By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre High cross country teams continue to improve with each passing week. The Ponies put that improvement on display with a solid showing at the Belgrade Invitational Cross Country Meet at the East Gallatin Valley Recreational Area.
The Pony girls finished third out of 13 very good teams, while the boys squad finished a respectable eighth place out of 11 teams.
"It went great," said HHS head coach Kim Ray of her teams' weekend. "The boys looked much improved from last weekend and Cut Bank and the girls ran a better race as well."
The HHS girls accumulated 115 team points just behind Class AA powers Billings Senior and Bozeman. Senior finished first with a team score of 47 and had two runners finish in the top five.
Although the Pony girls failed to have a runner place in the top 10, they did have four runners place in the top 30.
Sophomore Darci Briere led Havre with a solid time of 20:47.52, which was good enough for 14th. McKayla Patterson was 19th with a 20:58.74. Amy McLain ran her strongest time of the season with a 21:16.33 to finish 24th. Fellow senior Rebecca Hilliard was 27th with 21:33.23.
"Darci looked really, really good," Ray said. "She was having some leg problems the day before the race, but it didn't seem to bother her too much. Amy is starting to come around. She was so sick in the beginning of the season that she missed almost an entire week of practice. She's getting stronger with each race."
Havre's other three runners placed just out of the top 30. The Ponies top five runner finished with a pack time of 1:01, which was 20 seconds faster that last week in Cut Bank.
"It was really hot, especially in the girls race," Ray said. "There was no wind and the air was very stale. You were sweating when you just stood there. It was the hottest weather we've ran in this season and I thought the girls did a nice job of fighting through it."
The lack of moisture and dry air lmade for a very rocky and dusty course, but Ray's runners didn't let it bother them.
"They still went out and ran hard and fast despite the conditions," she said.
The third-place finish was the highest ever at the Belgrade Invitational for Havre.
While the boys' team finish wasn't quite as high, Ray was equally, if not, more pleased with the performance of her boys squad.
Havre accumulated 228 points, finishing eighth behind Central A foe Belgrade. But the overall performance far outweighed the actual meet placing.
Marcus Campbell led the Ponies, finishing 24th with a time of 17:55.58. Tyler Crossley came in at 39th with a 18:44.91, while Kyle Baltrusch overcame an untied shoe lace to finish 47th with a 19:00.42.
"They ran harder this race than they did in Cut Bank," Ray said. "Marcus did a nice job again this week. Tyler and Kyle were much more aggressive this week than last week."
The boys finished with a pack time of 1:47, which is also a 20-second improvement from last week's pack time in Cut Bank. The Ponies will see Belgrade again this weekend and are intent on closing the gap.
Both Havre squads will be in Lewistown for the Golden Eagle Invitational, which is being held at the Judith Shadows Golf Course. It's a course that the Ponies are familiar with and they should have good results.
"It's a nice course with some rolling hills," Ray said. "It's a fast course and our runners should have some fast times."
The field will be lessened with mainly Class A teams competing. Because of the smaller field, Lewistown could give the Ponies a run for the girls team title.
"Lewistown has Sonya Rogers and she's running really well," Ray said. "We're going to have to chase her down. She's going to go out hard and fast and set a tough pace. She knows the course well and is going to be tough."
Havre will take a varsity lineup of Briere, McLain, Hilliard, Mandi Nystrom, Kelsey Malsam, Christine Armstrong and Kristine Keltgen.
On the boys side, Ray isn't quite as sure about the field. But Browning and Belgrade will be there, which will give the Pony boys another chance to see how they stack up against fellow Central A competitors.
The boys lineup will consist of Campbell, Crossley, Baltrusch, Jeff Hedstrom, Seth Hinckley, Jacob Verploegen and Michael Welch.
The race schedule begins with the boys JV race at 11:10 a.m., followed by the boys varsity at 11:40. The JV girls race will start at 12:10 p.m., with the varsity girls race starting at 12:40 p.m.
Team scores: 1. Bozeman 37; 2. Billings Senior 74; 3. Helena 86; 4. Capital 87; 5. Billings West 107; 6. Butte 165; 7. Belgrade 173; 8. Havre 228; 9. Jefferson 244; 10. Park 283; 11. Manhattan Christian 308.
1. Steve Weber, CAP, 16:20; 2. Chris Baldus, BOZ, 16:34; 3. Jon Metropoulos, HEL, 16:35; 4. Adam Restad, SNR 16:38; 5. Eric Ocavsky, SNR, 16:38;
Havre - 24. Marcus Campbell, 17:55.58; 39. Tyler Crossley, 18:44.91; 47. Kyle Baltrusch, 19:00.42; 57. Jeff Hedstrom, 19:29.09; 61. Seth Hinckley, 19:48.64; 75. Justin McLeod, 22:16.26
Team scores: 1. Billings Senior 47; 2. Bozeman 68; 3. Havre 115; 4. Butte, 130; 5. Capital 159; 6. Helena High 165; 7. Billings West 176; 8. Lewistown 237; 9. Jefferson 268; 10. Belgrade 284; 11. Manhattan 284; 12. Livingston 290; 13. Townsend 348.
1. Bridgett Hoenke, SNR, 19:36; 2. Julie Charron, BOZ, 19:37; 3. Auriele Fain, SNR, 19:37; 4. Alyssa Bossler, CAP, 19:42; 5. Darcy Peters, BOZ, 19:49.
Havre - 14. Darci Briere, 20:47.52; 19. McKayla Patterson, 20:58.74; 24. Amy McLain, 21:16.33; 27. Rebecca Hilliard, 21:33.23; 31. Mandi Nystrom, 21:49.08; 32. Kristine Keltgen, 21:49.56; 42. Christina Armstrong, 22:33.37
Havre JV - 6. Kelsey Malsam 22:42; 7. Jaleesa Barthel, 22:45; 8. Danika Patterson, 22:46; 31 Emily Kostelecky, 24.15; Kim Jestrab, 24:20; 52. Chloe Kinna, 25:34; Chelsea Small, 25:48; 63. Meredith Hanson, 25:49; 69. Jessica Obrecht, 26:15