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Bison supporters stampede through Dixon

by Ed Moreth

There was a bison stampede some five miles from the Bison Range through the town of Dixon, but no one was hurt, although a few people were out of breath and might have been sore the next day. 

The stampeders weren't buffaloes, they were humans participating in Dixon's annual Bison Stampede, an event to raise funds for school improvements.

The event had three races, including a 10K, 5K and a one-mile Fun Run through town that all started in front of Dixon Elementary School. Runners for the two long races spent a lot of time on gravel or dirt roads and were mostly going up or downhill, traveling almost in a loop and ending up back in front of the school, said Breezy Stipe, the school clerk and one of the event's main coordinators. The event kicked off with the two men, five women and one teenager in the 10K.

Raymond McDonald, a school track runner, captured first place in the 10K with a time of 51 minutes, 51 seconds. The 14-year-old McDonald took off with a slight lead, but at the end of the first block of B Street, he took a wrong turn onto Fourth Street. He went about 20 feet until spectators got his attention to get back on the right track. "He's a real go-hard guy. He's always pushing it," said Kyler Rutz, the school's track coach and fifth grade teacher. McDonald placed in all four events at the Sanders County Middle School track meet in Plains on Friday.

Mikey Church of Dixon nabbed first place in the men's division of the 10K, crossing the finish line at 58:05. The 40-year-old Church arrived late and started the race six minutes after the rest of the runners had taken off. Third place went to Quincy Taylor of Ronan, finishing at 1:03:22. Lauren Shirma of Ronan took top honors in women's division with a time of 59:10, followed by Judith Stanko at 1:05:11, and Michele Conard of Moiese in 1:11:12.

Dixon School started the Bison Stampede in 2015 and held it every year, except 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic. The event, put on by volunteers from the school and the community, was established to help pay for school upgrades and repairs. It helped one year buy playground equipment, another went to a basketball court, and another for fencing. The 2019 race paid for maintenance in the arts and community building, said Crista Anderson, the school's principal and superintendent. Anderson finished first in the women's division of the 5K, at 30:14. Cost to enter the races was $25, which included a custom Bison Stampede 2022 T-shirt. 

Fifteen runners competed in the 5K. Artita Suda took second at 26:03 in the women's division. Organizers did not have the third place finisher's name. In the 5K men's division, Ronan resident Paul Phillips finished first at 27:14. This was Phillips' first race. The manager of the Tribal fitness centers on the Flathead Indian Reservation, running in the Bison Stampede was part of Phillips' training for the Montana Law Enforcement Torch Run in Polson in May.

In the 5K boys division, first went to Jordan Boye at 22:48, followed by his brother, Tyler, at 26:15. Both are members of the Dixon School track team. Mika Smith took third at 44:01. For the 5K girls, 13-year-old Dylann Elverud, also a Dixon track team member, finished first with a time of 22:29. In second place was Tianna Ross at 26:03, and in third was Sheray Rossbach at 30:41. Both are also on the track team. In all, nine members of the track team participated in the event. Some did the longer races as well as the Fun Run.

Rutz didn't run the 10K or 5K, but he quickly accelerated to the lead in the Fun Run down B Street and back, finishing at 6:43, almost 30 seconds ahead of the number two placer, Elverud at 7:18, who took first in the 5K a short time before the mile long run began. The 29-year-old Rutz had offered his track team runners $3 if they finished before him. None did. 

The Fun Run had 45 participants with a diverse assortment of runners, walkers and rollers. Six-year-old Grace Reeves of Dixon rode her bike for the event, while her mother, Tracy, did it in her wheelchair. Jade Pitcher pushed 1-year-old Juno in a stroller. Marianne Baumberger pushed 3-year-old Evelyn BigSam in a stroller, while Sarah BigSam did the race with 5-month-old Cameron BigSam in a baby carrier. Maria J. Germano ran alongside "Klallam," an 8-year-old Rottweiler. 

Tyler Boye finished the Fun Run third at 8:05, 12 seconds ahead of his brother, Jordan, who finished fourth. Several racers of the 5K did the mile run, including the principal, who finished 13th with a time of 11:30. 

It was a great day and a successful fundraiser, according to Stipe, who has helped with the previous races. "I saw lots of smiles and it was great to host a community event once again after the pandemic," said Stipe. The school fetched $466 from the pancake breakfast and $554 from the race and t-shirt sales. In addition, Dixon residents Patricia and Robert Bristol donated $75 and Judy Billie donated $50. Lisa Labor of Dixon donated $300 in memory of her late husband, Frank Labor. Blackfoot Telecommunications, one of the race sponsors, donated $500. Other sponsors included Valley Banks, Special Tees, Trailer Trish and the Runner's Edge of Missoula, which donated an inflatable arch and electronic timer for the race. The school plans to utilize the raised money to pave the parking lot, which is presently gravel. Stipe said they haven't received a quote on doing the parking lot, but the school plans to have a non-vote building reserve levy to help fund the project.

"The principal writes lots of grants and is always pursuing ways to bring in extra funds for our little school," said Stipe. Dixon Elementary School, which has the bison mascot, was built in 1919 and has about 70 students from preschool to eighth grade. The school has 20 teachers and staffers and about 18 volunteer helpers, said Stipe. Several school staff, teachers and their spouses, and students' parents helped with the event. Candy Faroni served as the emcee. Race winners received a medal. Organizers also had a free raffle for t-shirts, school hoodies and water bottles. The school is planning to hold a Bison Stampede in 2023.


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