Only two runners from Glacier High School have ever won a state cross country championship.
They both grew up in the same house.
Wolfpack senior Simon Hill reached the pinnacle of Class AA with a 5K time of 15:50.69 to join his older sister Annie as a state champion, besting the field at a snowy Eagle Falls Golf Club in Great Falls on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Hill, who committed to run at the University of Montana earlier this month, finished a surprising second a year ago behind Flathead’s Ben Perrin, breaking 16 minutes for the first time in the process. Before Saturday’s state meet, Hill talked about how important that breakthrough was in setting up his senior season.
“It was just this huge thing in my head that I can always dig deeper,” he said. “Being able to break that 16-minute barrier in the 5K, and for the first time at state, it was this huge moment of ‘it’s worth it.’ That 15 minutes of pain is worth every moment after.”
Hill’s win at the 2019 state meet extends a remarkable streak for Flathead Valley runners, who have won at least one individual cross country title each of the last nine years, a stretch that includes Annie Hill in 2014 and 2015. The other winners during that span are a veritable who’s who of Montana distance runners, including Flathead’s Ben, Jake and Zach Perrin; Bigfork’s Makena, Bryn and Logan Morley; and Columbia Falls harriers Derrick Williams and Samantha Mundel.
On the course at Saturday’s state meet, Hill did battle with a familiar rival at the front of the pack. Missoula Hellgate’s Ian Curtis was the only Class AA runner to beat Hill in a race this year, doing so in Missoula on Sept. 5, and the two presumptive favorites for the state title ended up crossing the line just two seconds apart on Saturday, with Curtis in at 15:52.9. Hill and Curtis were the only two runners to complete the course in less than 16 minutes.
Glacier sophomore Sam Ells finished 19th, the second-best finish by an underclassman this year and just one spot behind Missoula Sentinel sophomore Tanner Klumph. Ells completed his 5K in 16:41.36, nearly the identical time Hill ran (16:41.6) at the state meet in his sophomore year. Freshman Tyler Avery was the Wolfpack’s third-best runner, crossing in 46th place. Glacier was seventh as a team.
Flathead’s top finisher was sophomore Gabriel Felton (17:28.17) in 44th.
Bozeman won the team title in a tiebreaker over Hellgate. It is the Hawks’ 12th consecutive state title.
In the girls race, the Bravettes showed off their depth with all five scoring runners placing in the top 33. Junior Tori Noland-Gillespie finished 15th in 19:16.8, her third year in the top 20. Noland-Gillespie was 13th in 2018. She was followed in Saturday’s state meet by sophomore Kya Wood (19th), freshman Neila Lyngholm (21st), sophomore Sierra Vickrey (32nd) and junior Hannah Perrin (33rd). Flathead was one spot away from a team trophy, finishing fourth (120) behind Bozeman (38), Missoula Hellgate (60) and Helena (94).
Kinzie Peterson (20:12.13) led the Glacier girls in 30th.
In Class A, Columbia Falls repeated as state champions with another balanced effort. The Wildcats’ top five runners finished no worse than 22nd, accounting for a team total of 65, 11 spots better than when Columbia Falls won the title in 2018.
Junior Aidan Jarvis was the fastest Wildcat (16:29.35) in fourth place. Joining him in all-state position were classmate James Role in seventh (16:49.87) and sophomore Jimmy James Petersen in 11th (16:57.79). Senior Joe Lamb (21st) and junior Seth Umbriaco (22nd) rounded out the Wildcats’ top five.
Hardin was second as a team (86) and Lewistown finished third (98) behind individual state champion Sam Fulbright (16:10.43).
Whitefish senior Miles Vrentas crossed the line in 19th and classmate Bridger Gaertner placed 34th. The Bulldogs were eighth as a team.
The Whitefish girls, however, are coming home from state with a third-place trophy, one year after finishing in second. Senior Josephine Vardell earned all-state honors, placing sixth on Saturday, followed by teammates Jessica Henson (22nd), Paetra Cooke (23rd) and Maylani Horton (29th).
Columbia Falls junior Lara Erickson nabbed all-state honors for the Wildkats with a 12th-place finish, and teammate Hannah Sempf was 17th. Columbia Falls placed fifth as a team.
In Class B, the Eureka boys built off their divisional title last week and won their own state championship on Saturday, the first in school history.
Isaac Reynolds led the way for the Lions in third place, one of four Eureka runners to land in the top 17. Reynolds, just a sophomore, finished behind a pair of seniors and ran a 17:21.03. Teammate Chaidh Lochridge (17:45.12) crossed in seventh, followed by Alex Lowe (18:06.43) in 14th and Gavin Bates (18:18.47) in 17th.
The Lions finished with a team total of 73, comfortably better than second-place Manhattan (93) and third-place St. Labre (165).
Bigfork was 13th as a team, led by Aiden Butterfield (18:42.97) in 28th and Elliot Sanford (18:46.42) in 31st.
Eureka’s Maya Carvey was the top local girls finisher in 32nd place. Bigfork senior Corina Wallace was 40th.
Check out the Oct. 30 issue of the Flathead Beacon for more coverage of the state cross country meet.