The Wildcat cross country team came home from Great Falls with its second straight Class A state title Saturday after a close battle with Fergus and Hardin.
The Cats had three All-State runners in Aidan Jarvis, James Role and James Peterson as they beat out Hardin by 22 points and Fergus by 32 to earn the title.
“On paper, we were all three really even teams. On any given day, any three of us could have won that race,” head coach Jim Peacock said. “We stayed really mentally focused and dialed in to what we needed to do. Across the board, everyone found a way to get in front of they person they needed to get in front of to get us the win. We ran confident, smart races.”
The Cats had been dominating Class A meets for most of the season, but Peacock said he could take nothing for granted heading into the state meet.
“It was pretty stressful leading into state. We have control over our own races, but we needed everyone to do their job. If just one person doesn’t do their job, we probably don’t win the title,” he said. “We needed to be at our best as a team, and we were able to do that.”
In a race that started with a fast pace, Peacock said he was concerned after the one-mile mark, but had confidence in his runners. Hardin had five runners in the top-15 after that one-mile mark, but the Cats closed the distance over the final two miles of the race and overtook several runners earn get the win.
Jarvis was the top finisher for the Cats, coming in fourth at 16:29.35 in what could be his last race for Columbia Falls as he and his family are moving to New Mexico next week. Role was seventh with a time of 16:49.87 and Petersen was also in the Top-15, coming in 11th with a time of 16:57.79.
Joe Lamb was 22nd and Seth Umbriaco was 23rd to round out the scoring for the Cats while Bailey Sjostrom was 46th and TJ Jacobi came in 93rd.
Lara Erickson put in a gutsy performance to finish 12th to help lead the Wildkats to a fifth-place finish in the girls’ race.
After running in second for most of the race, Erickson fought off exhaustion in the race’s final half mile to hold on for 12th and All-State recognition.
Along with Erickson, Hannah Sempf was 17th, Rebekah Walker was 35th, Siri Erickson came in 41st, Courtney Hoerner was 47th, Azlyn Caldwell was 52nd and Alyssa Blankenship was 77th.
“We did everything we felt we needed to do to win a trophy. We ran a phenomenal race. We were smart and aggressive, but we just got beat by some teams that were better than us. We ran great, it was just a tough field. I am thrilled with how we did,” Peacock said. “If we keep putting in this kind of hard work, the girls we be bringing home state hardware soon.”