MISSOULA — Instead of the usual sharp pings of drivers cracking against golf balls and the light hum of golf carts flying along fairways, the University of Montana Golf Course will be abuzz with the pounding of feet Saturday and more cheering than is usually allowed on such hushed grounds.
Missoula hosts the state all-classification cross country meet with a 3-mile route set up along the course’s nine holes. Races begin at noon — one hour later than originally scheduled to guard against frost damage to the course — with the AA boys.
They’re followed by seven other races staggered at roughly half-hour intervals. The C girls wrap up the competition when their race begins at 3:45 p.m.
The boys race is marking its 50th season of state competition, with the girls just behind at 43 years.
Typical team scoring rules apply for this meet with total points scored by the first five contestants of a team counting as team score for AA, A and B. Total points scored by the first three finishers of a team make up the team score for C schools.
Among the individual favorites in Class AA girls is Billings Senior sophomore Christina Aragon. Aragon finished eighth at state last year, but was second — behind Bigfork junior and two-time defending state B champion Makena Morley — at the Mountain West Classic on the UM Golf Course. Aragon was also second to Morley in the No. 1 girls race at the Capital City 7 of 7 race earlier this year.
“I’m not necessarily looking for a P.R. (personal record) at state,” Aragon said after winning the season-ending Billings Public Schools Meet. “I want to run smart and not do anything crazy because it is state.
“I feel pretty ready for state. The next week and a half will prepare us mentally and physically, but I feel like I’ll be ready when it comes.”
Last year’s girls AA champion, Paige Gilchrist of Missoula Hellgate, has graduated.
After she won the second Billings Invitational Aragon had praise for Morley, who had won her third straight Mountain West Classic the week before. Morley’s time was 16:43.42 and Aragon clocked 17:29.95.
“The main competition for me as an individual was Makena Morley. She is good, so good,” Aragon said of the Mountain West. “I didn’t expect myself to stay with her. Not to be down on myself, but I was pretty sure she was going to win the race.”
In the Class A girls race, Billings Central should be in the thick of things in the team race. The Lady Rams easily won the Eastern A Classic with four runners finishing in the top eight. The Lady Rams have never won a state team title. Corvallis is the defending champion, while Lewistown was second and Laurel third last year.
“Corvallis looks amazing and the Hamilton girls look to be pretty strong,” said Central coach Angela Hirt. “We’ll all have to run the race we’ve run this whole season, be tightly grouped, stay relaxed and have a good time.”
Sadi Henderson of Corvallis is the defending champion and took third at last week’s Southwest A divisional, behind two of her teammates.
In the Class A boys team race, Whitefish is the defending champion. Last year’s individual winner, Layne Lantis of Glendive, has graduated. Laurel junior Tyler Mogan was second last season.
Mogan said he likes the Missoula course
Mogan was sixth in the boys race at the Mountain West, with Anthony Schmalz of Hamilton placing fourth.
Hardin edged Laurel 34-38 for the Eastern A boys team title. Hardin coach Cindy Farmer said her team will be competing with Hamilton, Laurel and Whitefish for state team hardware.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” she said.
Led by senior Chance Hyatt, Culbertson-Bainville is the defending State C boys champion. Hyatt, the defending state champ, won the Miles City Invitational earlier this month.
Red Lodge is the defending Class B boys team champion. Glasgow is the defending B girls champion.