Things look a little different this year in all aspects of high school life, and cross country is no exception.
Normally an all-class event, the state championship for Class A is this weekend in Kalispell.
Last weekend, Ronan’s Brant Heiner took individual honors in 16:24.18, but Hamilton took the next three spots to win the boys' team crown at the Western A Fall Classic at Whitefish Lake Golf Course. Colter Purcell was second (16:30.88), Colter Kirkland third (16:49.90) and Lane Cole was fourth for the Broncs, whose 26 points far outpaced Whitefish (60) and Ronan (81).
Hamilton's Brynnli Poulsen easily won the girls race in 18:48.71, but Lara Erickson in second (20:12.70) and Hannah Sempf in third (20:24.65) helped Columbia Falls to the team crown, 11 points ahead of Corvallis. The Blue Devils' Katie Gleason was fourth (20:34.83) and Olivia Buoy fifth (20:50.16).
“Brynnli found her stride this season, and she won by over a minute last year,” coach Mark Albert said. “We had missed a whole three months of training with track, so that was hard.”
Joanne Cleveland, the Corvallis coach, said missing a track season was hard, but she has been running with her team all summer.
“It has been hard because they haven’t been running the girls altogether,” Cleveland said. “I try to focus on all of my kids and am just happy to have a season.”
“It has been frustrating,” Albert said. “It is harder to do team-building things.”
As for the runners, it has been hard not getting to mingle with other teams as well as their own teammates at meets. Instead of getting to hang out between races, they have been divided up between four or five different “waves” of runners, and they have to social distance and wear masks in between.
Brynlli Paulsen will be defending her state title this weekend, but she might want to keep an eye on Corvallis’ Olivia Buoy.
“Olivia is definitely our fastest runner, and she is only a sophomore,” Cleveland said. “All of our kids are working toward state. We are just telling them to take care of themselves and trying to get them in the best shape as possible, both mentally and physically.”
“I am just happy we get to have a season,” Albert said. “I am proud of my kids and proud of the school district to make this happen for our kids.”
“This year has been hard, but every time we have a meet, it’s like a celebration,” Cleveland said.
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