Laurel junior Tyler Mogan began this cross country season just as he did last season. With a win.
And on the girls side, Christina Aragon won her third straight race at Riverfront Park.
Despite being delayed for a half hour due to lightning and a brief heavy shower, the local cross country season got off to a bang on Friday afternoon at Riverfront Park. And the two shining stars were Mogan and Aragon, who both easily won their 3-mile races.
If one were to have taken a picture, Mogan — a junior at Laurel — would have been the only one in the shot when he crossed the finish line in 15:44.9. Last year in his first career cross country race, Mogan also won the Billings meet.
After the meet, Mogan credited the win with his offseason conditioning, saying he worked on “basic stuff,” before adding, “you don’t want to kill yourself before the first meet. You don’t want to peak at the beginning of the year.”
Billings West’s Mark Hovland was second in 16:01.3 and Billings Senior’s Jorey Egeland third in 16:07.7. Mogan explained that the leaders in the boys race established a pretty good pace at the beginning and they were “1-2-3 shoulder-to-shoulder until I kicked,” about halfway through.
Mogan, who finished second at the State A meet last year, said he is concentrating on team goals for Laurel. The Trainmen were fifth at state last year. Mogan believes Laurel is in the hunt for a state trophy and said Belgrade, Hardin and Hamilton will be other top boys teams in Class A.
Aragon also blitzed the competition, finishing in 18:33.2. Billings Skyview’s Amanda Nelson was second in 18:51.8 and West’s Taylor Grove third in 18:56.9. Aragon won the second Billings Invite last year and the city meet, both at Riverfront.
A small group of girls were packed closely together when they crossed the chute the first time, but Aragon separated herself shortly after. Aragon said her choice to make a move at that point in the race was a game-time decision.
“It wasn’t a game plan from the start of the race. I wanted to go out there and see how I would do. ... This was a trial race.
“I felt like I could push it a little harder the last mile. ... I didn’t have much of a game plan, but to try and run hard.”
Despite notching the win, Aragon sees room for improvement.
“I want to work on pushing the second mile and by the end of the season, get a PR (personal record). I want to get a top two at state. I’ll get more specific goals as the season goes on.”
Both medalists said the track was muddy from the shower. Many of the runners had mud speckled on their shins after the race.
“It was a little muddy, but that makes it more fun,” Mogan said, adding his footing wasn’t a problem.
“It was pretty muddy in places, especially the starting stretch,” said Aragon. “That was the worst of it. I was expecting it to be muddier in the back.”
The West girls edged Senior 70-74 for the title. Glasgow was third with 112, Billings Central fourth with 121 and Butte fifth with 134. Laurel was sixth and Skyview seventh.
For the boys, West was first with 41, Senior second with 86 and Hardin third with 95. Laurel finished fourth, Skyview eighth and Central 12th.
“Our teams were a pleasant surprise. We are so young, I had no idea what to expect,” West coach Lauren Zent said. “Our leaders took control and pumped everyone up. ... We obviously still have some work to do, but are very happy with where we are. We had a lot of PR’s today.”
NOTES: Senior’s Jocelyn Elloriaga raced to a fourth-place finish in a gutsy performance. Elloriaga lost her shoe in the first 800 meters of the race and kept on trucking to an 18:57.8.