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Defending champ Sydney Little Light highlights Montana Mile field; MSU's Levi Taylor to shoot for first title

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Posted at 2:55 PM, Jul 06, 2023

BILLINGS — Defending women's champion Sydney Little Light is among the competitors for the 2023 Montana Mile, which annually is the marquee event of the opening ceremonies for the Big Sky State Games.

This year's Montana Mile races — the 32nd running for the men and the 24th for the women — will take place Friday, July 14, beginning at 8:15 p.m. on the track at Daylis Stadium in Billings. The Big Sky State Games announced the contestants on Thursday.

Little Light, a Hardin High grad, won last year's event in 5:00.43, outpacing Missoula Hellgate alum and Syracuse runner Sage Brooks. Brooks, the 2020 champion, is back in the field this year as well.

On the men's side, repeat champion and Montana Mile record holder Duncan Hamilton (most recently of Montana State) will not compete this year. Hamilton, a Bozeman High alum, is coming off a second-place finish in the 3,000 steeplechase at the NCAA Division I outdoor championships, and is currently competing at the USATF national championships in Eugene, Oregon.

MSU teammate and Laurel grad Levi Taylor, who placed second last year, is in the field seeking his first title in his fifth Montana Mile appearance. Taylor is also competing this weekend at the USATF Championships.

Following is a breakdown of the men's and women's contestants, with information provided by the Big Sky State Games:

MEN

Ase Ackerman

Ase Ackerman just finished at Montana State University-Billings, competing in both track and cross country. The former Dawson County High School runner was named a team captain for the Yellowjackets receiving GNAC All-Conference in 3,000m steeplechase and 1500m and holds the 8k and 1500m school records. Ackerman will be coming off a third place finish in last year's Montana Mile.

Oren Arthun

Oren Arthun is from Churchill, Montana. He will be a senior at Manhattan Christian High School in the Fall. He holds the school record in the 5k, 1600m, and 3200m. Oren is a two-time state cross country champion and two-time State Champion in the 3200m. This will be his first time running the Montana Mile.

Weston Brown

Weston Brown will be attending Princeton University in the Fall. He holds every Bozeman High School record from 800m to the 5K. In 2022, Weston was the Gatorade runner of the year for Cross Country and won the State AA Cross Country meet. He is a two-time State AA 3200m champion, 2023 1600m State Champion and holds the 1600m all class record. Weston just recently won the boys two mile at Nike Outdoor Nationals. This will be his first time participating in the Montana Mile.

Ivan Colmenero

Former Montana State University-Billings runner, Ivan Colmenero is running the Montana Mile for the seventh time. He was an All-State runner for Manhattan High School and part of Manhattan’s state championship team. Colmenero’s best mile time is 4:22.

Drew Galahan 

Drew Galahan is from Harlowton, Montana. He graduated from Montana State University Billings with a degree in Finance. He is a Montana State Class C Champion in the 800m, 1600m, and 4x400 relay. This will be his second time participating in the Montana Mile.

Mason Moler

Mason Moler is an incoming senior at Billings West High School. He received 8th place at AA State Cross Country. This will be his first time participating in the Montana Mile.

Greyson Piseno

Greyson Piseno attends Billings Central Catholic High School and will be a sophomore in the Fall. He holds the school record for the 5k, 1600 and 3200. He also took the State A Championship in Cross Country, 1600m and 3200m. This will be his first time participating in the Montana Mile.

Owen Smith

Participating in his fifth Montana Mile, Owen Smith is now entering his senior year at Montana State University Bozeman, studying mechanical engineering. Smith earned All-State honors three times at Billings Senior High, received a 6th place spot at Big Sky Conference steeplechase and was an NCAA first round qualifier in the 150

Carson Steckelberg

This fall, Carson Steckelberg will be entering his freshman year at University of Montana. He currently holds the school records at Gallatin High School for the 800m 1600m, 3200m and 5K. Carson was a three-time All State cross country and two All State for track. He will be running in the Montana Mile for the third year in a row.

