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Making a name for themselves

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POLSON — As a trio of Polson runners cruised past Mission cross country coach Patrick Murphy at the Polson Duels Saturday, he overhead them as they wondered who was the runner they were trying to chase down.

But if Paden Alexander has another week like he did last week, nobody will be wondering what his name is. Alexander won both the third annual Arlee Hatchery Cross Country Challenge Tuesday and the Polson Duels to become the first Bulldog champion in the team’s inaugural season and help the Bulldog harriers bring their first trophy home from a meet.

Alexander won the Arlee meet with a time of 17:14 to help the Bulldogs finish first and set a new school record in Polson, winning the obstacle course with a time of 17:05 and now has his sights on breaking into the 16-minute range. 

“Watching Paden was exciting. He got another PR. How many weeks in a row has he done that? Every week he just gets stronger and stronger,” Murphy said. “It’s really fun to see him progress every week.”

In Polson,  Alexander started quick out of the gate, getting an early lead on Pirates Travis Hayes, Alex Nystrom and Jimmy Bjorge and with each lap got stronger and stronger finishing 33 seconds ahead of Hayes. 

“I usually don’t start out that fast, but I knew it was going to be hard to pass,” a winded Alexander said. Even with the trio of Pirate runners chasing him, Alexander said he never tired. “I felt strong.”

“He held on, so he’s obviously feeling pretty strong,” Murphy said.

Ashley Courville also set a Mission record in Polson. Courville finished fourth with a time of 20:46. 

“She finally broke through the 21-minute barrier,” Murphy said. “I think it was a mental barrier.” 

Now that Courville has broke the barrier, Murphy is expecting her time to really drop in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, six of the seven Mission runners set personal records. Bryan Schock crossed the line in 17:46 to finish fourth, just three seconds out of the top three. 

Mauro Grosso came in ninth with a time of 19:05 to help the Bulldogs earn their first trophy.

“We brought home our first hardware. That got everybody pumped.” Murphy said.

Newcomer Jared Smith-Brown finished 13th with a time of 19:28 and Rune Grumsen came in right behind him with a time of 20:05.

Robyn Mitchell was the only Lady Bulldog at the meet. She finished in fourth with a personal-best time of 23:32.

In Polson, LaGlen Mitchell was able to finish inside the top 10 with a time of 23:24, a new personal best by about 45 seconds. Jane Makepeace finished 11th with a time of 24:52 and Mitchell came in 12th.

The Mission team will compete at the Loyola Invite Thursday in their final tuneup before the state tournament.

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