HELENA — Back in August in her high school debut, Helena High freshman Kylie Hartnett ran to a ninth place finish at the 24-team Billings Cross Country Invitational.
Hartnett posted a time of 20 minutes flat to kick off her prep career, and proceeded to pace the Bengals girls cross country team in every meet throughout the season to their best team finishes in many years.
She capped off the year with a sixth-place all-state citation at the Class AA state meet, while lowering her own school freshman record, and leading Helena to a fourth-place showing.
And now, Hartnett was named the Independent Record Female All-Area Cross Country Runner of the Year.
“One word describes Kylie and her running: fearless,” Helena coach Linda Paull said. “She comes to practice every day ready to work hard. She runs fearless, never afraid of her competition.
“Kylie doesn’t like to lose, so she just goes out and runs hard … she’s easy to coach and fun to watch.”
Last summer, in Provo, Utah, Hartnett captured the USATF Regional Junior Olympics (15-16-year-olds) 3,000-meter championship with a time of 10:59. She was just 14 at the time.
After the season opener, Hartnett placed runner-up at the Butte Invitational in 19:25, while Helena came in third.
Midway through the year, at Missoula’s prestigious Mountain West Classic, Hartnett cracked the 19-minute barrier in the 5K race and placed eighth in a field of 384 runners.
Her 18:54 clocking was 21 seconds faster than her former PR. The Bengals took sixth in the team race.
At the Capital City 7 of 7 meet, Hartnett finished fourth in the No. 1 race, while leading Helena to a third-place finish.
Her time of 18:39 broke Josey Smiedala’s 2011 freshman record of 18:45, on a shorter 3-mile course.
Next, Hartnett spearheaded Helena's top four placings at the crosstown win, setting up her all-state performance at the Class AA Meet in Missoula.
She was clocked in 18:36, lowering her PR by three seconds despite competing with an illness, and paced Helena to a fourth-place finish. It was the program’s highest team showing in 11 years.
“Running is not about being better than someone else, it’s about being better than you used to be,” answered Hartnett with a maturity well beyond her 14 years, when asked how she felt about being named IR Runner of the Year. “But I do want to thank coaches Anna Doran and Jesse Zentz, my teammates and my family.”
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