MISSOULA — Christina Aragon was going to treat herself to some post-race ice cream.
She certainly deserved it.
The Billings Senior sophomore raced to the State AA girls cross country championship in 17:31.83 on Saturday afternoon at the University of Montana Golf Course.
Her closest competitor, Sabrina Sterbis of Missoula Big Sky, was second in 18:00.43. Caroline Hardin of Bozeman, the 2011 champion, was third in 18:01.46.
Senior coach Sarah Lord said Aragon ran an intelligent race.
“She was so smart. She just went out and she let the pack kind of take her through that first mile and a half and then she kicked it into her own gear and started pulling away early going into the third mile,” Lord said. “It was dynamite.”
Last year at Bill Roberts Golf Course in Helena, Aragon finished eighth.
“I just ran smarter this year and didn’t go out too crazy,” Aragon told The Gazette by phone. “I waited to kick it into a faster gear. It was good to wait and hang with the pack for awhile.”
Lord said Aragon is believed to be the first female State AA champion Billings has had since the early 1980s when the girls started running three miles.
“Christina has moved into a class of her own. She is unbelievable,” Lord said. “She works so hard, but has a confidence about her. She knows she can push it and she does. This season the No. 1 thing we saw from her is she moved into a whole new class. There is no other girl in our area that is even close. She is just dynamite. It is crazy.”
Aragon’s finish helped the Lady Broncs to a second-place finish behind Bozeman, which won its seventh straight title. Bozeman scored 28 points, to 81 for Senior. Missoula Hellgate was third with 128. Billings West was fourth with 162 and Billings Skyview eighth with 205.
Senior’s Jocelyn Elorriaga, a senior, was eighth and freshman Elena Borges 12th, giving the Lady Broncs three all-state performers.
“It feels good to have my whole team do so well,” Aragon said. “It is really cool to watch everyone do so well.”
“It is second, but when Bozeman is the team out there in front it really feels pretty amazing to be near the top like that,” Lord said. “Bozeman had six girls in the all-state category. They are just so far out in front, a second-place finish was a huge accomplishment for our team. We will keep working away at Bozeman, but gained a lot of ground over the course of the season.”
The Senior girls have now placed in the top three all but one season since 2004.
Two Skyview girls were all-state in Amanda Nelson (11th) and Keegan Day (14th).
“We had five Billings girls make all-state. I just think we continue to be strong and better,” Lord said of the overall Billings performance. “It is fun to see so much talent coming out of the Eastern part of the state.”
On the boys side, Bozeman’s Jason Holmes won the individual championship in 15:13.25 and Helena’s Aidan Reed was second in 15:21.84. The Hawks won their sixth straight boys championship 30-99 over Kalispell Glacier. The Broncs were fifth, the Bears sixth and the Falcons eighth.
Senior had two all-state performers in junior Dylan Johnson (6th) and senior Jorey Egeland (10th). Lord was ecstatic with the Broncs’ placing, noting “it is really showing how they are turning themselves around,” having placed last at state in 2010.
West senior Mark Hovland placed 14th.
The Billings Central girls claimed a state trophy, placing third in the State A portion of the meet. Corvallis claimed its third straight state title with 29 points. Whitefish was second with 126 and the Rams had 129.
Corvallis senior Sadi Henderson was the overall girls champion in a time of 17:58.14 for her third straight state title. She was second as a freshman. Henderson led a 1-2-3 finish on Saturday for Corvallis.
Central junior Alexa Horrell claimed her second all-state honor, finishing sixth. She was second at state as a freshman and 18th last season. Central senior Morgan McDonnell was 10th and Laurel junior Lexi Gradwohl 13th.
Emily Regan of Miles City placed 15th.
In the boys team race, Hamilton topped the field with 48 points and Corvallis had 129. Laurel was able to take some hardware back home with a third-place effort.
Hamilton’s Anthony Schmalz was the overall champion in 15:30.18 and Belgrade’s Jonathan Eastwood was second with a time of 15:35.81.
Tyler Mogan, a standout junior for the Locomotives, placed third in 15:38.38. Mogan was second at the meet last season.
Hardin’s Delvin Walks was eighth and Caleb Ware 15th. Austin Stradley of Miles City was 12th.
Glasgow-Opheim captured its fourth straight girls team title while Red Lodge won its second straight boys state team championship.
Glasgow was also recently state girls champions in 2008, 2007 and 2005.
Individually, Colstrip junior Tyus Mendoza was the boys champion in 16:17.06. He was fifth last year.
On the girls side, the day once again belonged to Bigfork junior Makena Morley, who cruised to her third state title. Morley shattered the all-classification state girls cross country record with her time of 16:35.31. The previous mark was set in 2002 at 16:50 by Kalispell Flathead’s Zoe Nelson.
Two minutes and 34 seconds behind Morely was Saint Labre’s Tamia Two Moons. Baylee Green of Roundup rounded out the top three 14 seconds later.
Malta’s Sophia Stiles finished seventh, Glasgow-Opheim’s Rachael Zeiger eighth, Amanda Wolff of Glasgow-Opheim 10th and Morgan Jones of Huntley Project 15th.
Boys area runners who were all-state included: Logan Beck (3), Red Lodge; Antonio Krogstad (5), Manhattan; Darren Hecker (6), Big Timber, Virgil McCormick (7), St. Labre, Kryn Dykema (9), Red Lodge; Will Haman (12), Red Lodge; Liam Gildehaus (13), Red Lodge and Colter Smith (15), Manhattan.
There were a pair of repeat individual winners in Class C.
Culbertson-Bainville senior Chance Hyatt capped his career with a second straight state C boys championship, finishing the race in 16:35.21. Hyatt is a four-time all-state cross country runner, having placed second as a sophomore and third as a freshman.
Twin Bridges’ Jessica George, a sophomore, finished in 19:02.34 to win the girls race. George’s Falcons repeated as team champs with 36 points, just ahead of Belt-Centerville (42) and Winnett-Grass Range-Melstone (44).
Plenty Coups won the boys team title with 19 points. Second-place Dodson-Whitewater had 30 and defending-champion Culbertson-Bainville was third with 33.
Bryce Hugs (fourth), Isaiah Falls Down (sixth) and Kobe Gutierrez (ninth) all finished in the top 10 for the Warriors.
Nick Bear of Dodson-Whitewater was second in 17:09.51. Culbertson-Bainville’s Michael Azure was fifth, Wyatt Wilkinson of Gardiner seventh, Jacob Iverson of Winnett-Grass Range-Melstone 10th, Colten Leum of Manhattan Christian 11th, Jaret Warren of Dodson-Whitewater 12th, Dan Lavy of Bridger 13th, Bill Perry of Hobson 14th and Kevin Bingham of Hobson 15th.
For the girls, Nikki Aiken of Manhattan Christian was fourth, Breelle Wacker of Winnett-Grass Range-Melstone fifth, Caitlin Lantis of Terry seventh, Camille Ponyah of Northern Cheyenne ninth and Emma Adams of Manhattan Christian 14th.