MISSOULA — It doesn't matter if it's a big meet or a small meet, Billings Senior cross country star Tiahna Vladic treats them all the same.
For the second straight year, the junior won the Mountain West Classic at the UM Golf Course Saturday. Vladic clocked a 17:44.63 in the 5K to top Camila Noe of Bozeman, who finished in 17:47.62.
Overall, 43 full teams competed in the meet with 324 varsity girls entered. Entrants also were from 17 incomplete teams.
"Mountain West is really important, but I treat all races the same," Vladic told 406mtsports.com over the phone on Saturday. "They are all the same. It's a bigger race, with a lot more people. But, we are all still running so it is the same for me. But, it is one of the more fun races we go to."
Teams from Montana, Washington, Idaho and Oregon competed.
Vladic was last year's state AA champion. Senior coach Sarah Lord was impressed with the win, but more impressed with Vladic's desire to not only focus on a victory but on gradual improvement as the season wears on.
"The thing that was most impressive today is that Tiahna was trying out a new race strategy for herself," Lord said. "She did a good job committing to her race plan and following through on that plan. She looked incredibly strong throughout the race and had an excellent race and finish."
The boys winner was senior Cooper West of Great Falls CMR in 15:30.43. Duncan Hamilton Jr. of Bozeman was second in 15:33.84. West was 10th at the state meet last year.
Lewis and Clark (Washington) was the boys team champion, Bozeman second and Joel Ferris (Washington) third.
The Bozeman Hawks girls were first, followed by Missoula Hellgate and Billings Senior.
Vladic said she was happy with her team's performance and feels the Broncs are putting themselves in a position to do well at the state meet Oct. 21 at Bill Roberts Golf Course in Helena.
"I definitely think we have a chance," Vladic said. "We have some new girls at the bottom and some new freshmen coming in who are really strong. They need to learn and have some experience, but we are really coming along."
In repeating in the fabled MW, Lord said Vladic has been preparing a game plan. She executed on the 3.1 mile course. Lord said Vladic worked on developing "a controlled start and much more controlled her first two miles and was able to trust herself and it would pay off in the end and it did."
According to Vladic it had rained during the JV races, but stopped before the varsity girls ran. The rain left the course "squishy," but it did not hamper traction or conditions Vladic said. Vladic said the course has a "couple little hills, but is definitely kind of a fast course."
"I'm definitely excited I was able to win," Vladic said. "It was more important to have a smart race and learn new things. But, it was definitely good to have a win in there, too."
The win was her fourth of the season. And while standing atop the podium at the most prestigious meet of the regular season is a nice feeling, Vladic looks forward to the rest of the season. She knows state is looming.
"Definitely, state is more important but the Mountain West is important, too," Vladic said, comparing the two races. "Definitely state, everyone is training for state and that is what everyone is getting ready for."