Saturday, November 27, 2021
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C-Falls girls, Eureka boys still chasing state XC titles

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | October 22, 2021 10:00 PM

There’s a chance the Columbia Falls girls can score with Hardin Saturday, at the Class A portion of the State Cross Country Championships, and a chance Eureka’s boys could keep their streak going.

There’s also opportunities for individual titles, like Glacier’s Sam Ells in the AA boys, and Columbia Falls’ Hannah Sempf among the A girls.

The meet begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at the University of Montana Golf Course with Ells’ race; the A boys follow at 11:30 a.m., the AA girls at noon and A girls at 12:35 p.m. That’s where Sempf and the Wildkats will try to outkick the competition.

“She has got a great shot,” Columbia Falls coach Jim Peacock said of Sempf. “She’s put in the time, she’s a smart runner, she’s fast.

“This isn’t to take anybody else lightly, but I think her biggest competition is her own teammate, Siri Erickson.”

Erickson, a junior, has in fact won three races this season. Sempf has won twice with seven top-three finishes overall, and has the better time: 19 minutes, 38.1 seconds at last week’s Western A Classic.

The only better time in the class belongs to Hardin’s Mariah Aragon: 19:05.3 at the Custer County Invitational, a very fast race in which several runners went way below their previous bests. By comparison Aragon ran 19:49.1 while winning last week’s Eastern A Classic.

“If you’re just looking at the rankings on Athletic.net, you have to take those with a grain of salt,” said Peacock, whose girls were second at state last year with Sempf and then-senior Lara Erickson finishing 3-4). “It’s a little deceiving.”

That said, he added: “Hardin’s going to be phenomenal. I do like the way we match up against them; I think we have the opportunity to score against them. But they’re the team that deserves the most respect in the state.”

It could be a tight group between Hardin, Columbia Falls, Corvallis and defending champion Laurel.

“I’m not going to rule Corvallis out of this thing at all,” Peacock said. “Corvallis has a long history of running their best at state. There are three times capable of winning the title and five in the hunt for a trophy. It’s going to be a really fun day.”

Peacock also added that individually, his lead runners should look out for Browning’s Kiara Iron Heart.

“I don’t think she gets her due,” he said. “The second half of the season she’s been right there with Hannah and Siri.”

Hardin is also among the boys’ favorites, though defending champion Hamilton will be awfully hard to beat. Whitefish should be more highly regarded, Peacock added. Deneb Linton, Mason Genovese and Jacob Henson give the Bulldogs a chance to score low.

The second half of the meet will start with Eureka’s boys trying to extend its state-title streak to three, at 1:10 p.m., followed by the C boys, then the B girls, then the C girls.

Going by best times Mission is the favorite among the B boys, but the Bulldogs ran in a meet comparable to the Custer County: The Charlo Invitational, which Zoran LaFrombois won in 16:02.3. His next best time is 17:45.6, which he ran at the Western B/C Divisional.

Mission also lost Andrew Rush to a stress fracture in September.

That leaves the door open for Eureka, Western champion Bigfork, Wolf Point, Glasgow, Huntley Project and Three Forks.

“Wolf Point has the best shot of getting three people All-State,” said Eureka coach Andrew Gideon. “Which is huge.”

Gideon has two top-15 guys in Isaac Reynolds and Gavin Bates, though Bates twisted an ankle off the course Saturday and has been limited in the days leading up to Saturday.

Bigfork has Jack Jensen in the All-State picture and a 40-41 divisional win over Eureka, but the scores figure to go higher at a bigger meet.

Either way, what really matters for Eureka is the Lions’ overall health. A year ago Reynolds, who’d suffered a pair of concussions, was released to run at State, finishing 10th.

“I’ll wave my magic wand and see what happens,” Gideon said.

Missoula Sentinel is favored to win a second straight AA boys crown; Tanner Klumph was second at last year’s meet and has the best time: 15:40.7. That came at the Coaches Invite on Sept. 2, and his most recent time is 15:54.4 on Oct. 14.

Ells has been more consistently in the 15:50 range and could give Kalispell its third individual champion in four years: Flathead’s Ben Perrin won in 2018 and Glacier’s Simon Hill came across first in 2019.

Missoula Hellgate senior Kensey May has won five of the six races she’s entered in 2021 and has the best time among AA girls. In the hunt, though, is Flathead’s Lilli Rumsey Eash. The sophomore ranks No. 5, with a time of 18:58.7.