GREAT FALLS -- The 2019 Montana state cross country meet was held at Eagle Falls Golf Course in Great Falls on Saturday, where snow and wind were the headlines early, but impressive times and a class record stole the show.
Helena High sophomore Kylie Hartnett won the first cross country title of her young career, one year after finishing eighth at the state meet in Missoula. Hartnett, the heavy favorite entering the meet, lived up to expectations with a 15-second win, clocking a 17-minute, 14.68-second time, leading Helena to the third-place team trophy. It's believed to be the first trophy in coach Linda Paull's career with the Helena High girls.
"It was a little stressful because I knew I was the favorite, so everyone was watching me and looking for me, but I knew I could just push myself and go," said Hartnett. "I knew I could win, I had it. I had been running good all season, and I just knew I had to push myself and I would have it."
Bozeman's Terra Trom outlasted Missoula Hellgate's Abby Kendrick at the finish line, as the Hawk girls won the team title with 38 points.
The Class AA boys race was more closely contested, with no favorite entering the day. But last year's runner-up, Simon Hill of Kalispell Glacier, persevered with a time of 15:50.69. Hill sprinted down the final hill toward the finish line, bringing a title back to the Wolfpack program.
"The whole race, I just knew that I was going to run it for fun. I knew that Ian wanted it, I wanted it, and the whole all-state crew was out there to go for it," said Hill. "Running together and coming down this finishing straight, I knew something had to happen and it was going to come down to, 'How deep can I dig? How much do I want it?' and I just wanted it that much more. It means the world."
Hill edged rival and friend Ian Curtis of Missoula Hellgate, while fellow Knight Ignatius Fitzgerald was third. The Bozeman boys and Hellgate boys each finished with 54 points.
Hamilton's Brynnli Poulsen stole the show in the final race of the day, setting a new Class A record in impressive fashion. Poulsen, who placed runner-up behind former Polson standout Beatrix Frissell, who set the Class A mark at 19:03, dominated the race by nearly 1:30, clocking a new Class A record of 18:16.22. The Montana High School Association state cross country meet switched to a five-kilometer format in 2017, adding a new section to the state record books.
"I don't know, I guess, that I'm talented, I don't know how to respond to that," said a modest Poulsen after the record-setting run. "This whole year, I was actually like, 'I don't know what the state record is. I don't know what it is.' My dad eventually found it, because the system is so confusing to me, I'm like, 'What?' Every time I would go look for it I was like, 'This is the three-mile? What?' My dad found it for me and I'm just crazy excited, because what was it before? Something in the 19s? 19:03. I can't believe it. I can't, I just can't. This is all so crazy to me."
Dillon finished with runners in second and third, Madalen Shipman and Kelle Mosher, while Hardin's girls won the team title behind a 10th-place effort from Hannah Mark.
Lewistown's Sam Fulbright built a strong lead of his own, though nowhere near Poulsen's, en route to winning the Class A boys medalist honors with a new state record. Fulbright bested former Laurel standout Levi Taylor's 2018 time of 16:18.24, running a 16:10.43 to defeat Hamilton's Colter Kirkland (16:17.42). Fulbright was greeted by a strong Lewistown contingent near the finish line.
"I don't know how to put it. It was so cool working this whole year," said Fulbright. "I was getting really scared coming into state, there were a lot of good runners here with me, so I knew they would all be right with me. All that worry just disappeared when I was coming down that home stretch. I was so happy."
The first race of the day saw the Class B boys take the starting line, racing in Saturday's heaviest snow. Harlem's Brad Cichosz battled the conditions and held off friend and rival Wilson Overby of Glasgow to take the top mark in the classification, a 17:08.70. Cichosz credited his Scotty rival for pushing him on the challenging course.
"We're coming from the same district, so we're always racing each other every weekend," said Cichosz. "It's good to have that competition, and knowing we were No. 1 and 2 in the state, I knew it was going to be fun racing against him."
Eureka won the boys team title behind Isaac Reynolds' third-place finish.
Colstrip earned its second consecutive Class B girls champion Saturday, as Hayley Burns followed in former Fillies' standout Whitney Hanson's footsteps. Burns won in convincing fashion, clocking a time of 19:29.50. Townsend's Emma Stolte finished runner-up 15 seconds back, helping the Bulldogs to the team title.
"It was so hard, but it was nice to just be done and I wasn't sure if I would be a state champion, so it's really nice," Burns said. "I don't like running in the cold. It was kind of hard, kind of hard to breathe, but it was good."
Harlem's L'Tia Lawrence, another stellar distance runner, finished third.
Manhattan Christian officially owns a cross country dynasty, though the same could have been said last year. The Eagles won the boys team trophy for a fourth straight year, crowning another individual champion in the process. Ben Morrison, who placed third last year in Missoula, edged Richey-Lambert's Samuel Smith for a winning time of 16:52.99.
"I had so much fun. The last four years have been amazing. I've worked really hard for this, prayed really hard for this and my teammates and coaches believed in me," said Morrison. "I love Sam Smith, he got second, and it was a dogfight. I had a ton of fun, for sure. It was a really fun last race."
Morrison's teammate, defending state champion Riley Schott, placed third.
The Parker family added another state championship medal to its growing collection, as Averi, the West Yellowstone senior, capped her career with a winning time of 20:11.16. Parker and older sister Bailey have won numerous distance medals between cross country and track and field.
"It meant a lot. I was trying to run super fast. I got second last year, which, I was ranked first all year and then (Seeley-Swan's Sariah Maughan) just came out of nowhere. I was just trying to make sure that didn't happen again," said Parker.
Plentywood's Annie Kaul sprinted the homestretch to edge West Yellowstone's Julia Everest for the second-place trophy. Seeley-Swan narrowly defeated West Yellowstone, scoring 15 points to the Wolverines' 21, for the girls State C championship.