BILLINGS — Camila Noe may as well have been out for a casual Saturday run.
The Bozeman senior certainly looked like she was running alone on Saturday in Billings, opening up a large lead early in the girls 3,200-meter run at the Billings West-Billings Senior-Bozeman triangular. Noe’s concentration was on display as she rounded the oval, her lack of competition not getting in the way of her goal to post a fast time. But a few laps into the race, something clicked inside the Gatorade cross country runner of the year.
“After the first lap, she had already opened up almost a 100-meter lead. She went out that aggressive,” said Bozeman track and field coach Eric Fisher. “We knew it was going to be close to her PR (personal record) and as we were watching lap by lap, kind of tracking her time, we knew it would be close to her PR, but as the last two laps came she kind of shifted into another gear that we knew she had, but it was the first time she had unleashed that in the 3,200.”
Though the conditions didn’t seem favorable — the hot weather, only six girls in the race, pushing a pace by herself — Noe had high expectations before the starting gun fired, hoping to set a new personal record in the race. That extra gear in the final laps wasn’t enough to reach that mark, but history was still made at the finish line.
Noe’s time of 10 minutes, 21.76 seconds became the fastest 3,200 ever run by a prep female athlete inside the state of Montana, breaking the old record of 10:22.1 set by former Billings Senior and current Stanford Cardinal sensation Christina Aragon.
“We knew it was going to be a phenomenal time, we just didn’t know exactly how good until it all finished and we thought, ‘That might be the fastest,'” said Fisher. “The coaches and I got on our phones and did a little research and sure enough, we found out it beat Christina Aragon’s 10:22 by a half-second. We were thrilled and excited, and Camila was honestly very excited with it, as well.”
Aragon holds Montana’s state record, running 10:23.31 at the state meet in Missoula in 2016, her senior season. State records can only be set at the state meets in Montana.
Noe’s time would eclipse that mark, if she can duplicate or better the effort in Great Falls later this month. Earlier this spring, the distance standout set a personal best of 10:18.99 at the highly-acclaimed Arcadia Invitational in Los Angeles. The time sits as the third-best by a Montana high school female, according to the Montana High School Association. Aragon and former Bigfork standout Makena Morley each ran faster times at the Arcadia Invite in 2016 and 2014, respectively.
Noe still has three weeks remaining in her prep track and field career, with state records firmly in her sight. But breaking those marks would be even more remarkable for Noe, Fisher says, based on her background in the sport.
“What’s amazing with Camila, three years ago she wasn’t a runner, she was a soccer player. She came out for track and cross country as a sophomore and turned heads a little bit,” he said. “We knew that she had potential to be a really good runner, but over the last year, I mean, her work ethic is just unbelievable. I’ll be driving around town on weekends when we don’t have anything going on and I’ll see her running around town. Through the winter, we had a crummy winter and long winter into March and April, that forced a late start to the track events, but she was out running through the snow storms. Some kids would elect to run inside on treadmills, but she would be out running and training miles and miles, putting on 50- or 60-mile weeks through the winter, which is unheard of. Her drive to be a great runner all on her own, she doesn’t need anyone pushing her, and Saturday is a testament to that.”
Fisher admits it would be nice to see Noe lined up next to some of Montana’s other elite distance talents — Kalispell Glacier’s Annie Hill, Billings Senior’s Tiahna Vladic or Bigfork’s Bryn Morley — to see if the competition could push her toward even faster times. Fisher believes Noe could “could push into another gear” against those rivals, which could happen in the final weeks of the season.
For Noe, the chase for PRs and records is only a portion of the reward. Quiet and humble, she finds as much enjoyment in seeing teammates succeed as she does in her own gold medals and top marks.
“Camila is a really quiet type. She appreciates all the work her teammates put in to help her get better, to push her. She’s one of our team captains and really loves to see her teammates succeed, just as much as her own successes. She really strives on reaching out to all of her teammates, not just her friends. She does a great job of helping the younger girls, and if she has a lighter day, she’ll go run with the freshmen and sophomores to help them develop their mindset as they run,” said Fisher.
Though she’s only been part of the Hawks’ track and field program the past three years, Fisher says Noe aims to leave it in a better position than even when she joined, pushing those younger athletes to chase the program and potentially state records she’ll have set by season’s end.
All eyes will be on Noe, who currently ranks 18th in the country in the 3,200, when she lines up for the start of the race at the state meet. The run is slated to begin around 3 p.m. on Friday, the first day of the meet, leaving Fisher to believe the best is yet to come.
“I would love to see her get down to the 10:15 range. I think that’s a goal of hers,” said Fisher. “She ran the 10:18 down at sea level and I think she wants to beat that time at elevation here in Montana. I think 10:15 is a landmark time that she might be able to get to come state. With the schedule the way it is, the 3,200 would be her first run at the state meet, so she could certainly take a crack at it.”
Knowing Noe, there’s still another gear or two we haven’t seen.