MISSOULA — A familiar face took home the 2023 Big Sky Conference women's cross country championship Friday.
Elise Stearns, a Missoula native and Hellgate High grad, won the women's title for the second straight year, dominating the race from start to finish at the University of Montana Golf Course. Stearns, who competes for Northern Arizona, won the 5K race with a time of 16:21.02, 23 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
"I thought it would be like a perfect fall day, I don't think I got that," Stearns said with a laugh about the winter conditions. "I came back and I was like, 'It's winter break.' But I was really excited to be back and on the Mountain West course of all things. I have a lot of good memories here. It was a great experience.
"I was looking forward to it quite a bit this season and I was hoping I could defend the title, especially the team title and show my teammates where I'm from. It's a really exciting opportunity, especially going into (the NCAA Mountain Regionals on Nov. 10). This is a really good meet to practice the skills we want to run there and to do it in Missoula is just such a great opportunity."
NAU swept the team championships on Friday with the Lumberjack women placing the top seven finishers. Montana State was second in the men's and women's team races while Weber State was third in both.
Montana's men finished sixth as a team while the Griz women were eighth in the field of 10 teams.
Nico Young of NAU won the men's 8K race with a time of 22:49.9. Ben Perrin of MSU was third in the men's race to lead the Bobcats. Maxwell Scott was the first Grizzly to cross the finish line at 25th.
In the women's race, Kyla Christopher-Moody was ninth to lead the Bobcats, while Jaylyn Hallgrimson was the first from UM to finish the race in 33rd place. For full results from Friday's race, click here.