Big strides for Lone Peak’s cross-country duo
Before joining the first-ever Lone Peak High School cross-country team this fall, freshman Nate McLain had never even really run long distance before—not even when taking part in mile runs during gym class.
“I mostly just walked them,” said McLain, who also competitively takes part in track and cross country skiing. “I just never found running interesting. And then recently, I was like, ‘I wonder if I’d be good at that?’ I’m pretty bad at everything else, so I decided to try it. And it’s been great.”
McLain and his only other teammate—Tracen O’Connor, a junior—competed in their second meet in Missoula on Sept. 29, and it was a big one—over 1,000 high school racers ran in the Mountain West Classic held at the University Golf Course.
“The guys did good, they improved their times, but it was entirely different running meet than what we did before, with more than 700 runners just in junior varsity,” said Coach Dave Brekke of the Missoula race. “So you easily get kind of booked in, there are so many people around you, you have a hard time passing and picking up your pace, just getting around, because everyone is so close. And they don’t just spread out.”
Despite the numbers, the Big Sky racers held their own on the Missoula course, which featured two significant, steep hills. It might have been challenging, but the race was beneficial since it’s the same spot where the state championship will be held later this month.
“We’ll concentrate more on hills leading up to that,” said Brekke.
The Big Horn long-distance runners’ next meet in Big Timber at the Crazy Mountain Run on Oct. 6 had a decidedly different feel. Only 30 or so other runners competed on the course, which had much milder hills to tackle.
“And they were spread out in those three miles, about eight minutes from the front to the back person, so that’s more like you’re running, but you’re still close enough to set your sights on runners to pass them, or listen to the person behind you, and pick your pace from there,” continued Brekke, adding, “They were really excited at the end of that race, because of that feeling of being able to catch up to someone. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
McLain echoed that sentiment, noting how in Missoula each racer’s number had a chip logging their time electronically, and every mile racers could check their times, which wasn’t necessarily helpful.
“Because you see it, see that you ran that distance in six minutes and 40 seconds, and think, ‘Well, that’s pretty fast,’ so you slow down a bit, and then you end up slowing down too much,” said McLain.
Big Timber, on the other hand, was more McLain’s style.
He said, “You run around a golf course. You get to the end, a spray painted finish line, unlike the big blow up arch like they had in Missoula, and you just rip off our name tag and put it on a piece of paper. That shows your place. And it was just a lot more peaceful.”
On Saturday, Oct. 13, the team will compete in Townsend, their last race before state.
“Every time we run at a race we improve our times and pick up our confidence,” said Brekke. “Because it’s hard to duplicate what they’ll experience at a race, at a practice.”