Helena High maintained its stranglehold on the team championships at the Crosstown Cross Country Meet on a warm and sunny Wednesday afternoon at Bill Roberts Golf Course, while Capital’s Colt Smith and Helena’s Carly Smiedala claimed their first individual city titles as runners took the penultimate step toward next week’s state meet on the same course.
Smith, a senior, ran with Helena freshman Aidan Reed for more than two-thirds of the boys race, but broke away late to finish the 3-mile course in 15 minutes, 52.9 seconds. Reed was second in 16:05.6 and Helena senior Baird Linke rounded out the top three in 16:33.0.
“I am just looking for a good end to four great years of cross country at Capital High,” Smith said. “I wanted to go out with the leaders and use my speed at the end to get the win, and I was able to do that.”
Helena claimed eight of the first nine places and finished with 20 points — well ahead of Capital’s 43 — to claim its 12th win in the annual event.
“I wanted to win and going into mile three, I was leading, but as we were about 800 meters from the finish, Colt went hard on the downhill and I couldn’t cover his surge,” Reed said. “... I am thrilled we were able to keep the streak up for the team and I am proud of everybody. Some people had personal bests and others didn’t have their best day, but the important thing is that we won.”
Smiedala, a freshman, took control of the pacing of the girls race from the start and never was challenged en route to a comfortable victory in 19:20.5 — nearly a full minute ahead of her closest competitor, Capital freshman Katarina Olsen.
“My goal was to take the lead and hold it,” said Smiedala, whose sophomore sister, Josey, placed fourth in 20:33.7. “It definitely built my confidence up and I am just really excited for state, and I hope our team does amazing there. ... We just want everybody to stay healthy this next week and to be completely prepared, because I think we can do great at state.”
Helena’s girls posted 19 points with runners also placing third, fifth and sixth to round out the team scoring, while Capital chalked up 46. It was the Bengals’ sixth consecutive girls victory.
Olsen surprised herself with a runner-up finish in 20:18.4 and 2011 champion Leah Esposito, a Helena senior, placed third in 20:23.9.
“Wow, I feel really good,” Olsen said. “I am kind of shocked. I started the season at 24:50 and I wanted to go under 20 today. My goal was to beat Leah, but I knew it
wouldn’t be easy because she is such a great runner.”
When asked why she’s improved so much this season, Olsen didn’t hesitate to answer.
“I am just really competitive and I have been training really hard,” she said. “This feels so good.”
Capital girls coach Sabrina Monroe echoed her athlete’s sentiments.
“She was confident and it was really great to see her training begin to pay off,” Monroe said. “She knows what she’s physically able to do and she doesn’t like to settle for less. She’s really competitive.”
Helena girls, meanwhile, had been struggling with sickness and injuries throughout the season, leaving the team well under 100 percent in previous races. That all changed Wednesday.
“I think it was very important to have everyone running today, because we’ve had different pieces missing all season,” Helena girls coach Linda Paull said. “It was fun to see them all out there trying to run together. That was the team we’ve wanted to see all season long.”
Attention now turns to the state meet, which is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20, also at Bill Roberts Golf Course. Both Helena teams appear to be capable of podium finishes.
“We had pretty good grouping today, but there was nothing super fast and that tends to happen with this meet so soon after 7 of 7 last week,” Helena boys coach Kelley Gilbert said. “The grouping was good and we had a small time gap, like 45 seconds from our first to seventh guy, so we’ve got to do that again next week.”
Capital boys coach Ed Darfler was pleased, but hopes to see more from his team at state.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do to be where we need to be,” he said. “We ran well up front.”
He had good things to said about Smith, who had a personal best of 17:03 as a freshman and has reduced that to 15:42 this season.
“From where we started to where he’s at now is incredible,” Darfler said. “He’s come a long way in four years and that’s all because of the hard work he’s put in.”
CROSSTOWN CROSS COUNTRY MEET
Bill Roberts Golf Course
Helena 20, Capital 43
1. Colt Smith, Capital, 15:52.9; 2. Aidan Reed, Helena, 16:05.6; 3. Baird Linke, Helena, 16:33.0; 4. Chris Grubb, Helena, 16:38.3; 5. Jordan Barrows, Helena, 16:41.0; 6. Sawyer Linke, Helena, 16:48.4; 7. Layne Ryerson, Helena, 16:48.7; 8. Tucker Costain, Helena, 16:49.8; 9. Dontae Baker, Capital, 17:12.1; 10. Kenley Crisp, Capital, 17:17.2; 11. Duncan Ellis, Capital, 17.41.7; 12. Trent Havron, Capital, 17:42.9; 13. Andrew Kilpatrick, Capital, 17:55.6; 14. Kelly Eller, Capital, 18:35.7.
Helena 19, Capital 46
1. Carly Smiedala, Helena, 19:20.5; 2. Katarina Olsen, Capital, 20:18.4; 3. Leah Esposito, Helena, 20:23.9; 4. Josey Smiedala, Helena, 20:33.7; 5. Hallie Hartnett, Helena, 20:34.5; 6. Jacki Copenhaver, Helena, 20:44.7; 7. Alexa Welch, Capital, 20:55.5; 8. Kallan Banning, Helena, 21:16.5; 9. Grace Berner, Capital, 21:22.1; 10. Erika Ackerlund, Helena, 21:22.8; 11. Mariah Garza, Capital, 21:24.1; 12. Marisa Sanchez, Capital, 22:29.4; 13. Abby Rausch, Capital, 23:27.6; 14. Kaye Bignell, Capital, 23:42.7.