Guide to State Cross Country: Girls

Bravettes, Wildkats seek spots on podium behind perennial favorites Bozeman and Hardin

By Micah Drew
Tori Noland-Gillespie of the Flathead Bravettes finishes third at the Glacier Invitational cross country meet at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell on Oct. 14, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

All-Class State Meet
Friday and Saturday, Oct. 23-24

Rebecca Farm

One of the biggest COVID-19 changes to cross country this season was travel restrictions that prevented any Class AA teams from competing against teams outside of their division, and limiting most schools to local races. This means that the eight Class AA teams on the eastern side of the Continental Divide have yet to race any western teams, and most schools have not had the chance to preview the state meet course in Kalispell. Conditions this weekend will be cold — highs in the low 30s Friday and in the low 20s Saturday — and there is snow in the forecast.

Class AA

2019 team champion: Bozeman Hawks

2019 Individual champion: Kylie Hartnett, Helena

Start time: Saturday, Oct 24 at 2:00 p.m.

2020 storylines: After a stunning loss in 2018 to Hellgate, Bozeman returned to the top of the podium last year for its 13th title. Bozeman’s squad looks as strong as ever, led by freshman additions Natalie Nicholas and Polly Meshew. Hellgate will likely return as runner-up, but the most exciting race might be for third. Billings West, Helena and Flathead are all projected to finish within a handful of points. Helena is led by defending state champion Kylie Hartnett. If she wins, she will be the first back to back AA state champion since Glacier High School’s Annie Hill in 2015. Hartnett will face top competition up front, highlighted by Missoula Hellgate senior Sage Brooke, a Syracuse commit. Brooke has beaten Hartnett this year and has run the fastest time in the state, a 17:59. Three all-state runners, Bozeman’s Grace Gilbreth, Hellgate’s Abby Kendrick and Flathead’s Tori Noland-Gillespie, return as well.

Locals to watch: The Bravettes are seeking a second podium finish since coach Jesse Rumsey first took over the program in 2014. The team is led by Rumsey’s daughter, freshman Lilli Rumsey Eash, and the Bravettes’ knowledge of the Rebecca Farm course — this will be their fourth time racing there this season — may give them an edge over Helena.

Class A

2019 team champion: Hardin Bulldogs

2019 individual champion: Brynnli Poulsen, Hamilton

Start time: Friday, Oct. 23 at 10:30 a.m.

2020 storylines: The class A girls will be the first to race at Rebecca Farm under the new state format. The Hardin Bulldogs are on a tear at the state meet — no current runner for the Bulldogs was on the team the last time it didn’t top the podium. Only one scoring runner graduated from last year’s squad, and two new freshmen, Mariah Aragon and Dierra Takes Enemy, have been solid contributors this season. The Bulldogs will face stiff competition, however, with the biggest challenge coming from rival Laurel, which topped Hardin at the Eastern A divisional and has three runners who have run under 20 minutes. Columbia Falls also looks to be in the mix for a podium spot. Individually, defending champion Brynnli Poulsen of Hamilton looks nigh unstoppable. She has run 18:48 this season, a full 50 seconds faster than the next Class A runner.

Locals to watch: The Wildkats have a strong returning squad lead by two pairs of sisters, Lara and Siri Erickson and Hannah and Ally Sempf. Whitefish has been lead by junior Paetra Cooke, who has run a top-15 time in the state.

Class B

2019 team champion: Townsend (Broadwater) Bulldogs

2019 individual champion: Hayley Burns, Colstrip

Start time: Friday, Oct. 23 at 2:00 p.m.

2020 storylines: Manhattan has won four of the last six state titles, but was unseated last year by Broadwater. It looks to be a very tight race for the title again this year, with the Tigers bringing back three scorers from last year’s squad and the Bulldogs returning all five scoring runners along with runner-up Emma Stolte. The teams have faced off four times this year, with Manhattan coming out on top three times. Last year’s third-place team Red Lodge could round out the podium, led by sophomore Brayli Reimer, who comes in with the fastest time this season. Glasgow’s Iris McKean will also be a top contender.

Class C

2019 team champion: Seeley-Swan

2019 individual champion: Averi Parker, West Yellowstone (graduated)

Start time: Saturday, Oct. 24 at 10:30 a.m.

2020 storylines: Led by sisters Sariah and Emily Maughan, both top-five finishers last year, the Seeley-Swan Blackhawks will attempt to defend their first state title since 1978. Sariah won state in 2018, but will be challenged up front by Belt/Centerville’s Lindsey Paulson and last year’s runner-up Annie Kaul from Plentywood, both of whom have run under 20 minutes this year.

 406mtsports.com’s Lindsay Rossmiller contributed to this article.