With a crystal clear blue sky above and temperatures hovering in the 60s, the afternoon of Oct. 14 was the perfect setting for a run. And that’s exactly what high school cross-country runners from across Northwest Montana did during one of the last races before the state championships in Great Falls on Oct. 24.
This week, athletes from Flathead, Glacier, Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Bigfork high schools are getting ready to join students from nearly 50 other Montana schools for the final meet of the season and many eyes will be fixed on standout runners from the Kalispell area.
Chief among them is Flathead High School senior Jake Perrin, who is taking aim at the top spot in boys Class AA. On Oct. 14, he won the 3-mile race at the Glacier Invitational, and now he’s looking forward to a big performance at state.
“I’ve been visualizing the race and getting ready for some good competition,” Perrin said. “I daydream about being at the head of the pack. You’ve got to see yourself winning.”
Although Perrin got a late start in cross-country (he finished 19th at last year’s state meet in his first year of racing as a junior), his family is familiar with the sport. His older brother Zach is now running at the University of Colorado after a successful cross-country career at Flathead. And Zach and Jake’s younger brother, Ben, has also picked up the sport and is having a standout season his freshman year. Ben was the top freshman runner at the Mountain West Classic, finishing the three-mile course in 16:59.09.
Despite coming from a family of runners, Ben is just trying to relax and not put too much pressure on himself.
“People expect us to be good because of our last name,” he said.
Head coach Paul Jorgensen is optimistic that Flathead can be one of the top teams at state, challenging Billings Senior, Bozeman and Missoula Hellgate for a place on the podium. He said the key is making sure everyone is healthy in the days leading up to the race. “We want them to have fresh legs at state so we’re going to take it easy this coming week,” he said.
During the competitive Mountain West Classic in Missoula earlier this season, the Braves finished fourth among Montana high school teams behind Bozeman, Billings Senior and Missoula Hellgate.
The Bravettes are similarly aiming for the podium after last year’s third-place finish at state. Kaitlin Wride is hoping to repeat her success of a year ago when she placed seventh as a freshman.
“We really want to bottle up our energy so that we have our best race of the season at state,” she said.
From Glacier High, all eyes are on Annie Hill, who is hoping to repeat last year’s first place finish at the Class AA state championship. She will be chasing the all-class state record of 16:33.20, set last year by Bigfork’s Makena Morley.
“I just want to do the best I can and put up a good time,” she said. “I’m excited, and it’s nice to know that I’m able to perform at this level now as a sophomore. I’m really excited to see what I’ll be able to achieve later on.”
In the Class A ranks, the Whitefish girls team is looking to break its two-year streak of finishing second at the state meet. The Lady Bulldogs are aiming to peak at the right time and overtake a talented Corvallis squad that won the title a year ago. The teams were neck and neck at last weekend’s Western A Divisional in Polson, with Corvallis taking the top spot with 56 points and Whitefish placing second with 57. Whitefish senior Barrett Gray placed second overall in 18:57, and is looking to improve on her ninth-place finish at last year’s state meet.
In the Class B races, expect to see familiar faces at the front of the pack. Bigfork senior Logan Morley will look to repeat as state champion after finishing last year’s state meet 30 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.
His younger sister, sophomore Bryn Morley, will attempt to make a statement of her own. She placed second behind Makena a year ago, clocking 16:59 and becoming only the third girl in state history to break 17 minutes at the state meet, alongside Makena and Flathead’s Zoe Nelson (2001-2004).
Additional reporting by Greg Lindstrom.
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