Not many college athletes get to compete against national champions, but for runners in the Big Sky Conference it’s a regular part of the season. Six of the last seven NCAA cross country championships have been won by powerhouse Northern Arizona University.
While lining up next to that caliber of athlete might intimidate some, it doesn’t seem to phase Montana State University junior Ben Perrin, a graduate and state champion from Flathead High School.
On Friday at the Big Sky Conference Championships in Missoula, Perrin broke up the front pack of Northern Arizona runners, finishing in third and preventing a sweep by the Lumberjacks. Perrin finished the 8-kilometer course in 23:33.
His top-five finish led the Bobcats to a second straight runner-up finish to the Lumberjacks, who won the national title last year on a tiebreaker. Behind Perrin, MSU runners finished 6-12-13-14, with 2022 Glacier High School graduate Sam Ells rounding out the scoring for the Bobcats.
Ells, who redshirted last year, was named Big Sky Freshman of the Year.
The Montana Grizzlies finished 6th on their home course.
Next up for the Bobcats is the Mountain Regional meet hosted by Texas Tech on Nov. 10, which will determine who qualifies for the NCAA National Championships two weeks later. Montana State qualified as a team last year finishing 25th. Perrin was the team’s fourth runner in 200th place.
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