds on the three-mile trek, well off Hill's course record of 16:39 set in 2014. The course was a little slick after overnight rain, but conditions were otherwise perfect for runners and the thousands of fans alike.
"I was really nervous before the race, like really nervous," Vladic said. "I knew I needed to go out my hardest and whatever happens, happens. It’s one meet, it’s not state, so whatever happens. It ended up really well."
To say the least.
"For the first mile I wanted to stay with (Hill) because she goes out really fast," Vladic said. "I wanted to stay with her and hopefully latch on to her. I lasted all three miles so I just worked hard I guess."
Vladic said she anticipates battling Hill again at the state meet next month in Kalispell.
"It gives me a lot of confidence for the races to come and for state now," she said. "It should be a really good race."
Missoula Hellgate sophomore Ella Degrandpre was second in 17:25.64, followed by three Bozeman runners -- Piper Meuwissen, Camila Noe and Kenenni Wiegand, which was more than enough to give the nine-time defending state champions the team title with a score of 57. Billings Senior (139) was next, followed by Hellgate (180).
Hill finished 12th at 18:13.48.
For Equall, the win was the culmination of a steady climb since the seventh grade.
"I always wondered what it would be like to win it," said the Bozeman senior, who was 11th last year. "It’s awesome, I’ve seen it so many times, so many iterations. To be on top my last time here, I couldn’t ask for more than that."
Equall and Beatty were neck-and-neck for much of the race.
"It went out more conservatively than I thought it would," said Equall, who won with a time of 14:58.95. "It was just (Beatty) and a few guys, then a pack behind him, which actually I was very pleased with because I wanted to start out more moderately and then accelerate, which I did.
"There was a pack of guys all gunning for Marshall and I decided to go with them at about a mile-and-a-half and I think it paid off pretty well."
Amir Ado of Spokane Ferris finished second in 15:01.47, followed by Ben Perrin of Kalispell Flathead in 15:18.90. Beatty finished fourth at 15:21.65.
Equall was happy the runners were only required to traverse the hill once, as opposed to twice in last year's race.
"I was very glad," he said. "It’s a variable that’s hard to contend with."
Equall's win helped the Hawks to the team title with a score of 62. Lewis and Clark was second at 123 and Ferris was third at 177.