It is time for the state’s best to run the course at Rebecca Farm. Kalispell hosts the State Cross Country Championships this weekend.
I love the simplicity of running. There are no helmets or pads, or netted goals, or balls or bats, or equipment of any kind. There are just the weather conditions, the natural turf, and the course design to challenge you along with your fellow competitors who are trying to finish before you do. You can put your toe on the starting line, employ your own tactics as you embrace the race, and run to the end with freedom and simplicity over uneven terrain against other teams of runners. It is pure athletic competition.
The history of cross country goes back across the pond to England. The “hare and the hound” and “the paper chase” were the initial names of this new sport. Beginning around 1801, the “hare” (a runner) carried paper with him, dropping it as he ran ahead by a designated amount of time, maybe five to 10 minutes. Then a pack of “hounds” (the rest of the runners) chased the “hare” by following the paper. The “hare” could run wherever he wanted as long as he arrived at a predetermined finish line. Of course, the “hare” would run a course that was difficult to follow. He would run through mud bogs, water hazards, bushes and hedges, up and down hills, through forests of trees and meadows of deep grass. The chase would last several hours, taking up most of an afternoon. Endurance and mental toughness were a premium.
The paper chase came to America around 1850 and quickly became a sensation, especially on the East Coast. Eventually, a course was pre-planned and marked out so the “hare” was eliminated from the event. Also, the race was over a shorter distance, approximately three miles. Clothing changed as well since the race became a faster, shorter race. No longer was it necessary to wear some sort of protective gear to handle the obstacles they would face. It now became more of what we have today, an open field run that concluded with a sprint to the finish. Eventually, this new sport became known as “cross country.”
This will be the 52nd time (1964) boys from around the state will compete for a cross country title. And it will be the 45th time (1971) for the girls. The course has already been designed and set up at Rebecca Farm and will be three miles in length. All classifications will be there, with top teams from AA, A, B, and C schools.
Major cross country meets are just captivating to watch. Until you have been to one, it is hard to explain. We tend to think of running races as an individual sport, and once the leaders finish, then the race is essentially over. But hold on! With the addition of the team dynamic, the whole tenor of the competition changes. The real race that determines the team championship takes place after the leaders cross the finish line. It is crazy to watch these runners sprint down the last several hundred yards to gain a better finishing position for their team.
The state’s best runners are at Rebecca Farm. Don’t miss these highly competitive races. And don’t forget to root for our locals. We have Glacier High School, led by the incredible Annie Hill, who is going for her third straight individual state title. She already holds the fasted time ever run in the state of Montana (16:30). Experienced competitor Tevyn Stetson will lead the Glacier boys’ team. Flathead High School girls are led by Kaitlin Wride and the boys are led by Ben Perrin, who looks to capture his first championship in a hotly contested AA race. Also, look for Sage Wanner of Columbia Falls to be near the top in the Class A boys race and Bryn Morley to bring home a state title for the Bigfork girls.
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