MISSOULA – The Runner’s Edge cross country meet serves as a final tuneup for state for several teams, but it doubles as a race for a Missoula city title. So no one held anything back for next week.
A thrilling boys varsity race came down to the final stretch on Wednesday. Missoula Sentinel’s McKay Hunter kicked past Missoula Hellgate’s Ian Curtis to win by .64 seconds, finishing in 16 minutes, 27 seconds. After the second of three laps, Hunter and Curtis were neck and neck along with Hellgate’s Lukas Horejsi and Dax Summers. The Hellgate runners finished second, third and fourth, but Hunter had the best last lap to claim the win.
The Sentinel boys also slipped past the Knights for the team title. The Spartans’ 27 points beat out Hellgate’s 34 and Missoula Big Sky’s 80.
The earlier girls race had equally impressive performances, but Ember Stratton held the lead from start to finish. The Hellgate senior built a 17-second lead after the first lap. Her Knights teammate Elise Stearns closed to within five seconds at the end, but Stratton hung on to win, crossing the line in 18:39. Last year’s city champ, Ella DeGrandpre of Hellgate, finished third.
Hellgate had the top five finishers, and cruised to the team title with 19 points. Sentinel edged Big Sky for second, 53 to 57.
All of Montana’s best cross country runners come to Missoula for the all-class state meet at the University of Montana Golf Course next Saturday, Oct. 20.