The Columbia Falls cross country runners faced an unfamiliar format Saturday, but both the boys and girls teams came away with wins as they raced at the Mission Shadow Duels.
Held at the Silver Fox Golf Course in Pablo, the race features a staggered start with each team’s seventh runner staring first, then the sixth and so on with each group staring 20 seconds apart.
“The kids that get a head start tend to run a little panicky, and the kids that start later feel like they have to catch up in a hurry. It is a blast to watch,” head coach Jim Peacock said.
Overcoming other’s head starts is not the only challenge facing the runners as the course also featured obstacles, such as hay bales, that had to be avoided by the runners.
Seth Umbriaco, running in the fifth position, was able to win the overall race, just beating out Brynnli Poulsen from Hamilton, who is the favorite to win the Class A girls individual state title. Aidan Jarvis ran the fastest race time for the Wildcat boys while James Role, Joe Lamb, and Seth Umbriaco all ran just a bit off Jarvis’s overall pace.
The Wildkats were led by Lara Erickson. She made up the split on all her teammates, and also held her position fairly well against the boys in the race to finish third among the female runners.
According to Peacock, Hannah Sempf ran another impressive race and Courtney Hoerner had a breakout performance, racing strong and confident to nice personal best time of the season.
Another fun aspect of the race is the race held after the high school runners have finished, a race that was open to all, including parents, fans and coaches.
Peacock said he enjoyed being cheered on by his runners.
“The cross country team was holding posters, zooming around the course cheering and jeering, and playing theme music for the open racers. It was a blast to watch the laughs and enthusiasm from the kids, and it was awesome to see all parents and family members experience the ups and downs of racing for themselves,” he said.
The teams will be in action again at the Helena 7 on 7 race Thursday.