Strong Start for Local Cross Country Runners

By Beacon Staff

A few names are new and others are well established, but the theme for this cross country season is the same as it is ever year: the Flathead Valley has some really good runners.

Seemingly every autumn, the valley produces a handful of distance runners capable of contending for a state title. This fall is no exception, as already evidenced by a few impressive early-season performances, including two over the weekend in Kalispell.

At the Flathead Invitational on Sept. 10 at the Kidsports Complex, Flathead High School junior Zach Perrin broke his own course record, surpassing a mark set last year. Perrin conquered the three-mile course in 15:35, giving him his third straight Flathead Invite title.

Troy Fraley, a junior at Glacier High School, finished second with a time of 15:50.

Bigfork freshman Makena Morley won the girls title at the invitational meet with what would normally be considered a jaw-dropping performance but is quickly becoming commonplace for her.

Coming off a busy and undefeated summer in 5K races, in which she was often minutes ahead of her closest competitor, Morley ran an 18:02 at the Flathead Invite, beating second-place finisher Paige Gilchrist of Missoula Hellgate by nearly a minute. Gilchrist’s time was 18:54.

Hailey Jacobson of Missoula Hellgate was the only other girl runner to finish under 20 minutes, clocking in at 19:54. Flathead’s Paige Bouma came in fourth at 20:14.

The race was the second of Morley’s fledgling high school career. The Bigfork freshman blew away the field in her first race at the Sept. 2 Cut Bank time trials. Morley ran a 17:46, more than two minutes faster than Flathead’s Bouma and Claudia Hewston of Polson, who turned in times of 19:56.

Perrin won the boys title in Cut Bank with a time of 15:35, nearly a minute better than teammate Hunter Schutt, who ran a 16:28. In third place was another Flathead runner, Ben Moon, who finished in 16:29.

As the season progresses and Morley hones in on a Class B title, she will have to see if anyone emerges who is capable of seriously pushing her. But Perrin, even with two convincing victories, already knows who his primary competitors are in Class AA, and one of them goes to the school just across town.

Glacier’s Fraley has announced early in the season he will be a force in AA cross country. He won the Sept. 2 Libby Invitational with a time of 15:30, edging out Columbia Falls senior Derrick Williams, who crossed the finish line at 15:40.

Williams should be competing for a state title of his own. Last year he finished second at the Class A state meet. After his second-place performance in Libby, Williams came in fourth at the Flathead Invitational, finishing behind Perrin, Fraley and Missoula Hellgate’s Adam Peterman, all from Class AA schools.

In Class A girls, Whitefish lost several key runners from last year’s team, which won the school’s fourth straight state championship. But once again the Bulldogs are looking strong. They won the Libby Invitational, led by Nicole Brist’s first-place time of 20:07. Columbia Falls’ Jinise Osborne was second at 20:19.