By Carly Hammond
For the PCN 

Penguins Run at the Fergus Invitational


September 20, 2023

Lady Penguins Shelbi LaBrie (left) and Ava Hanley (right) stand by Austin Hanley (middle) who runs for the Miles City Cowboys at the Fergus Meet. Photo by Carly Hammond.

The Whitewater Cross Country team competed in the Fergus Invitational held on Friday, September 15, at Pine Meadows Golf Course in Lewistown.

This is a course that we have never been to before. I had heard it has some challenging hills and a good course to hit. This was an understatement. Besides being beautiful, the course had nothing but hills, steep and rolling. The athletes zig-zag through the entire golf course, winding into the trees and next to a hidden pond. It's kind of set up on the edge of the hills that are next to Lewistown. On top of the challenging course, we are almost 2,000 feet higher than what we are used to running.

I wasn't too worried about the hills. We train every week for courses that have hills. I was more nervous about the elevation change. For some athletes it doesn't bother them at all, others will struggle with the change. Our race wasn't until 12:15 so we had plenty of time to explore the course, get warmed up, and watch the races that were before ours. Austin Hanley is actually running for Miles City this year so it was fun to get to watch him compete and do such a great job for his first year in the sport.

The girls were anxious to get going, temperatures had hit about 75 degrees by the time it was our turn. The girls headed off on their first mile, much of which we can't see since they ran out into the tree-filled golf course. They swing back around at mile one, right next to the starting line. Shelbi LaBrie came in at about 6.15, which was a little fast for what we planned for but she looked okay and was right with the front pack. Little did I know she had the onset of a terrible side stitch that would haunt her in mile two. Ava Hanley came by at about 8.35, so I told her to pick it up a bit as we had planned on an 8.30 and I knew the hills would be unforgiving through the rest of the race. I ran out to the center of the course where mile two was. Shelbi came around the corner and I could immediately tell she was in a world of pain. I almost started feeling her side ache myself. She slowly tried to run, trying to work through it. Sometimes they go away and sometimes they are unrelenting. By the last mile, she was kind of getting along a little bit faster. I was just glad to see her run through it. She's struggled with her diaphragm in the past and hasn't had any issues this year. But, when you go to different elevations, that's not something we can train for. You just have to learn how to get through the race. Shelbi ended with a time of 24.04 in 39th place. Ava came around on mile two a little behind pace but not too bad. She was holding pretty strong. Her last mile was a stretch but she kicked hard with the last 100 meters left and ended with a time of 27.43 in 71st place. There were 84 runners at this meet.

It wasn't the girls' favorite day but not every run is going to be good and not everything is going to go right. We've got to have some of those tough races in order to do well at state.

The next two courses aren't much better. We've got Frazer this coming Thursday and Great Falls the next week. Both are just as challenging.

I think we're going to try a couple of new workouts this week to see if we can work our lungs even harder than we have been. We're ready for a new week!

Props to all of the athletes who made it through that course, a tough bunch of kids! Good luck to everyone in the upcoming week.


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