It’s a very short regular season— seven meets in six weeks — then state on Oct. 26 in Great Falls.
Such is life for cross country in Montana.
It’s also the last of the five fall high school sports to begin competition when Glacier heads to Missoula for the Big Sky Invitational on Sept. 5 while Flathead journeys to the Cut Bank Invitational on Sept. 6.
Football, soccer and volleyball all begin play the final weekend of August.
Golf started earlier this week.
Class AA will have new individual cross country champions this year — boys and girls — with Flathead’s Ben Perrin, now a member of the Montana State cross country and track programs, and Billings Senior’s Tiahna Vladic competing for Boise State. However, both runners-up are back — Simon Hill of Glacier and Terra Trom of Bozeman.
Hill finished 12 seconds behind Perrin. Trom crossed the finish line 23 seconds behind Vladic.
The Missoula Hellgate girls won the AA state title last fall, snapping Bozeman’s 11-year run as champions.
The Bozeman boys repeated for an 11th straight year.
“We’re really, really young this year,” Flathead coach Jesse Rumsey said.
“No returning state runners. We’re ridiculously young.”
Flathead does have one senior — Bohdi Hollman — out with the other experienced runner a junior — Seth Trumm.
Connor Wride, a junior, was injured last season, but would have been on varsity team. He’s hoping for healthier fall campaign this time around.
Kyle Miller, a junior, is also expected to contribute.
“Huge roster of sophomores,” Rumsey said.
Of that group, Sam Aczas and Gabe Felton show promise.
There are 26 boys out, which is up from a year ago.
“A growing year,” Rumsey said.
The focus will be “to build a strong culture. “I’m looking to see how they will stack up around the state.”
The girls have 24 runners working out, and like the boys, are very young.
The Bravettes do have three returning state runners in Hannah Perrin, a junior, Tori Noland-Gillespie, a junior, and Sierra Vickrey, a sophomore.
Noland-Gillespie was 13th at the state meet last year in Missoula. The Top 15 placers earn all-state honors.
“She put in some miles and a lot of strength work (over the summer),” Rumsey said of Noland-Gilliespie.
“Hannah (Perrin) put in a ton of miles. She’s really fired up.”
Rumsey, who has a handful of strong freshman runners, calls it “a growth year,” but expects her girls “will be pretty competitive.”
The Flathead girls were fifth at state last year while the FHS boys were 10th.
This is Rumsey’s second year as head coach of the boys and girls combined. She was the head coach of the girls program for six years.
The Wolfpack have one individual state champion in Annie Hill.
Hill, now competing at the University of Colorado, accomplished that feat in 2015.
As Glacier begins its 13th sports season, the boys could very well have their first individual champion in Simon Hill.
“I’m really excited for him,” Glacier coach Jacob Deitz said.
“He put in some really big mileage, a lot of hard work this summer.
“He had a great year last year,” Deitz continued.
“He was chasing Ben Perrin (Flathead) all season.”
Deitz said Hellgate has a couple of strong runners, along with Great Falls, to challenge Hill.
“Somebody new can show up in the spotlight,” Deitz said.
The Wolfpack will look for some youngsters to fill in the gaps left by five seniors who graduated from last year’s team.
Sam Ellis, a sophomore, was on the state team a year ago.
Three juniors to keep an eye on are Wylie Schroeder, Logan Schwaller and Ethan Brand.
Senior Lucas Ritzdorf looks to contribute as well.
“We have a good group of juniors and sophomores,” Deitz said.
“It’s kind of a wide open (competition on the team). We have great leadership in Simon and the young boys are ready to step up. Simon is a great role model, they are hungry, but we’re young. It’s hard to predict where we will end up.”
The girls, on the other hand, have seniors Kinzi Peterson and Aubrey Grame back from last year’s state team.
Deitz said sophomores Holly Skelton, Piper Koel, and Zephy Hanson had a good summer of conditioning.
“We’re optimistic they will continue to grow,” he said.
“They are such a young group. Last year was kind of a rebuilding one. It was fun to see the girls mature and get stronger.”
This marks season No. 5 for Deitz with the cross country program.
The Glacier boys finished fourth last year at state, missing out on a third-place team trophy by one point.
The Glacier girls were 10th.