BILLINGS — Originally, Gavin Budge wasn’t sure about cross country, especially the up-at-dawn practice schedule.
“I have not been a morning person so much as a late-night person, you could say," the Billings Skyview freshman joked.
But eventually, some friends convinced him to try it.
“I was in seventh grade. I started in my first meet, and I actually ended up winning my first meet," he recalled.
How’s that for natural ability?
“There’s quite a few kids out here whose parents weren’t athletes, which is great, and it just comes into one spot," Skyview head coach Carol Kuhns said. "So for Gavin, that’s what it was.”
Last week, Budge won his first varsity race, beating every single runner in the city.
“It was a very good moment for me," Budge said sheepishly. "I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do, but I wouldn’t be able to do it without all the support from my family and friends.”
“I feel like a big thing on our part, too, are our varsity boys," Kuhns added. "They included him, and they were the ones that I really feel have gotten him to this point.”
That started before Budge even got to high school.
“He would run with our boys every once in a while during summer days when he was an eighth grader, and so I think in his heart, he knew what he wanted," Kuhns said.
“The guys on the varsity team are very supportive," said Budge. "They make it so you want to be there."
That keeps him coming back to practice. But when the gun sounds, natural ability takes over.
“He doesn’t over-psych himself. He doesn’t think too hard. He just goes," said Kuhns of Budge's mentality. "He just goes, and he continues to have gear after gear after gear.”
We’ll see how many he can find this weekend. The State AA boys are scheduled as the final race of the weekend Saturday at 3 p.m. at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell.