Winning feels pretty good. And the Billings Central girls cross country team is finding that out.
The Rams won the Hardin meet on Sept. 14, edging Laurel 57-61. Central then turned around and nudged Billings Skyview 77-80 at the Lewistown meet last Thursday.
Angela Hirt is in her ninth season coaching the Ram girls. She believes it is the first time Central has won a meet in her tenure.
"I don't remember winning any meets," Hirt said. "We keep the kids' PRs in events, but as far as meets we don't keept that. But I'm pretty sure it is. We've never had the numbers. We've always had three talented runners, but not five, let alone seven talented runners."
Based on last year's Montana High School Association enrollment numbers, Central is the third smallest school in Class A. Central is also successful in the girls fall sports of soccer and volleyball, so getting a girl hooked on a sport like cross country could pose a challenge. This year, there are 14 girls on the team -- the most in Hirt's tenure. The previous high was eight.
"It is very exciting for the girls," Hirt said of picking up a couple wins. "The girls on the team throughout track and cross country the past four years have seen success in either track or cross country. We have had the good fortune of having a couple girls come out who had never ran cross country, but had run track. And with everyone healthy, we have goals and the girls are very excited. It makes the short season almost overwhelming. We have to stay healthy and there is so much more to it."
Central's best time this year is the 19:55 senior rookie Morgan McDonnell clocked at the season-opening Billings Invite, ran on the mostly flat Riverfront Park course. Hirt said junior Alexa Horrell and senior Alex Chase are running "consistent with McDonnell for the top three positions on the team."
Senior Emma Knudson and sophomore Sarah Gibb round out the top five, which score at meets. Besides winning the Lewistown meet, a couple of other positives played out at Pine Meadows Golf Course.
Hirt said the meet is held at "the most beautiful course you'll run all year long, but it is also the most challenging." Winning the team title at the most challenging course is a step in the right direction.
Also, Hirt said Gibb missed the event due to some soreness in her leg, but will run at the prestigious Mountain West Invitational in Missoula on Saturday. With added depth this year, the Rams had the bodies to succeed. Senior Megan Klaudt, who is new to the sport, filled in the fifth slot and "ran a great race and we were able to hold Skyview off, which we were thrilled about."
The state meet is Oct. 26 in Missoula at the University of Montana golf course, the site where this weekend's Mountain West will be held. The Rams are looking forward to the competition in the Garden City.
"You get to see a lot of the Class A teams you don't otherwise get to see," Hirt said. "Cross country courses aren't comparable, so if you see a 20 (minute) come across from the western side (of the state), you don't know what it means. Is the course super hilly, or flat, or how was the weather? ... The Mountain West is a good preview to see where you are at compared to other teams."