Runners battled hot conditions to open the high school cross country season Saturday as both the Columbia Falls boys and girls squads took first place at the Libby Invitational.
With temperatures in the 80s, the Wildcat runners ran their first cross country race since winning the state title last season. The Cats picked up right where they left off, taking four of the top-eight places, including Aiden Jarvis in first and Joe Lamb in second, en route to a team win.
“The team exceeded my expectations for the first race, and the depth of the team reaches well down into the junior varsity runners, who ran well too,” head coach Jim Peacock said. “It was a fun collective effort at all levels and an enjoyable way to start the season.”
The race saw a large pack challenging for early control of the race with Columbia Falls runner Seth Umbriaco setting the early pace, and by the half mile mark the race started to string out a little. By the mile mark, Jarvis was leading with Lamb and Frenchtown’s Tyler Schmautz directly on his heels.
Along with the top-two finishes by Jarvis and Lamb, Umbriaco was fourth, James Role was also in the top-10 with an eighth-place finish.
For the Wildkats, Peacock said Lara Erickson looked smooth and confident as her first-place finish helped propel the girls to first-place at the meet.
Alyssa Blankenship, who finished fifth, ran alone in the Libby meet, caught in no man’s land between the lead four girls, and the large chase group that finished behind her. In that chase group, there was a cluster of five white Columbia Falls jerseys running together for much of the race. That pack included sophomore Hannah Semph, who finished sixth, freshman Siri Erickson (Lara’s younger sister), who finished seventh, junior Katerina Reigelova (an exchange student from the Czech Republic), freshman Courtney Hoerner, and sophomore Azlyn Caldwell.
Another great moment for the Wildkats came in the junior varsity race as senior Kimberly Peacock finished her first race since being diagnosed with cancer after her freshman year.
“It was a hard day to separate myself as a dad and a coach,” Jim Peacock said. “That line can be blurry at best on most days, but in Libby, I erased the line totally during the girls’ JV race and proudly became a teary-eyed spectator and marveled at the fact that she is even able to run.”
Overall, it was a great start for both Columbia Falls teams, a start that coach Peacock thinks will lead to another successful season.
“It was a fun way to start,” he said. “The energy level of this year’s team is somewhere between a hyperactive squirrel with a coffee addiction and a nuclear explosion, and strangely enough, I think that energy is sustainable. I’m looking forward to watching these guys grow and develop.”
The Wildcat cross country teams will be in Cut Bank Friday for the Cut Bank Time Trials starting at 4:20 p.m.
1st - Aidan Jarvis - 17:01.36
2nd - Joe Lamb - 17:13.05
4th - Seth Umbriaco - 17:28.48
8th - James Role - 18:01.94
12th - Bailey Sjostrom - 18:20.8
16th - TJ Jacobi - 19:24.45
19th - Coleman Wollenzien - 19:40.94
1st - Laura Erickson - 20:15.79
5th - Alyssa Blankenship - 22:01.46
7th - Hannah Sempf - 22:43.96
8th - Siri Erickson - 22:46.71
12th - Katerina Riegelova - 23:00.59
13th - Courtney Hoerner - 23:06.43
14th - Azlyn Caldwell - 23:10.26