Cross country preview: Runners open with Billings Invite

Laurel's Mogan shooting for repeat win at Riverfront
2013-09-05T23:00:00Z 2013-09-06T00:31:11Z Cross country preview: Runners open with Billings InviteBy JOHN LETASKY jletasky@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

In the first cross country race of his career last year, Laurel’s Tyler Mogan won the season-opening Billings Invitational at Riverfront Park by six seconds.

Mogan didn’t disappoint the rest of the season, just missing a first-place performance at the State A boys meet at Bill Roberts Golf Course in Helena.

The Laurel junior is back to defend his crown as the Billings Invite again kicks off the local season on Friday at the three-mile course at Riverfront Park.

There is guaranteed to be a new individual girls champion at this year’s Billings Invite as Rachel Jones of Billings West has graduated.

The Bears also swept the team titles a year ago.

The junior varsity girls start the meet at 4 p.m., followed by the varsity girls at 4:25. The junior varsity boys go at 4:50 and the varsity boys conclude the meet at 5:25 p.m.

Participating schools are the four Billings high schools, Laurel, Bozeman, Columbus, Powell (Wyo.), St. Labre, Glendive, the Miles City girls, Roundup, Terry, Huntley Project, Hardin, Red Lodge, Colstrip, Glasgow, Worland (Wyo.), Lewistown, the Sidney girls, Butte, Minot (N.D.), Winnett, Thermopolis (Wyo.) and Belfry.

The state cross country meet is Oct. 26 at the University of Montana golf course in Missoula.

Billings Senior boys

Coach: Sarah Lord, 2nd season

State meet finish: 8th

Returning state runners: Jorey Egeland, Sr.; Carter Gall, So.; Dylan Johnson, Jr.; Austin Seder, Sr.

Others to watch: Anthony Overcast, So.; Tyler Sather, So.; Dawson LaRance, Fr.; Peder Rickbeil, Fr.

Coach Lord says: “Our boys are off to a great start. This group has a tremendous work ethic and we have already seen several of our returning athletes post times that are on par with where they ended the season last year. We have added some depth to our boys team this year and I think they will be competing each week with one another for a place on the varsity team. I expect lots of turnover in our No. 6-8 positions. If these guys continue to work as hard throughout the season as they have been thus far, I think they could see some real success this season.”

Noteworthy: Egeland was 18th at state last season. … Johnson spent the summer at a running camp in Colorado, but is battling nagging injuries and will start the year on JV. … There are 25 boys out for cross country.

Billings Senior girls

Coach: Sarah Lord, 2nd season

State meetfinish: 3rd

Returning state runners: Christina Aragon, So.; Rachael Eaton, Sr.; Hannah Ray, Sr.; Lily Dyre, So.; Courtney Hutton, So.; Jessica Raty, So.

Others to watch: Jocelyn Elloriaga, Sr.; Elena Borges, Fr.

Coach Lord says: “We are disappointed to be starting the season without two of our top runners (due to injuries), but we are happy to have Jocelyn Elloriaga back helping to lead our girls team with Christina Aragon. Although we lost several key seniors, we have a number of freshmen and new runners who are eager to work hard and compete at the varsity level. Many of our girls worked incredibly hard throughout the summer, so we are looking to build on a strong base and improve each week as we gain experience.”

Noteworthy: Hutton and Raty are both returning, but are recovering from injuries and will likely be out during the beginning of the season. Hutton was fifth at state last season, while Aragon was eighth and Raty 20th… Elloriaga returns to the team after taking last season off. … Eaton and Dyre are both starting the season much stronger than last year said Lord. …. There are 35 girls on the team. … Brenna Cockburn has graduated and is now running cross country at Montana State. … The Senior girls have placed in the top three all but one season since 2004, finishing fifth in 2010. The Lady Broncs were first in 2005 and 06, 2nd in 2004, 2007 and 2008, and third in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Billings Skyview boys

Coach: Carol Kuhns, 17th season

State meet finish: 10th

Returning state runners: Eric Hansen, Sr.; Teague Rutherford, Sr.; Dan O’Loughlin, Sr.; Jacob Jorgenson, Sr.; Noah Pratt, Sr.

Others to watch: Michael Augustine, Fr.; Ian Quinn, Jr.; Brock Wittmayer, Sr.

Coach Kuhns says: “We have 12 freshmen boys out this year, which is exciting for us. There’s quite a bit of talent in this pool of boys, along with our 15 returning/new sophomore through senior class. We’re looking forward to a competitive season for the guys team and improvement from our finish at state last year.”

Noteworthy: There are 51 total participants in cross country this year. … Pratt is battling an injury at the start of the season. … There are five wrestlers on the team. … Rutherford was on Skyview’s basketball team last year. … Some of the younger runners on the team are going out for basketball this year.

Billings Skyview girls

Coach: Carol Kuhns, 17th season

State meet finish: 5th

Returning state runners: Keegan Day, Jr.; Mikaela Wahl, Sr.; Amanda Nelson, Jr.; Ashlee Richards, So.

Others to watch: Breanna Schwalbe, Jr.; Harper Gellner, Fr.; Madison Fievet, Fr.; Michaela Roller, So.

Coach Kuhns says: “Rounding out the team are 12 returning runners. So with the girls squad placing fifth at last year’s state meet, they are working hard to improve and remain a tough contender.”

Noteworthy: Day placed 13th at state last year. … There are three former volleyball/soccer players on the team. … Kennedy Robbins, who was sixth at state last year, has graduated. Robbins was a two-time state placer. Robbins is competing in cross country at the University of Mary. ... The coaching staff is pleased with the attitudes of the cross country team as a whole and Kuhns said a goal for the team is to “practice with a purpose, which will give them the success they are shooting for over the season and on to state.”

