This is arriving a little late (5 days after the official race), but the Bengals certainly didn’t arrive late to the finish line on race day at the Missoula Invite.
In fact, both the boys and girls varsity teams placed second, and a whopping 27 runners posted season best times, with an additional 11 chalking up lifetime bests on the flat but turn-heavy route at Missoula’s Linda Vista Gold Course.
On the boys side, senior Robert Wagner (17:44) guided the boys to second behind Hellgate in the varsity race with a fifth-place finish to break up the Knights’ attempt at a 1-5 sweep, and seniors Ethan Nelson (17:58) and Dallin Christensen (18:02) chalked up top-10 finishes in ninth and 10th, respectively. All three Bengals recorded season bests.
The remaining four varsity runners for Helena chalked up their lifetime bests: sophomore Adam Ryland-Davis (18th, 18:27), sophomore Mason Roush (19th, 18:24), junior Evan Stefaniak (2oth, 18:33) and freshman Trey Schlepp (23rd, 19:34).
The Bengals finished with 61 points, while Hellgate topped the quad with 16, and Flathead and Big Sky recorded 70 and 90, respectively.
Helena junior varsity boys also had a strong outing and were led by senior Trystan Brewer, who posted a victory in his first race as he continues to recover from a foot injury suffered over the summer. Brewer ran a very respectable 17:56, despite leading most of the race – winning by 20 seconds.
While the varsity teams were only scored against the three teams they raced directly, the JV results were combined with the other four teams who competed earlier on Saturday. Also running for the Bengals were freshman Ian Rasmann (20th, 19:30, PR), sophomore Taylor Parisot (21st, 19:31, SR), freshman Kriz Fernandez (45th, 21:18, PR), freshman Andrew Mendez (52nd, 23:03, PR), junior Dimitri Sebastian (54th, 25:52, SR) and freshman Kai Moser (55th, 29:32, PR).
On the girls side, the Bengals once again found themselves sandwiched in a battle with fellow state contenders Hellgate and Flathead, finishing second – 19 points behind the Knights and six points up on the surging Braves.
Junior Kylie Hartnett led the way in second place with a season-topping mark of 18:20, while fellow juniors Odessa Zentz (5th, 19:14, SR), Rylie Schoenfeld (7th, 19:29, SR), Carly Ryan (13th, 20:28, SR) and Annie Menden (19th, 21:38, PR) completed the team’s scoring with top-20 finishes. Hellgate posted 27 points in the lead, Helena was second with 46 and Flathead placed third with 52, while Big Sky was fourth with 119.
Excitingly for Helena, No. 6 and 7 runners Sofia Hinderman and Claire Downing closed the gap on their teammates to provide some security for the Bengals as they move into the second half of the season. Hinderman posted a lifetime best of 20:47 to finish 20th and Downing finished a season-best 22:05 to place 22nd for Helena.
Downing is experiencing a senior resurgence. In her four races this season, she has posted her three best times in her career – including her third best this week – and she is zeroing in on her personal best of 21:40, a testament to her resilience, commitment and consistency throughout the summer and fall.
In the girls JV division, sophomore Lexi Erdahl led the Bengals to third place in her second race this season with an 11th-place finish in a second-best time of 22:32. Junior Chloe Roberts ran a personal best of 23:20 in 15th place and senior Maddy Murgel ran a season-best of 23:27 in 17th place.
Rounding out the scoring for the Bengals were juniors Breanna Brewer and Naomi Sweeney, who finished in 24th and 25th, respectively, with times of 24:00 and 24:01 – season bests for both runners. Not too far behind in 29th for the Bengals was freshman Kelleigh McKay, and senior Katelyn Hamill ran her season best of 26:02 in 36th.
The junior varsity squad finished with 92 points, while Hellgate and Flathead finished first and second with 21 and 36. Capital was fourth with 95.
The Bengals return to action Saturday with a meet in Boulder against Capital, Jefferson, Broadwater, Three Forks, West Yellowstone and Whitehall. Seven varsity and seven JV runners from both the girls and boys teams will be competing. Helena’s remaining runners will be running a time trial Friday afternoon at Centennial Park.