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Mission harriers break new ground, records at canal run

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RONAN — "It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish," is an often-quoted sports cliché, but for once on Friday it was all about how things got started. 

At the Ronan Canal Bank Run, for the first time in at least recent school history if not the entire school’s history, Mission fielded a cross country team and the 11 Bulldog and Lady Bulldogs looked great out of the gate.

A sockless Ashley Courville was the second fastest lady runner on the three-mile course, which winded along the canal between Canyon Mill Road and Emory Road, finishing in 21:40 – 1:33 behind Hamilton’s Emily Schall. 

“It felt really good, except for the last mile. I forgot my socks today, so I had a big blister forming on my ankle, but other than that, I felt really good,” said Courville, who set a new school record and like all Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs at the race, had a personal best. “I’m pretty proud of that (second-place finish). I wasn’t expecting that, that’s for sure.”

Courville’s blister was about the only thing that went wrong for the Mission harriers and all of the runners exceeded Mission coach Patrick Murphy’s expectations at the school’s inaugural run. 

“It’s kind of hard to know what to expect, when you have a new program, a new coach, kids that maybe are new to running, but they all did great, better than I expected,” an excited Murphy said near the finish line minutes after the last runners had crossed. 

Probably the biggest surprise for Mission was Paden Alexander’s fourth-place finish. Battling fatigue the last mile, the sophomore crossed the line at 18:14, just 13 seconds behind the third-place finisher, Hamilton’s Collin Johns. Nobody was more surprised than Alexander.

After the race, the new Mission record holder explained that he was shocked at his high finish because he always came in last in track at middle school. Alexander can probably thank boredom for his turnaround. During the summer, when he was bored he would run four miles or bike to the top of Ravalli Hill.

The Lady Bulldogs finished third in the four-team meet, finishing with 54 points, just eight more than the second-place Frenchtown Broncs.

Jane Makepeace finished in ninth (24:28) and Rose Bear Don’t Walk came in right behind her with a time of 24:45. LaGlen Mitchell finished in 15th (25:38) and Robyn Mitchell finished 18th. 

“The teams really worked well together. You can tell, our girls were all right there. There wasn’t a lot of separation,” Murphy said.

The Bulldogs came in fourth at the meet, which was swept by Hamilton. Behind Alexander, Brian Schock was the Bulldogs’ top placer, finishing in eighth with a time of 18:44. M. Grosso finished just outside of the top 20 with a time 20:51. The other Bulldogs competing were Brandon Bontrager (27:09), Karl Daniels (27:40) and Xavier Streets (28:11).

After competing in Eureka Saturday, Mission will compete in the Mission Mountain Classic in Missoula. Murphy expects his team’s excitement for running only to grow after the Classic.

“That should really our runners thinking about not this year’s goals, but get excited about running in general. 

"That’s one that gets you to see what it is all about, it gives you a better perspective,” Murphy said.

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