This weekend marks the 50th edition of the annual high school state cross country meet.
The all-class meet is Saturday, Oct. 26, in Missoula at the University of Montana Golf Course starting with the Class AA boys race at 11 a.m. and ending with the Class C girls at 2:45 p.m.
Like usual, the Flathead Valley will have a strong stable of runners competing in the final race of the season, including Bigfork’s two-time defending state champion Makena Morley and a talented fleet of Glacier boys.
Morley has picked up her record-setting pace and extended her in-state undefeated streak through her junior year. At the massive Mountain West Classic, held at the same site as this week’s state meet, she shattered Zoe Nelson’s course record, winning in 16 minutes, 43.42 seconds over three miles. It was 17 seconds faster than Nelson’s 2002 mark and one of the fastest times ever clocked by a high school girl in Montana.
With that historic time, Morley ranked 16th in the nation among female runners in long distance competitions this fall, according to the Saucony Elite 50 Rankings Series.
She is pursuing her third consecutive Class B state title this weekend and has a clear shot at breaking her state record of 17:44, which she set as a freshman.
Morley’s brother Logan will be in contention for the boys title. Last fall he earned third as a freshman.
The Glacier boys team also made waves at the Mountain West race in late September by winning the overall title among 58 teams from Montana, Washington and Idaho.
The Wolfpack’s previous best finish was last fall when the team earned 12th.
This year Glacier placed five runners in the top 60 and edged out five-time defending state champion Bozeman. Kade McCutcheon placed ninth, 15:40, Nathan Connell earned 16th, 15:46, and Logan Harmon placed 35th, 16:12.
“Winning Mountain West was a huge success for them,” head coach Mike McLean said. “They’ve realized the hard work is going to pay off. With that hard work they get some success and I think they feel good about that.”
Unseating Bozeman at the state meet will prove difficult. Almost all of the Hawks’ top runners from a year ago are back.
“Bozeman is super tough. If you don’t know that, you don’t know cross country,” McLean said. “We will have our work cut out for us at state. I just want us to run our best times and come out with a bunch of all-state guys and girls.”
The Whitefish boys will try to defend their Class A state title. The Bulldogs claimed the Northwestern A divisional title last weekend after placing six runners in the top 10. Caleb Knox, Keaton Grove and E.J. Havens have taken over as the team’s top runners. The Whitefish girls also won the divisional, led by Sarah Latcham and Katie Smith. Columbia Falls’ Samantha Mundel won the individual NWA title in 18:51.
Hamilton, which placed second last year, has a strong returning lineup and will be the top squad chasing Whitefish.
The Bozeman girls will attempt to win their seventh AA state title in a row. The Corvallis girls are vying for their third straight A title and Glasgow is reaching for its fourth consecutive B title.
Flathead’s Zach Perrin graduated as the AA state champ and the No. 2 and No. 3 boys are gone as well, including Glacier’s Troy Fraley. Helena sophomore Aidan Reed will likely battle with Bozeman senior Jason Holmes for the boys title.
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