Havre Daily News Sports Editor
The Havre High boys and girls cross country teams have reached the most important week of the 2005 Class A season. That is, until next week.
Before the Ponies can start worrying about the Class A state meet next week in Missoula, they will have to navigate a challenging course on Saturday at the Central A divisional meet in Livingston.
”The course in Livingston is very flat and somewhat rough,“ said Havre High cross country coach Tim Ranes. ”I don't know if that favors anybody, but our kids run well on both flat courses and courses with more hills, so they will be fine.“
The HHS girls are the defending champions of the Central A Division as well as Class A defending state champions. The Ponies will be heavily favored to win yet another Central A title this weekend.
”I think we are definitely the favorites,“ Ranes said. ”There are a couple of strong teams in the field, especially Lewistown and Browning. If we run our race, we should do very well.“
The HHS girls won't just be running for a team title in Livingston. Several of the Pony runners will be in contention for an individual championship as well as all-conference honors.
Darcie Briere and McKayla Patterson have been the Ponies' top runners all season and either one could easily finish Saturday's race in first place. Meredith Hanson, Jaleesa Barthel and Mandi Nystrom are also very steady competitors, and all three should be in good shape for top-10 finishes. Danika Patterson and Kristi Keltgen round out the HHS girls lineup.
”I expect that our girls team will be very strong at divisional,“ Ranes said. ”Fortunately, we are very healthy right now, and all of our girls are running really well.“
Winning a divisional championship won't be an easy task for the Havre High boys team, not with Class A powerhouse Browning in the field. The Ponies have gone head-to-head with Browning several times this season, and in none of those meets has Havre come out on top.
”We are going to have to have our best meet of the season to catch up with Browning,“ Ranes said. ”They are a very good team with several outstanding runners.“
Fortunately for Ranes, Havre's chances of toppling the Indians increased this week with the return of Robert Brooks and C.J. Leeds. The duo have been Havre High's most consistent runners all season, but they have both been sidelined with injuries the last couple of weeks.
”Getting Robert Brooks and C.J. Leeds back is really a boost to our team,“ Ranes said. ”This will be the first time that our boys team has been at full strength all season, and hopefully it will make a difference.“
Marcus Campbell and Andy Keihm are two other Blue Pony runners whocould fare well this weekend. Both competitors have been running strong as of late. Jade Nystrom rounds out the HHS boys lineup.
”This is our second year of competing in high school cross country,“ Ranes said of the HHS boys. ”For us to be in a position to have a chance at divisionals is a tremendous accomplishment, and I expect our boys team will do very well.“
The 2005 Central A divisional cross country meet will get under way at 9:30 a.m. in Livingston.