At last year’s state cross country meet at Bill Roberts Golf Course, Capital High junior Jesse McMurtrey placed 31st with a time of 17 minutes, 16 seconds.

And although the achievement was not too shabby, considering it was his first year of high school cross country, McMurtrey was determined to improve.

And that he did.

This past fall at the 2018 Class AA meet in Missoula, through hard work and will power, the slightly built Bruins senior was clocked at 16:24, lowering his time from last year by nearly a minute.

His performance was good enough for a ninth-place medal and well below the 15th-place cutoff for a coveted all-state citation.

And now add to McMurtrey’s accolades, the 2018 Independent Record’s Boys All-Area Cross Country Runner of the Year.

“Since beginning cross country his junior year, Jesse has been the model of consistency and dedication, patiently increasing his training volume and intensity the past two years to earn all-state honors,” coach Chris Beskid said. “Jesse set lofty goals for himself at the beginning of the summer, and then went about his training admirably, averaging 50-mile weeks and working diligently throughout the season to achieve all of his goals.

“To further exemplify his toughness, he broke a bone in his foot at some point during the state meet race and powered through to an impressive ninth-place finish. But even more important than his racing, Jesse is a courteous and respectful competitor, and a thoughtful and caring teammate.”

McMurtrey first started running cross country at CR Anderson Middle School. He then took a couple years off from competition, returning to the track as a sophomore, and to cross country last year.

He opened his senior season last August at the Billings Invitational with a run of 16:59, placing 11th.

Midway through this season, at Missoula’s Mountain West Classic, McMurtrey clocked a 16:57 and finished 38th while leading Capital to a 16th-place showing.

At the Capital City 7 of 7 Meet, he placed seventh in the No. 1 race, posting a 16:38. He followed that up with the crosstown championship in the annual battle with Helena with a 16:49 clocking.

He then capped off his prep career at the State Meet with his ninth-place finish — moving up 22 places from 2017 — despite the painful foot injury. McMurtrey led CHS to a ninth-place team finish, improving three places in the team standings from last year.

“It’s a very high honor, and it’s nice to have the work you put in be realized,” McMurtrey said, when told of his IR runner of the year selection. “I feel proud, but it’s also important to stay humble and kind. I would like to thank my family, teammates, coaches and friends, for all the support they’ve given me.”

Beskid noted: “Jesse is only beginning to tap into his running potential,” adding that he’s “excited to see how he progresses this spring in track” and at the collegiate level in the following years.

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