KALISPELL – Fourteen times Annie Hill has stood on the podium at Montana’s state track and field meets, and 14 times Hill has placed a medal of some significance around her neck. Four of those medals have been gold, five silver, three have been bronze and two more have “fourth place” etched on them. Her Kalispell Glacier squad has finished runner-up at the state meet the past three seasons.
Add in four top-10 finishes in the State AA cross country invitationals, including two firsts and a third, and Hill has put together one of the finer running careers in Montana history. That career entered its final month when the calendar turned to May, forcing Montana’s 2017 Gatorade track and field female athlete of the year to relish her final days in a Kalispell Glacier uniform.
“Every time I come to a track meet I tell a friend, ‘This is the last time we’re going to be at this track meet.’ I just think about it, it’s my last opportunity to have a great track season, and I just want to take every opportunity and race that I have to do well and put a cherry on top of my season,” she said.
Hill may be closer to doing just that. She capped the month of April by winning the mile at the prestigious Nike Jesuit Twilight Relays, holding off some of the elite prep talent in the country. Hill clocked a 4:48.68 in the race and afterward told DyeStat editor Doug Binder, “It was a great feeling,” after overcoming some mentality challenges and recent downs.
The win in Portland may have been the spark Hill needed to etch her name further in Montana’s record books. She already owns the fourth-fastest 800- and 3,200-meter run times, as well as the second-best 1,600 in state history, according to the Montana High School Association. She set the state’s season-best in the 800 at the Archie Roe on May 5, clocking a time of 2:11.39.
Hill, who has committed to run at the University of Colorado, credits her distance coaches for implementing a practice plan and race-day strategy. At different times this season, Hill has focused on her shorter races, the 400 and 800, to work on speed. At other meets, the focus has shifted to the longer runs, with hopes of building endurance. It’s a plan Hill says is paying off.
“I think there’s quite a bit of strategy. I kind of let my coaches do the work. I trust them, they’re awesome at making sure I’m getting where I need,” she said. “I’m just looking for some personal records. It’s been my goal all season to improve every meet, that’s what I did last year. It’s a good progression and I hope to just keep improving.”
Hill has benefited from competing against some of Montana’s top running talents during her four years. From Bozeman’s Camila Noe and Billings Senior’s Tiahna Vladic on the cross country courses, to former Billings Senior sensation Christina Aragon and Helena High record-holder Carly Smiedala on the track, as well as Bigfork standout Brynn Morley in each sport, every rival has provided motivation.
“It’s amazing to be able to run against such awesome competition and great girls. We’ve always gone back and forth, all of us, we’ve beat each other in different events,” Hill said. “I just feel so fortunate to have such great competition. We push each other and make each other better. I feel Montana has always been really good for that and I feel really fortunate. That’s one of the reasons I do well.”
Hill will likely meet Noe, Vladic and possibly Billings West sprinter Maddie Brockel at the state meet later this month. The final placings for those potential matchups are up in the air, but one could argue none of the friends and foes are having as much fun as Hill in the home stretch of her prep career.
“Well, I think it would be pretty hard to beat. I just love it. This is amazing,” she said.
Just wait until she adds medals Nos. 15-20 the final weekend of the month.