By Bill Foley
HOMESTAKE — Nicole Murray is still Queen of the Wulfman.
Even with some Montana Tech cross country runners in the field — including the great Becca Richtman — the 51-year-old Murray ran to a title at the Wulfman Continental Divide Trail Race Saturday.
On the men’s side, Montana Tech cross country and track coach Zach Kughn burned the field in his first Wulfman, which ran from Pipestone to Homestake this year. That is a race of 14-kilometers or 8.7 miles. (Results)
Murray won the women’s race with a time of 1 hour, 7 minutes, 19.53 seconds. That is more than 2 minutes faster than her winning time in 2017, and it is the fourth fastest women’s time in course history. The other three fastest times were posted by Murray, including the Pipestone to Homestake record of 1:04:10 in 2009.
The victory was Murry’s eighth overall in the race she calls “one of the biggest of the year.”
Her time on Saturday surprised even herself.
“I think was about two minutes faster than 2 years ago,” Murray said. “I don’t know where that came from. I just tried my best.”
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The 22-year-old Richtman, a three-time NAIA All-American in track and cross country during the 2020-21 school year, placed second in 1:09:17. Bozeman’s Emily Allison, a past champion, finished third at 1:09:44.
Butte’s Hailey Nielson, an incoming freshman on the Montana Tech team, finished in 1:16:24, which was good for sixth place. Tech’s Riley Crissman placed 10th in 1:17:49.
The 26-year-old Kughn was running on a high that came from watching high school teammate Grant Fisher qualify for the Olympics in the 10,000 meters Friday night.
Kughn finished in 56:19.34, which is the third fastest time in course history. Only Lynn Reynolds (54:30 in 2011) and Jimmy Grant (55:05 in 2011) ran a faster race.
“I knew the record was 54:30, which I knew would be tough,” Kughn said. “I wanted to go for it, but I don’t think I could have run much faster.”
Butte’s John Kirtley finished a distant second in 1:04:25, just ahead of Martin City’s Craig Hertz’s 1:04:33.
Butte’s Don Foley took fourth in 1:07:41. Ozzie Rosenleaf placed fifth in 1:08:09, and fellow Butte runner Cody Bomberger placed sixth in 1:13:03.
Kughn said the race is a difficult one.
“I got out hard, I was strong on the climb, and I was flying on the downhills,” he said. “I’m not sure how much more I could have gotten out of it.
“This is a long race for me. It’s a good mental practice to be hurting for 56 minutes.”
Tech runner Alisa Hashley also ran in the race, placing 42.
Kughn pointed out that his runners are just getting back to running after the track season. Richtman, of course, won the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NAIA National meet less than a month ago in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
The coach said his runners will be ready for the fall season.
“This is definitely not our peak race, by any means,” he said. “I’d say if you catch us in October, we could be a lot better out here.”
In all, 112 women and 68 men completed the race. Next year’s race will start at Homestake and finish at Pipestone.
The race is named in honor of the late John Wulf, the godfather of Butte’s Piss and Moan Runners.