By Tiffany L. Rehbein
BELGRADE The Havre High cross country team came home from the Belgrade Invitational with a fifth place finish and its best-kept secret let out of the bag.
Junior Jennie Peterson led the Blue Ponies, finishing the 3.1 mile course first overall in 21:28 while the Havre team finished with 194 team points, third in the Central A and fifth overall.
Shes not a secret anymore, first-year head coach Kim Ray said about Peterson. People know about her and now they want their runners to stay with her.
Senior Jen Dibblee finished in the No. 2 Blue Pony spot and No. 23 overall with a time of 23:25. Junior Jillian Brough clocked in at 24:34 followed closely by Carly Toldness, at 24:52, and Nikki Grant, at 24:58.
Each Havre team member ran the tough course slower than last weeks time. The Belgrade course added an extra one-tenth of a mile that featured log-skipping, river running and a one-lane trail.
Ray said that Dibblee is right where she needs to be to help lead the team this year.
We need everybody else to get closer to her, Ray said. Our third, fourth and fifth runners need to close the gap.
Closing that gap will tighten the pack time for the Blue Ponies and lift their team score. With that, the sixth and seventh runners will need to tighten their gap.
Freshman Alicia Rundquist, the number six Blue Pony, finished one-hundredth-of-a-second behind a Fergus County runner. Junior Erin Lynch finished on Rundquists heels in 25:17.
We need those runners to kick and break up the other teams pack time, Ray said.
The Blue Ponies had the opportunity to see Class A competition in Colstrip and Fergus County and the biggest thing the Ponies saw was the opponents pack running.
Theyve got five runners finishing pretty much together, Ray said. Their pack time is tight. We dont have that yet.
The girls travel to Glasgow Saturday and Ray hopes to a tighter pack time and an improved third-mile time.
They have to be able to pick up that last mile, Ray said. We need more consistency with our splits.
Ive always felt my weakness was my kick at the end, Peterson said. Im excited that were going to work specifically on that.
Peterson set her personal best mark last weekend at the Cut Bank Time Trials. She ran the three-mile course in 19:30.
As for her first place finish in a competition with 18 Montana schools?
I wasnt satisfied, Peterson said. Id like to be able to throw up at the end to know that I wasted myself that much.
Heading into Glasgow, Peterson looks to improve herself as much as her team.
I think our team is going to improve a lot, Peterson said. All of our freshmen are really motivated runners. They love to run.
Peterson cited physical strength in Toldness and a hard-working attitude in Grant and Brough as strong attributes that will help drive the team.
Its how you win the race not if you win the race, Peterson said.