HELENA – Montana’s top high school harriers line up for the starting gun Saturday at the University of Montana Golf Course, the site of the 2018 state cross country invitational.
Bozeman’s boys appear to be runaway favorites for the team title, while the Hawks and Missoula Hellgate are expected to battle on the girls side.
Helena High’s girls could contend for a trophy, thanks to strong performances from a trio of freshmen – Rylie Schoenfeld, Kylee Wetzel and Kylie Hartnett.
“I’m feeling pretty confident that I can all-state and PR (personal-record) down there, because I’ll have someone pushing me there,” said Hartnett, who won Helena’s city meet and placed fourth in October’s Capital City 7-of-7 Invite.
Hartnett set a new personal-best in the prestigious 7-of-7 on Oct. 4, finishing in 18 minutes, 39.8 seconds. A week prior she posted an 18:54.9 in the Mountain West Classic, the site of Saturday’s state meet, and is chasing a new personal record in the season finale.
“I’m hoping to go 18:20s or lower 18:30s. Right now I’m at 18:39, so any PR will be good,” she said. “Not to get in my head and think that I can’t do it, know that I can.”
Helena offers a pair of runners on the boys side with all-state aspirations – Helena Capital senior Jesse McMurtrey and Helena High junior Jonah Fisher.
McMurtrey bested Fisher in the city meet and has posted top-15 times at every meet but one, a loaded Mountain West. He enters Saturday’s state meet with lofty goals, though he expects to meet them.
“I feel pretty good. I wanted to give a good showing (at the city meet) and do my very best. At state, I just want to finish really strong there and get a PR,” he said. “I would really like to be all-state, so I’m going to give it my very best and do everything I can.”
“I’m just hoping to get into the top 10 this year, which, if I run my PR I think I should be able to do it on that course,” said Fisher. “My main goal is getting into the top 10.”
Saturday’s favorites are no secret, as Kalispell Flathead’s Ben Perrin and Billings Senior’s Tiahna Vladic are expected to earn medalist honors in the Class AA portion of the invite. The two seniors are chasing one last cross country PR, doing it on a course they’re both fond of.
“I like that course, actually. It’s pretty cool,” Perrin said of the University of Montana course. “We usually only get to run it once a year, but it’s cool we get to run it now for state. I’m excited to run it again. It will be fun, last race on that course.”
“I definitely love that course, it’s always been my favorite since freshman year,” added Vladic. “I love that big hill, some people get intimidated by it, but I definitely like to use the hills to my advantage. I’ll definitely have a lot of fun with that.”