Ranger XC team making strides


By Thomas E. Watson
Enterprise Staff Writer


It was a busy week for the Park High Ranger cross country team, with meets in both Bozeman and Kalispell. 

In all, 14 runners competed for the Rangers at the Flathead Invite in Kalispell, with the Rangers’ middle school runners competing in Bozeman.

“It was a long three days for coach Bridget Kelly and I,” head coach Kirk Lentz said. “But we both feel it was worth it. It was a learning week for everybody. The high school got to run on the  course that will be the state meet this year, and all of them learned something about running cross country either before the race, during the race, or even afterwards on the bus ride home. As a coach, it is really exciting when athletes really want to get faster and be competitive. They figure out that cross country isn’t just going out and running as fast as you can; there is so much more to it.”

The Rangers had six girls run in Kalispell, and all six ran on the varsity level. Larissa Saarel led all Ranger runners with a time of 20:32.68, which was good enough for the 21st best time out of 137 total runners.

Following Saarel in the standings was Kendyl Pierson, who finished with a time of 22:27.75. Jerrica Martin turned in a time of 22:49.23, and Kaylie Palmer’s time of 23:07.78 was the 70th fastest time. Sylvie Schoenen had a time of 23:28.14, and Francesca Clemente had a time of 25:08.97.

“Larissa made a breakthrough in learning how to run the middle mile, and Kendyl learned how not to run the first mile,” Lentz said. “Sylvie and Kaylie continue to progress nicely, Francesca ran her first varsity race and found out it is not that scary, and Jerrica continues to impress us because she is a sprinter doing cross country for the first time. I think she has much more potential than we’ve seen.”

The Ranger boys had three runners compete on the junior varsity level — Shane Luther, Chriss Orr and Paulo Currie.

“Shane ran his first race ever and did very well considering some knee aches,” said Lentz. “Paulo and Chris continue to improve. The varsity boys of Sam, Jonathon, Conor, David and Victor all ran solid races, and they are all figuring out how to run as fast as their legs are capable. I forsee some significant improvements in all of them near the end of the season.”

Sam Saarel had the boys’ top time, finishing in 18:17.43, which put him 57th out of 138 runners. Jonathon Noble finished with a time of 19:03.70, and Conor Pierson had a time of 19:41.64.

David Durgan and Victor Howieson finished back-to-back in the standings with times of 20:50.03 and 20:52.53, respectively.

The middle school runners continued to impress Lentz and Kelly at their race in Bozeman, with a majority of the team improving on their times.

“I can’t really comment on any one runner,” Lentz said. “Sure, the results show (where people placed), but it doesn’t show how much all of them have improved in just the past two weeks. It really does make coach Kelly and I raise our eyebrows in excitement, not only about the rest of this season but for future years as well. I have to mention that we did figure out the team score for the girls teams, and we found that the girls middle school team placed second and were very competitive with Bozeman. Here we are just small little Sleeping Giant Middle School, and they are being competitive with the juggernaut that is the Bozeman running program — very exciting.”

On Saturday, the Rangers will not have to go far for their next meet — they’ll be running in Belgrade before a big trip to Missoula the following week.