HELENA — For the 11th year in a row, the Bozeman girls walked off the state cross country course carrying the first-place trophy. This time was different though.
All seven girls in a Hawks uniform earned spots in the top 15 Saturday at the Bill Roberts Golf Course, a goal that they established a week before the race. As each runner crossed the finish line, they found each other in the chute waiting anxiously to see if they’d get the rest of their teammates in.
“To my knowledge, (it) has never been done, at least in Bozeman history,” Bozeman coach Casey Jermyn said. “I don’t know if it’s ever been done or if it’s just Bozeman history, but we kind of set that goal and the girls accomplished it and ran really well.”
Missoula Hellgate finished second and Billings Senior earned third.
Also Saturday, Bigfork senior Bryn Morley matched her past performances by winning her third-straight Class B championship in 18:30.51.
The Hawks’ 1-5-9-10-11-13-15 finish was led by senior Camila Noe, who earned her first state championship in 17 minutes, 28.01 seconds.
“I really wanted to make this team memorable and work as hard as I could to get as far as I’ve ever been,” said Noe.
Noe, last season’s runner-up, has traded wins this season with defending state champion Tiahna Vladic (Billings Senior) and two-time state champion Annie Hill (Kalispell Glacier).
Vladic finished second in 18:05.75 and Hill was third in 18:09.48.
Hill, who has cut back her mileage to preemptively address some tendinitis in her IT band, admitted it was an emotional end to one of the most storied high school cross country careers in recent memory.
"I got to watch my little brother do really well so I was crying before my race because I had just watched him finish, but yeah, it's been kind of an emotional day," Hill said. "I'm really sad that it's over."
"I just wanted to run really hard and give everything I could. It's my last high school cross country race."
The Hardin girls defended their state championship, finishing with 68 points. Corvallis and Polson both finished with 101 points. However, Corvallis earned second with the tiebreaker based on the sixth-place finisher and Polson took third.
“Our goal was to work as a pack because that’s what we’re called – the varsity pack — and we just wanted to work together and push each other,” Hardin senior Sydney Little Light said.
For the Morley siblings (Logan, Makena and Bryn), it is now nine state cross country championships.
“That was our goal since I was in eighth grade and Makena had gotten three state titles already," Bryn said. "I think that was our goal to keep that going for me.
“I just told myself to stay calm and enjoy it because it’s my last cross country race in Montana.”
The only one she has lost in her career was her freshman year to older sister Makena.
“That also brought back a little bit of emotions because the last time I ran here it was with my sister for state,” Morley said.
While cross country season has finished, Morley isn’t done. She has her eye on track season and a specific record in particular, the all-class mile record.
“I want to get the all-state one back because I had it for like six minutes my freshman year so I’d like to get that one back,” laughed Morley.
The Manhattan girls came out on top of Bigfork again in the team race and earned their third championship trophy in four years. Bigfork came in second and Colstrip placed third.
For the six Manhattan seniors, it was a bittersweet end to their high school cross country careers.
“We all ran for each other and stuck together,” said Manhattan senior Hannah Boyd.
And they weren’t done. Once they returned home, they were planning to still go on a hike.
“We’re just going to go do it and see what happens,” Boyd said with a laugh. “We’re all going to be exhausted hiking up the (Bozeman's) M.”
Polson junior Beatrix Frissell bettered a third-place finish from last season to win the Class A title in 19:51.82.
“I definitely wanted to be one of the top runners and it worked out that way so it feels good,” said Frissell.
West Yellowstone sophomore Averi Parker won the Class C title in 20:02.17. Defending champ Gracie Lang from Darby finished second and the two embraced after the finish line.
“I was nervous for it all day long, but it feels good,” Parker said.
West Yellowstone’s scoring runners all placed within the top four to lock up their state championship trophy. Class C was led by youth as 10 of the top 15 finishers were underclassmen.
“We’re such a young team with only sophomores and freshman for girls and so it’s amazing,” said Parker.
Manhattan Christian finished second and Richey-Lambert third to round out the team championships.