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Taking the torch: Duncan Hamilton latest in long line of Bozeman distance runners

Posted at 2:35 PM, Apr 25, 2018

BOZEMAN – The Bozeman High cross country and distance track and field programs have always fared exceptionally well on a statewide level, but the Hawks have become a powerhouse in recent years, churning out high-caliber athletes like some sort of a running factory.

Bozeman has placed a top-six male finisher in either the 1,600- or 3,200-meter run in the past six State AA track and field invites, with three individual state champions and four runners-up. Senior Duncan Hamilton is determined to keep that streak alive.

“I’m trying to hunt down my teammate from last year, some of his records. The school records, particularly, are what I’m going for,” said Hamilton, who just missed the podium in last spring’s 3,200. “At state, just trying to place and help my team out, that’s one thing I’m really excited for this year, is trying to snag some points for the track team at state to see if we can podium or see if the team can do as well as we can.”

Hamilton has thrived in the Hawks’ distance programs, trimming his 3,200 time by nearly 30 seconds per year entering this season, from a 10:28 as a freshman to his 9:23 as a junior, with his current personal record of 9:10.34 set earlier this season.

Bozeman’s distance coaches, who are credited as being among the best in Montana, have certainly benefited Hamilton in chasing his own times, helping him take the torch from runners past. Now he’s out to beat them.

“Chase Equall last year, he ran 9 minutes, 57 seconds at the Arcadia Invitational in Califronia, so I was hoping to break nine minutes at the Arcadia a couple weeks ago,” said Hamilton, who clocked the 9:10.34 at the race in Los Angeles. “That didn’t quite happen, but hopefully I can get his in-state time, his two-mile time at altitude, which is a 9:13, and then his school mile record is 4:13. I’m hoping to get both of those.”

He’s on pace to flirt with those program records set by Equall, last year’s 3,200 state champion and 1,600-meter runner-up. Hamilton’s performance at the mighty Arcadia Invitational earned him a sixth-place finish in the men’s 3,200-meter run seeded, while offering a large quantity of competition not seen in Big Sky Country.

“That’s really fun because up here in Montana we don’t get 16 kids going under nine minutes, something like that which happened at Arcadia,” he said, “so it’s really fun to have so many people right next to you, a super big pack all trying to go low nine minutes in the two mile.”

Montana’s track and field scene may not offer the sheer numbers of an Arcadia, but runners like Kalispell Flathead’s Jake Perrin, Missoula Hellgate’s Will Dauenhauer and Hamilton’s own teammate Leonard McComas provide the competitive edge needed to clock fast times.

“It’s awesome. It’s really good to be able to run against people of similar caliber, especially this (3,200 at last Friday’s Swede Dahlberg Invitational) was super fun because the guy I was running with most of the race is going to be my teammate next year,” Hamilton said of Missoula Hellgate’s Isaac Schmidt. “Four of the top five guys at the state cross country meet have committed to Montana State, so we’re all going to be teammates this year. It’s fun to compete against each other one last time.”

Though his sights are set on Bozeman’s program records and eventually the State AA meet, it’s admittedly challenging for Hamilton to not think about the future and the star power joining forces in Bozeman.

“Next year is going to be really fun. Going through high school we’ve been competing against one another, but now we take the guys who are right with you and make a team out of that,” he said. “We’re all super excited.”