MISSOULA – More than 1,000 runners chased titles in Missoula on Saturday, but only a few ended the day state champions. The KPAX Youth Sports Spotlight shines on the western Montana stars that crossed the line first at the all-class cross country meet.
The Class C girls race had two defending champs in the field, 2016 winner Gracie Long of Darby and 2017 champ Averi Parker of West Yellowstone. But after the first mile, no one could keep up with a freshman from Seeley-Swan. Sariah Maughan ended up beating Parker by 26 seconds to capture the crown, finishing in 19 minutes, 52.89 seconds. The scary part for competitors the next few years is just how much Maughan could still improve.
“I play volleyball, too. So I think if I trained more for cross country I could do way better, instead of just training for volleyball,” said Maughan. “I do the volleyball practices, and then I just run home. My mom, earlier this week she was like, ‘You have to stay positive. You have to be thinking that you can do it, and then you just have to run your best race.’ That is the best race that I’ve run.”
Polson’s Beatrix Frissell knows all about winning the big races. She used a fantastic kick to win a state title as a junior last year. The favorite coming into the Class A run this time admitted she had plenty of nerves at the starting line. But she once again dominated the final mile to top the podium, finishing in 19:02.57 and winning by 21 seconds.
“It feels amazing,” Frissell said afterward with a smile. “I think back to all of the work I’ve put in all season and all of the hard races I’ve had. I got a cold halfway through the season, and I finally knocked that away, so it feels really good to end the season strong. This is my last race, so that really helps a whole lot, too.”
The Class AA boys race had a familiar storyline and a familiar name in first place. Ben Perrin captured his first title crossing the line in 15:43.6, winning by 12 seconds. Perrin finished a perfect season, while adding to his family’s history. His older brothers Zach and Jake each won titles as seniors for Kalispell Flathead, as well.
“It’s awesome,” said the newest Perrin champion. “There is so much distance running history in Montana. A big part of it, too, is being able to race for Flathead. We’ve got a lot of tradition there, a lot of great athletes and great coaches. To just be a part of that tradition, and keep it going, just tried to do my part and have fun.”
The Missoula Hellgate girls also made history in their home town. The Knights won the school’s first-ever team title, while ending Bozeman’s incredible 11-year run at the top of Class AA. Hellgate ran past the second-place Hawks 37-57. Ember Stratton (third), Elise Stearns (fifth), Ella Degrandpre (sixth) and Abby Kendrick (ninth) each finished in the top 10 for Hellgate.
In Class A, the Columbia Falls boys won the school’s second-ever title and first since 2009. The Wildcats easily out-paced second-place Hardin, 76 to 107. Joe Lamb finished third for the team champs, while Seth Umbriaco took seventh.