By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Havre High head cross country coach Kim Ray knows she has the talent and experience to grab a trophy at Class A state meet.
But she isn't exactly sure which runners are going to grab that trophy.
The Ponies return seven runners - McKayla Patterson, Kelsey Malsam, Shannon Newth, Nikki Dibblee, Emily Kostelecky, Mandi Nystrom, Rebecca Hilliard - that went to the state meet last season, but a talented group of newcomers will push those seven for the precious varsity spots.
Ray will get the opportunity to see all of her team in action and start deciding on her lineup as the Ponies compete in the Cut Bank Time Trials this afternoon at the Cut Bank golf course.
Most of the boys and girls cross country squads in North Central Montana, including Class AA schools Great Falls and C.M.R, will be opening their 2003 seasons with the meet.
"We're looking really good," Ray said. "But I don't know my lineup for certain. This first meet of the year is a time trial and all of the girls will run. That will help me decide on my lineup."
Ray is also interested in seeing how her newcomers react to the competition. Most of them have never run a three-mile course and she will be watching closely to see how they react.
"We have a good group of freshmen," Ray said. "There is definitely some potential there. They have never run on the course yet, so the meet will tell me a lot."
As always on the Rocky Mountain front, weather could be a factor. Last year's race was greeted with a monster hail storm about halfway through. While forecasts are predicted for cool temperatures and favorable running conditions. It could still change in a matter of minutes.
All seven of Havre's returning runners experienced the hailstorm last year and persevered through it. All of them gained valuable experience by competing in last year's state meet and only added to that experience by running track in the spring, which leaves Ray with added optimism.
"Last year at state, we were pretty young," Ray said. "That experience is only going to help us this year. They won't be quite as nervous and will know a little more what to expect."
But before state, the Ponies will have to contend with teams in the Central A. Ray said that Lewistown will offer up the toughest competition for the Ponies in the conference.
Realistically, Havre is a state contender along with Bigfork and Polson, who finished one and two last year.
"Last year, we struggled at the state meet," Ray said. "This year we have that experience to look back. We should bring home a trophy from the meet."
Today's Cut Bank Time Trials get under way at approximately 4 p.m. with separate boys and girls races.