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State XC meet is a snow go

Morgan earns All-State B honors to pace Hawks in Great Falls


October 31, 2019

Shana Neesvig

HAWK JUNIOR Justin Morgan won 13th place and All-State B honors in the Class B portion of the Montana All-Class cross country meet in Helena Saturday.

Running in a winter wonderland.

Although it seems a little early to be talking about winter this is, after all, Montana and anyone who has spent any amount of time here knows that the weather can change in a hurry.

Changing from warm and windy Friday in a Big Sky heartbeat, the weather at last week's Montana All-Class cross country meet held at Eagle Falls Golf Course in Great Falls Saturday was nothing if not winter-like, with bitter winds blowing and snow accumulating as race time approached.

Already famous for its windy conditions, Great Falls was especially breezy all weekend for this year's all-class meet.

"This was by far the windiest course walkthrough we've ever done," coach Sarah Naegeli said. "It was beautiful and warm Friday but so windy it almost knocked you over and then, 15 hours later it was the snowiest state course we have ever run on. Cold, windy and snowy probably describes race day the best."

Proving a little cold weather wouldn't hold him back, Hawk junior Justin Morgan churned through the fierce Great Falls winds and unbroken snow to win 13th place in 18:03.53 and earned All-State B honors for the first time in his career.

Morgan is Thompson Falls' first All-State B harrier since Tanner Laws last earned that distinction for the Hawks back in 2014.

"On a windy, snowy course he ran a PR (personal record)," Naegeli said, "the most focused and determined I have seen him run. His off-season preparation, and mental competitiveness were huge factors in his success, as well as his hard work and dedication."

Naegeli, who also coaches the distance runners for the Thompson Falls track and field team, learned something more about her leading boys' runner, who will be back next year to do it all over again. "I'm realizing that Justin runs well in inclement conditions," she said. "One of his best track performances last spring was during a windy blizzard as he was being pelted with snow pellets."

Naegeli was also impressed by the rest of her runners in Great Falls.

The Thompson Falls girls finished 11th in team scoring. Snow-covered when the boys ran earlier, the course became quite slippery when the girls ran, and affected the Lady Hawks' efforts as a result. "The wind had died down but the course was slippery and the runners really had to concentrate on their footing."

Josey Neesvig, Ellie Baxter, Sierra Hanks, Megan Baxter, Shaylynda Walker, Roni Hanks and Reagan Hanks did the competitive running for the Hawks in Great Falls.

Shana Neesvig

KEEPING PACE - The Lady Hawks' No. 1 runner Josey Neesvig races in Great Falls Saturday. Josey's dad Craig (left, gray coat) keeps a close eye on the action.

"Josey is a driven competitor and a positive influence on her teammates," Naegeli said. "Ellie and Sierra, and Megan and Shay have run as duos this season and have pushed and helped each other through all the races. They are a close-knit group and we are already looking forward to next year, although we will miss Shay and Reagn."

For the boys, in addition to Morgan, Jack Green, Marc Boyd, Daniel Ryan, Briar Palmer, JayJay Fields and Isaac Reed all competed in their first state meets.

"Jack has been a consistent leader on our team as a captain and a competitor," Naeglei said. "And Marc and Daniel both made huge improvements and become competitive racers, finishing with great races in the snow."

As for Palmer, Fields and Reed, Naegeli said of her youg trio: "This has all been new and exciting/overwhelming for them this year and they have stepped up to the challenge. The knowledge and experience they gained competing in less than ideal conditions will surely help them in the future."


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