By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
The Havre High girls cross country team made a statement this weekend - if you're going to win the Class A state championship trophy, you're going to have to go through them.
The Ponies finished a solid seventh at the extremely tough Mountain West Classic in Missoula - the highest placing of any team in Class A. Perennial Class AA power Kalispell, led by All-American runner Zoe Nelson, finished first.
The HHS boys squad also had a respectable showing, placing 32nd overall in the ultra-tough boys division.
"We looked pretty good this weekend," said HHS head coach Kim Ray. "I think just about every runner we took got a personal record."
"Good" might be an understatement to describe the Pony girls' performance. Havre served notice to title contenders such as Ronan, Polson and Hardin, that it should be the team to beat at the state meet.
Havre's seven runners all placed in the top half of the 241 runner field, led by sophomore Darci Briere, who bounced back from a sluggish performance in Lewistown last weekend, to finish the highest for Havre, coming in 32nd. Briere easily broke the 20-minute barrier with a 19:35.87. Teammate McKayla Patterson also broke 20 minutes, finishing 46th with a 19:59.09.
Senior Amy McLain finished 55th with a 20:11.22, while fellow senior Rebecca Hilliard broke the 21-minute mark for the first time this season with a 20:55.04. Christina Armstrong finished 94th in her first race at the Mountain West with a 21:07.15, while Kelsey Malsam showed quality improvement in her second varsity race this season finishing 97th with a 21:20.53.
"The girls ran great," Ray said. "We don't get the results until right before we get on the bus at the end. I was a little surprised that we finished seventh. We wanted to be the highest placing Class A team, but we did better than I expected."
Indeed, Havre finished well in front of the rest of the Class A schools. Ronan was the next closest finisher coming in 16th. Although the results may be deceiving because of the high number contestants, Havre had all five of its qualify runners in before Ronan had even three runners in, which is a good sign.
"The girls weren't intimidated by how big the race was," Ray said. "Most of the girls ran in it last year which helped. They knew what to expect and they wanted to go out and show people that they are one of the teams favored to win state."
The Havre High boys made a statement in a different way. Although team placing didn't show it, the Ponies made vast improvement in all areas of the race, which pleased Ray.
"The boys are really starting to come around," she said. "They did a good job of staying close together which is tough because of the number of people running. They did a good job of head hunting, chasing down runners and maintaining a good pace in crowded conditions."
The boys' top finisher was Marcus Campbell, who came in at 140 of 290 runners with a 17:27.42. Tyler Crossley ran his best time of the season, breaking the 18-minute mark this season with a 17:48.40 to finish 170th. Kyle Baltrusch was 200th with a time of 18:19.39, despite not racing last weekend. Jeff Hedstrom was 206th with an 18:21.92. Justin McLeod, Michael Welch and Jacob Verploegen all finished in a small pack. McLeod was 225th with a 18:44.38, Welch was 231st with an 18:54.27 and Verploegen came in 233rd with an 18:58.46.
"We need to have four of our seven guys to run in the 17s," Ray said. "Every one of our runners ran under 19 minutes for the first time this season, which shows some tremendous improvement."
In the junior varsity races, lone boys contestant Clay Nottingham ran a solid race, finishing in the top half of the contestants and shaving almost two minutes off his personal best time.
"Clay kind of got us going by running that fast time," Ray said. "And our JV girls followed that up with great race which really set the tone for the varsity races.".
The girls JV team finished eighth out of 21 teams with 294 points. Helena Capital won the team competition with 78. For Havre, Kristine Keltgen was the top placer, finishing 16th with a 21:34.06. Teammate Danika Patterson was just behind her in 18th with a 21:42.03.
"The JV girls did a nice job of staying together," Ray said. "That's the highest we've finished in the JV races. All the girls ran great. I was really proud of Kim Jestrab. She has been battling problems with her feet all year and she still knocked off 10 seconds off her best time."
The entire HHS cross country team will be at home this weekend for the Havre Invitational on Saturday. The race will be held at the MSU-Northern campus.
Mountain West Classic
Kalispell 62, Bozeman 170, Mount Spokane (Spokane) 219, Butte 221, Mead (Spokane) 241, Lewis and Clark 250, Havre 256, Helena Capital 261, Bingham (Utah) 285, Shadle Park (Spokane) 307, Missoula Hellgate 312, East Valley (Spokane) 332, Gonzaga Prep (Spokane) 357, Helena High 373, Missoula Loyola 385, Ronan 411, Missoula Sentinel 424, Williston (North Dakota) 492, 19, Polson 516, 20, Cut Bank 519, 21, Anaconda 568, Hardin 581, Billings Central 617, Belgrade 623, Whitefish 633, Lewistown 648, Colstrip 709, Columbia Falls 768, Lincoln 791, Darby 823, Browning 836, Dillon 855.
32. Darci Briere, 19:37.87
46. McKayla Patterson, 19:59.09
55. Amy McLain, 20:11.22
66. Mandi Nystrom, 20:31.97
87. Rebecca Hilliard, 20:55.04
94. Christina Armstrong, 21:07.16
97. Kelsey Malsam, 21:10.53
North Central (Spokane) 128, Lewis and Clark (Spokane) 146, Bozeman 161, Shadle Park 194, Mt. Spokane (Spokane) 199, Missoula Big Sky 209, Kalispell 225, Bingham (Utah) 239, East Valley (Spokane) 274, Browning 281, Williston (North Dakota) 303, Gonzaga Prep (Spokane) 347, Helena High 409, Ronan 422, Helena Capital 488, Missoula Loyola 507, Polson 524, Colstrip 557, Billings Central 566, Dillon 570, Missoula Sentinel 574, Butte 579, Missoula Hellgate 580, Hardin 635, Frenchtown 651, Belgrade 713, Hamilton 719, Cut Bank 723, Columbia falls 735, Plains 857, Shelby 862, Heart Butte 867, Shelton (Wash.) 893, Havre 903, Corvallis 904, Thompson Falls 909, Darby 944, Anaconda 958, Whitefish 1,079, Great Falls Central 1,107, Centerville-Belt 1,238
140. Marcus Campbell, 17:27.42
170. Tyler Crossley, 17:48.40
200. Kyle Baltrusch, 18:18.39
206. Jeff Hedstrom, 18:21.92
225. Justin Mcleod, 18:44.38
231. Michael Welch, 18:54.27
233. Jacob Verploegen, 18:58.46
Clay Nottingham, no time available
Helena Capital 78; Lewis and Clark 93; Mead (Spokane) 115; Shadle Park 162; Butte 185; Helena 232; Sentinel 271; Havre 294; Gonzaga Prep 311; Ronan 393; Hellgate 455; Northwest Christian High 476; Columbia Falls 476; Fergus 605; Frenchtown 621; Browning 646; Beaverhead 703; Hamilton 722; Corvallis 802; Whitefish 847; East Valley 873.
16. Kristine Keltgen, 21:34.06
18. Danika Patterson, 21:42.03
30. Emily Kostelecky, 21:59.09
36. Jaleesa Barthel, 22:03.34
53. Kim Jestrab, 22:27.91
110. Chloe Kinna, 23:39.76
128. Meredith Hanson, 23:56.94
142. Chelsea Small, 24:12.95
187. Jessica Obrecht, 25:18.16