Billings West boys

Coach: Lauren Zent, 5th season

State meet finish: 3rd

Returning state runners: Mark Hovland, Sr.; Isaac Petsch, Jr.; Andrew McLane, Sr.

Others to watch: Parker Pearsal, Sr.; Garret Beckstead, Fr.

Coach Zent says: “We have a young team this year, but we have lots of talented runners that all want to be varsity and that is making everyone work harder.”

Noteworthy: West graduated Fred Petsch, who was 13th at state last season. … Hovland qualified for the 800 and 1,600 at the state track meet. He was fourth in the 800 at state. … Petsch and McLane qualified for the 800 in the State AA track meet. … There are 109 athletes on the team, including 62 boys. The program graduated 32 seniors from last year’s team, which had 116 on the roster. There are 29 freshmen on the team this year. … Prior to last season, the boys last state trophy was 1999 -- when they were also third.

Billings West girls

Coach: Lauren Zent, 5th season

State meet finish: 2nd

Returning state runners: Bailey Bomar, Sr.; Taylor Grove, Jr.; Brittney Grove, Jr.

Others to watch: Jessica Keller, So.; Madeline Beckstead, Jr.

Coach Zent says: “Despite being young, the girls are super competitive, which will help us be successful again this year.”

Noteworthy: Last year’s state runner-up, Rachel Jones, graduated as did 10th-place finisher Keisha Stensby. Stensby was a three-time state placer. … The West girls have taken a state trophy in six of the past seven years, with a sixth-place finish in 2010. The Bears were second the past two seasons and also in 2009. They were third three straight years from 2006-2008. … Bomar qualified for state in the 3,200. … Taylor Grove was 12th at the state cross country meet last season. … Taylor Grove placed second at the state track meet in the 3,200 and fifth in the 1,600. … Brittney Grove qualified for state in the 3,200 in track last season. The Groves are twins.

Billings Central boys

Coach: Angela Hirt, 8th season

State meet finish: 16th

Returning state runners: Hunter Harrison, Sr.; Michael Gulledge, Jr.

Others to watch: Pierce Oja, Jr.; Elliot Hagan, Sr.

Coach Hirt says: “We are going to have to learn how to run a cross country race as an individual and then as a team.”

Noteworthy: Oja and Hagan are first-year runners. … There are 11 boys out for the sport. Eight of the boys out are new to high school cross country. … Hirt says she has great leadership out of Harrison, who is team captain.

Billings Central girls

Coach: Angela Hirt, 9th season

State meet finish: 11th

Returning state runners: Alex Chase, Sr.; Sarah Gibb, So.; Shelby Gordon, Jr.; Molly Hammond, Sr.; Alexa Horrell, Jr.; Emma Knudson, Sr.

Others to watch: Morgan McDonnel, Sr.; Megan Klaudt, Sr.; Cate Klaudt, Sr.

Coach Hirt says: “My captains (Chase and Hammond) are great. I have four-year cross country runners who are positive and compassionate. That is great, when you are trying to lead the largest group you have had. I am looking forward to this season to be able to actually compete with a full team. I haven’t had that.”

Noteworthy: Horrell was second at state as a freshman. … Horrell finished 18th last year as a sophomore. … McDonnel is new to cross country, having played soccer her first three years at Central. McDonnel ran track the past two years. … Megan and Cate Klaudt are twins and are both new to cross country, as they played soccer the past three years. There are 15 girls out for the sport. It is the most girls out for cross country in Hirt’s tenure. … Including boys and girls, there are 26 runners participating, also the largest cross country team Hirt has coached.

Laurel boys

Coach: Lisa Condon, 12th season

State meet finish: 5th

Returning state runners: Brandon Kanta, Sr.; Paul Manders, Sr.; Tyler Mogan, Jr.; Myles Stricker, So.

Others to watch: Rylan O’Donnell, Sr.; Michael Hatton, Sr.; Garret Schneider, Jr.; Marcus Twichel, Jr.; John Preller, Jr.; Daniel Armstrong, So.; Eric McKamy, So.; Mac Spickard, So.; Hunter Stokes, So.; Devin White, So.; Tanner Haskins, Fr.; Ben Longbottom, Fr.; Toby Wisecup, Fr.; Ben DeBar, Fr.; RJ Gill, Fr.; Brady Schwindt, Fr.

Coach Condon says: “The kids have put in a lot of road time and are ready to compete. I’m glad it’s race time.”

Noteworthy: Mogan finished second at state last year. … Preller is a transfer from Miles City. … The Locomotives are the defending conference champions. … The Locomotives graduated Logan Weidler, who was a state placer during the 2010-11 season.

Laurel girls

Coach: Lisa Condon, 14th season

State meet finish: 3rd

Returning state runners: Lauren Studiner, Sr.; Lexi Gradwohl, Jr.; Nikki Korte, Jr.; Annie Orednick, Jr.; Courtney Hallock, So.; Shae Wiggins, So.

Others to watch: Rita Stevenson, Sr.; Abigail Korell, Jr.; Katie Conrad, Jr.; Mariah Klaasen, Fr.

Coach Condon says: “All the girls are back from last year’s top five at state. They are going to make this an exciting season.”

Noteworthy: Gradwohl was eighth at state last season. … Hallock finished 13th at the state meet. … Wiggins placed 22nd and Korte 24th at state. …Laurel is the defending conference champion. … It is Conrad’s first year in cross country.

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