Jaxon Straus

Jaxon Straus is an incoming Freshman at Black Hills State University studying business and economics. He has been named All-State three-times in cross country. He has had multiple top five finishes in the Midland Roundtable Top Ten Track Meet. Jaxon is three-time All State in Cross Country. This will be his second time participating in the Montana Mile.

Levi Taylor

Former Laurel Locomotive standout Levi Taylor will be making his fifth appearance in the Mile. Levi is the school record holder at Laurel High School in the 1600M and the 3200M. He is also part of the record holding team in the distance medley relay at MSU. He is a two-time NCAA All-American and six-time all conference in the Big Sky. He recently competed in the 3000M Steeplechase Finals at NCAA Nationals and was 7th place in the Steeplechase at the 2022 USATF Championships .

WOMEN

Karis Brightwings-Pease

Karis Brightwings Pease competed in high school cross country and track as an eighth grader. She will be a freshman this fall at Hardin High School. She has already accomplished many achievements including setting high school records and a champion in the Montana State A Cross Country Championships and State A Track Championships in the 1600m and 3200m. This will be her first time competing in the Montana Mile.

Sage Brooks

Syracuse runner, Sage Brooks, will be competing in her second Montana Mile. Brooks was the 2020 Montana Mile Champion. The Missoula native holds the 1600m school record at Hellgate High School. Brooks took home 17th place in the mile this year at the Indoor ACC Championships.

Hayley Burns

Northern Arizona University incoming sophomore, Hayley Burns will be participating in her second Montana Mile. Burns won the 3200M title in the Rated Section of the Arcadia Invitational in high school. She is a nine-time all-state selection in cross country and track at Bozeman High. This last Fall, she won the NJCAA Cross Country Nationals.

Mary Felig

Growing up in Broadus and attending Montana State University-Billings, Mary Felig is now a physics teacher and cross country coach at Billings Skyview High School. She is in the top ten 5K runners at MSUB with a 5K personal record of 17:56.06, holding her high school records in the 1600m and 3200m. This is her fourth time participating in the Montana Mile. Felig will be coming off a third place finish in last year's Mile.

Ali Keith

Ali Keith currently goes to college in Seaside, California. She is majoring in Communication Design. She has had multiple achievements throughout her running career including All-State Cross Country, NXR Northwest Open Invitational Champion 2021, and 5k record holder at Billings West. This will be her first time running in the Montana Mile.

Shelbi LaBrie

Shelbi LaBrie will be a junior at Whitewater High School in the Fall. She was third place in the Montana State C Cross Country Meet in 2022, two time All-State in Cross Country, 2023 State C 1600m champion and 2nd place in the 3200m, holding both school and divisional records. This will be her first time competing in the Montana Mile.

Sydney Little Light 

Rocky Mountain College mile record holder and recent graduate, Little Light is the 2022 Montana Mile Champion and will be running for her third time. The Hardin High graduate is a seven time NAIA All-American and the 2022 NAIA 1500M Outdoor Track and Field National Champion. Sydney was also the 2022 Ultimate Warrior Champion. Little Light was named Frontier Conference Athlete of the Week for 28 times in her running career.

Kailee Stoppel

Kailee Stoppel recently finished a successful senior track season as a MSU-Billings Yellowjacket. Kailee is the 800m indoor record holder at MSUB and received GNAC All conference in the 800m and steeplechase. She will be competing in the Mile for the third year in a row.

Elena Vandersloot

Montana State University’s Elena Vandersloot will be a Senior this Fall. She was a three time All-State Cross Country runner for Billings Senior High. This is her first time running the Montana Mile.

Mary Wirtz

Recent Billings resident, Mary Wirtz hails from Anoke, Minnesota. Mary ran for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and was a 3-time NCAA All-American. She qualified for and competed in the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta, Georgia. This will be her first time participating in the Montana Mile.

Natalie Wood

A graduate of Sweet Grass High School, Natalie Wood will attend Montana State University Bozeman in the Fall. She holds the school record for the 1600m and 3200m and was the 2023 State B Champion in the 1600m and 3200m. This will be her first time running in the Montana Mile.