BOZEMAN — As far as Riley Schott is concerned, it doesn’t matter who is on top so long as it’s one of his teammates.
Schott is last year’s Class C champion and finished nearly a full minute behind Ben Morrison Saturday at the Belgrade Invitational at Gallatin County Regional Park. But the junior had nothing but adulation for his teammate.
“Right now Ben’s way ahead of me, so I’m not worried about winning again. Ben’s put in a lot of work for us, so if he takes it good for him. I’d be really happy to see him do that,” said Schott. “It’s his senior year and he’s been out here working on it longer than I have. I’m just happy with whoever — as long as we get a guy on top.”
Morrison followed up a victory at the season-opening meet in Livingston a week ago with a runner up finish. The senior recorded a time of 16:15.24, which broke the school record of 16:42 he had set in Livingston.
Morrison credited Billings Senior’s Owen Smith, who won the meet in 16:09.57, for pushing the pace, and savored the opportunity to compete amongst AA competition.
“It’s a great privilege and opportunity for us to be able to run with these big dogs,” Morrison said.
Led by Morrison and Schott, who placed 13th in 17:09.72, the Eagles placed third in the team standings with 88 points. Billings West won the title with 60 points, while Helena High was second with 75.
Christian, the three-time defending State C champion, boasted five runners in the top 35 with Matt Kenney, Devan Walhof and Nathan Adams placing 24th, 28th and 32nd, respectively.
“It’s just like last year. We have a really good bond, a team bond,” said Schott. “We have a lot of depth and we just have a lot of good runners this year. After last year a lot of people decided to come out and try it and they’re all liking it so far.”
Belgrade placed 10th with 242 points, while Manhattan was 12th (315) and Three Forks 14th (431).
Sam Nash placed 17th in 17:27.76 to lead Belgrade, and coach Rachel White also noted the effort of Cooper McCormack (21st, 17:39.27) and first-year runner Luke Durand.
“He’s brand new to cross country and I’m super proud of him,” she said. “He’s a go for it kind of kid and he’s going for it in the races. So to see somebody brand new do that is super fun to watch them feel successful.”
Manhattan’s top runner was Wyatt Barney, who was 47th in 18:31.74, while Three Forks was led by Beau Johnston (92nd, 20:51.73).
For the girls, Helena boasted five runners in the top 10 en route to winning the title with 37 points. The Bengals’ Kylie Harnett won the meet with a time of 18:30.86.
Hallie Hemenway and Jodi Cameron were the top local runners, placing 19th (21:25.28) and 21st (21:28.56), respectively, to lead Manhattan. The Tigers were seventh with 173 points.
Belgrade’s top harrier was Kyra Giese, who placed 51st in 22:52.00. She led the Panthers to a 14th place finish with 273 points.
While the course featured a hefty hill and a creek crossing, White noted that Saturday’s cooler temperature was a relief for her team following tempo workouts in the heat leading up to race day.
“They all powered up that hill and really just went for it across the creek and didn’t let it phase them,” said White. “I’m going to be curious to look at their official times, but I know a lot of them are faster today.”
Lyndy Powers (58th, 23:19.94) was Belgrade’s No. 2 runner, while Madison McLaughlin followed in 23:54.69 to place 65th.
Manhattan Christian and Three Forks did not field full teams. Christian was led by Ava Bellach, who placed 68th in 24:00.56, while Lily Jones was the top runner for the Wolves with a time of 24:20.87 to place 73rd.