By Tiffany L. Rehbein
The Havre High School cross country team, the 1999 conference champions, jumped into a fourth-place finish with 143 points in the state meet at the Bill Roberts Golf Course in Helena Saturday.
Last year, the Blue Ponies finished 12th, with their top runner finishing in 51st place. The highest team place any current Blue Pony has finished at state was seventh place.
This year, junior Jennie Peterson led the way and finished in fifth place with a time of 19:10 in the three-mile race.
In a race that exploded from the start line, Peterson came into the first mile in 12th place, and clocked a 5:49 first-mile time.
That was a little fast, first-year head coach Kim Ray said. She needed a 5:55 to be right on pace.
However, Peterson cut through the pack and ran across the finish line with two opponents to finish the race.
I was surprised at the winning time, Ray said. The way they started, I thought it would be in the high 17s, not 18:39.
Sophomore Mackenzie Sherburne of Browning won the individual title at the meet with the time.
Freshman Jenna Baltrusch, who had consistently been the No. 3 harrier, was the second Blue Pony across the line and notched a 17th place finish in a career-best time of 19:56.
In a field of 21 schools and 120 participants, Baltrusch was one of only two freshmen to place in the top 25.
Senior Jen Dibblee finished third for Havre and 38th overall. She clocked in at 20:57, her slowest time in more than five weeks of competition.
The thing with Jen was that she was a team leader, Ray said about her only senior competing at state. She walked the course with Jenna (Baltrusch) and she told her where to make her moves and what to do at certain times on the course. It was very unselfish, and thats something leaders do.
Dibblee, who faced a new coach this season for the first time in her high school career, took everything in stride, Ray said.
She was always positive and positive for the team, Ray said.
Hot on Dibblees heels were No. 4 harrier Erin Lynch and No. 5 Jillian Brough.
Lynch clocked a career-best 21:02 for a 41st-place finish. Lynch upped her finish 51 positions from last year, when she finished 92nd overall.
Brough, who collapsed after crossing the finish line, stopped the watch at a career-best 21:04, good for 42nd place. Last year, Brough finished 63rd.
Both Lynch and Brough knocked more than 20 seconds off their times set at divisional just one week before.
I looked up and started counting people, Brough said after the race. I counted 20, and saw a huge pack of girls, and I stopped counting. I knew it was fast, but I knew I had to stay with it or get left behind.
Junior Nikki Grant also notched a career-best time of 21:50 and finished 64th overall. She improved 33 places from last season, when she placed 97th.
Freshman Carly Toldness, in her first season of cross country, rounded out the Blue Pony roster, clocking in at 22:33, good for 74th place.
The big thing was, everybody did better than last year, Ray said. They jumped from a 12th place finish to a fourth-place finish in the state. The top three teams were identical to last year.
Fergus County (Lewistown) finished first with 97 points to repeat as state champs. Senior Heather Wise, who has consistently run in the second position all season, topped the Golden Eagles with a third-place finish. She clocked in at 19:06.
Custer County (Miles City) finished second with 102 points, while Columbia Falls finished third with 134 points.
They were a little upset at first because they didnt get a trophy, Ray said about the Blue Ponies, but I told them, just because you didnt get a trophy doesnt mean you didnt accomplish anything.
Losing only one senior to graduation, the Blue Ponies are already looking forward to next season.
The kids really liked all the fan support they saw there, Ray said. There was a lot of support and theyre already talking about what to do over the summer to come into practice in shape next season. Being in other sports this year will help with that. I am very, very proud of how they did.
Havre finishers 5. Jennie Peterson, 19:10, Junior; 17. Jenna Baltrusch, 19:56, Freshman 38. Jen Dibblee, 20:57, Senior; 41. Erin Lynch, 21:02, Junior; 42. Jillian Brough, 21:04, Junior; 64. Nikki Grant, 21:50, Junior; 74. Carly Toldness, 22:33, Freshman,
1. Mackenzie Sherburne, 379, 18:39, Browning, Soph.; 2. Jill McKiernan, 470, 18:58, Park High School-Livingston, Sen.; 3. Heather Wise, 447, 19:06, Fergus, Sen.; 4. Emily Stroebe, 376, 19:10, Billings Central, Jun.; 5. Jennie Peterson, 428, 19:10, HHS, Jun.; 6. Alissa Bilden, 461, 19:11, Custer County HS, Miles City, Fresh.; 7. Jesse Ballew, 398, 19:25, Colstrip, Jun.; 8. Ashley Shaughnessy, 425, 19:27, Hamilton, Soph.; 9. Stevie Gore, 446, 19:29, Fergus, Jun.; 10. Eryn Beckman, 397, 19:35, Colstrip, Sen.; 11. Chelsea Lynnes, 462, 19:41, Custer County, MC, Jun.; 12. Bobbie Oblander, 377, 19:42, Billings Central, Jun.; 13. Lisa Nayes, 463, 19:43, Custer County, MC, Sen.; 14. Claire Anderson, 503, 19:49, Whitefish, Soph.; 15. Stephanie Robertson, 390, 19:53, Columbia Falls, Jun.; 16. Allyson Tarr, 389, 19:53, Columbia Falls, Soph.; 17. Jenna Baltrusch, 430, 19:56, HHS, Fresh.; 18. Lindsay Kizer, 388, 20.20, Columbia Falls, Soph.; 19. Heather Davis, 437, 20:04, Laurel, Sen.; 20. Yvonne Bakich, 399, 20:14, Colstrip, Jun.