KALISPELL — Senior Hailey Nielson and junior Brady Maloughney led Butte High’s runners Saturday at the Class AA State cross country meet at a snow, icy Rebecca Farms. (Results)
Running in her fourth state meet, Neilson placed 22nd in the girls’ race. Nielson finished the 5-kilometer course in 21 minutes, 6 seconds. That is more than a minute and a half off the time the future Montana Tech Oredigger ran in nice weather three weeks ago in Butte.
While the time certainly is not what Nielson was looking for, the race closed the book on a remarkable cross country career at Butte High. She signed to run for Tech just before the season began, and she made Oredigger coach Zach Kughn look smart week after week.
Weather conditions also clearly impacted the runners in the season finale. The weather was so bad that multiple team busses got stuck in the parking lot trying to leave. As of 5:30 p.m., the Bulldog bus was still stuck.
“Not ideal conditions for racing but that’s the beauty of cross country racing,” Bulldog coach Guy Wadas said “Eeveryone runs the in the same conditions and course.”
Missoula Hellgate’s Kensey May won the girls’ title with a time of 19:21. She beat defending champion Kylie Hartnett of Helena High by 5 seconds. Hellgate’s Abby Kendrick placed third at 19:34, followed by teammate Sage Brooks at 19:43.
Bozeman’s Natalie Nichols and Hayley Burns finished five and six as the Hawks their 13th Class AA title in 14 years. The Hawks scored 43 points to beat Missoula Hellgate by four. Helena High placed third at 98.
The top 15 runners earn All-State honors.
Butte High placed 12th with 343 points. Senior Kyla Felix finished strong with a time of 22:14 for the Bulldogs. Junior Pieper Joseph (23:38), senior Ida Real (24:38.00), junior McKenzie Case (24:38.67) and senior Shania O’Brien (28:18) also ran for the Butte High girls.
Maloughney placed 56th overall with a time of 18:50. Bulldog teammate Grant Smith, a senior, was three back in 18:52. Butte sophomore Ryan Tomich finished in 19:06.
Stirling Marshall-Pryde of Bozeman won medalist honors with a time of 16:35. Missoula Sentinel runner Tanner Klumph finished second in 16:46, and Hellgate’s Ignatius Fitzgerald placed third at 16:53.
Sentinel won the team title with 59 points. Hellgate was next at 67, followed by Bozeman at 69. This year marks the first time Bozeman’s boys did not win the state title since 2007.
The state champion Spartans are coached by 1990 Butte High graduate Diego Hammet.
The Bulldogs placed 15th with 380. Junio Trey Whitlock (19:44), senior Cole Hunter (20:00), sophomore Ladd Hutchinson (20:02) and Cohwen Houchin (20:30) ran for the Bulldogs.
“We finished 12th overall for the girls and 15th for the boys,” Wadas said. “It was an improvement for both teams from last year. The runners had the right attitude and they were focused. I felt they were peaked and ready to roll today. I know some of them are bummed about the outcome of their personal performance. It’s always heartbreaking when your runners buy into the training and help create such a positive culture and they don’t get the results they are looking for. It has been an exciting year of racing and an incredible group to coach.”
Wadas credited the families of his runners.
“The parent support was fantastic and that’s an important thing to have,” the coach said. “It’s bittersweet to see the seniors leave their mark in such a positive way and then move on. This group especially has been fun to coach and see their growth as runners and leaders. I look forward to track because it gives me another opportunity with this group. And, of course, next season will be here again before you know it.”