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2016 Montana Cup Summary


The women's race started the day



Race Recap

By Meet Director Dewey Peacock

For the third time since 2002, the Montana Cup returned to Bozeman.  In that 2002 edition, a combination of heavy mud and hills led to slower times and mixed victories across the state, showcasing the great talent in the different corners of Montana.  In the 6 years that followed, Helena won 3 of 4 events one year, and Missoula proceeded to establish a 5-year legacy of winning 3 of the 4 events every year.  Could the other towns in Montana challenge their dominance from previous years?

Cupc.jpg Cynthia Arnold pushed the pace from the start.
Cup16e.jpg Arnold finished as the only woman under 20 minutes in the 5.6 km race. Arnold's victory also lead Kalispell to the team title.
BzmnCup16-Cups.jpg There were a record 299 finishers in the meet, 125 women and 174 men. There were 138 entrants from team Bozeman, alone.
Cup16e.jpg Butte's Nicole Hunt placed second overall, and in so doing also won the masters division by an astounding 2 minutes and 13 seconds, with a finish time of 20:43. This was Hunt's fifth masters title since 2010, nearly matching the six overall MT Cup title that she won from 1997 to 2006.
This yearís edition saw a record number of registered participants, pushed heavily by Bozeman aiming to place one of their own runners for every other runner from across the state, amounting to almost 42% of the race field.  Numbers alone though donít always make up for some the amazing talent that our great state has, and the dayís scores reflected heavily by some dominant performances by individuals in their respective races.

    The first race of the day, taking place just as the damp and cloudy morning cleared into an almost vacant blue sky, was the womenís.  Converging into the tight first entrance of the two-loop course was a huge field of gold, but spearheaded by the white jerseys of Kalispellís Cynthia Arnold and Bryn Morley.  A lone green jersey in the top group was held by Nicole Hunt, who at this point should really be considered a true legend in Montana running.  Not far behind the lead group, a sea of gold was led by a healthy mix of open and junior Bozeman girls.  Cross Country is a sport that is defined by teamwork, a concept rare in the adult world of running races.  Could the depth of Bozeman fend off the lead Kalispell runners?

    After looping through the second time and sprinting across a sandy beach, the answer was no.  Kalispell finished first and third, with Arnoldís victory really establishing herself as one of the most versatile and strong runners in all of Montana.  Recently finishing second at the abbreviated Rut VK in an international field, itís obvious that there is no incline or terrain that she canít race well on.  Nicole Hunt raced exceptionally well to place second, winning the Womenís Masterís title by over two minutes.  Bryn Morley raced into 3rd overall, maintaining a healthy distance from Kenenni Wiegand who helped the Bozeman Hawks to yet again another team title the previous weekend.

    With Kalispellís podium dominance, they held off the huge team of Bozeman runners by a mere 8 points (46-54) with the help of Jessica Johnsonís 8th place and two other runners in the top 20.  Bozeman certainly ran well as a pack, placing their 2-6th runners in 11th through 15th place.  Billings also placed well, scoring 75 points to close out the team podium.   In the Womenís Masterís competition, Bozemanís depth prevailed despite Butteís best efforts, placing all 7 runners in the top 10.

    Shortly after the womenís race, the men started with a massive field of 174 runners.  As the gun went off you could practically imagine a herd of bison cruising over the hills, as the thundering of spikes and racing flats fly over the first hill and through the shorter first loop.  With a combination of recently graduated college runners, state-winning high school runners from the Hawks, and the amazing overall talent of Montanaís open runners, this field was fast and furious and seemed to stretch a mile long from the get go. 

cup16f.jpg Early leaders: Purple-clad unaffiliated runner Deigo Leon (the eventual runner-up finisher) and golden Lyle Weese (4th place finisher) are shadowed by Sam Read who would eventually power to victory.
cup16g.jpg Helena's Jesse Zentz, freshly 40 years old, came to the masters' division with avengence, beating the second master by over a minute.
From that moment, it was obvious that the team race would be Bozemanís to lose.  With 4 of their runners in the top 5, and a slew of those heavy golden basketball jerseys in tow, the race seemed to be a lock for the host team.  Sam Read, a grad student and assistant coach at MSU led some of his own previous athletes as well as the Catsí head xc coach Lyle Weese, who is a many-time Olympic Trials Steeple-Chaser, to an almost perfect score of 18 points. Bozemanís scoring runners were interrupted only by Billingsí Cesar Mireles and two of Missoulaís talented runners, Morris Wecker and Will Rial.  Interestingly, despite the depth and talent of Bozemanís running scene, they have only won 4 Open Menís titles since the inception of Montana Cup, with three of those victories coming at home in the Gallatin County.  Apparently we donít like to drive much to earn these victories.

    In the menís mastersí race, where cup victories have bounced repeatedly back and forth between Bozeman, Helena and Butte, it would prove to be yet another nail biter, just as many of the previous yearsí scores have been exceptionally close.  Helenaís Jesse Zentz, a runner truly in class of his own with a versatility of racing the mile to the marathon and any terrain with victories all year, led the masterís race with an overall 12th place.  He finished the race a bit over a minute ahead of the 2nd place Masterís, his fellow Helenian David Morris who held off Scott Creel to round out the podium.  Despite the victorious intentions of yet another very deep Bozeman team, Helena won the Masterís Cup with a 9-point lead, placing all of their scoring runners in the top 10.

      The Montana Cup has grown every few years to a new record high of participants, and has proven it to be unquestionably the most competitive open race in the state.  It pulls an assortment of runners that may never race each other, each of them generally filling their own calendars with their respective disciplines.  Itís the one time of the year were we can all cover the same surface, at the same time, and compete and celebrate our efforts as a team.  While we as hosts each year try to provide the best course and experience for you, it will be all of you as runners that help keep this as one of the greatest gems in our state, and I certainly am excited to see how it evolves and grows.

-   Dewey Peacock