The Twin Bridges girls cross country team had to wait until the last minutes of the Class C girls cross country meet in Missoula on Saturday to find out whether or not they would claim the title for a second year in a row. Holding hands and trying to hold back tears, the team and fans released shouts of joy as Belt was named the second place team during the trophy presentation.
Jessica George led the Falcons with her first-place finish and time of 19:02. That time was 45 seconds faster than her first-place run at state last year.
“People think you can just go and repeat, but it’s very difficult,” Twin Bridges’ coach Nancy Gesling said of the team’s and George’s success. “It isn’t a given. Everyone’s aiming for you.”
George was injured part way through the season. Gesling said she did not know what it would take to get George back on track but that George was determined to achieve individual and team success once again and pushed herself in practice and meets.
Gesling also credits Paige Phillips with being determined to make the repeat happen. Phillips and Julia Cox were vital to the team’s success. Phillips took 10th place with a time of 20:46 on Saturday. Cox was 25th with 22:27.
“Cox was phenomenal. She realized her position three or four weeks into the season and did her best to contribute,” Gessling said.
Cox had to pass a couple of runners about 500 meters before the finish line. Gesling said she knew that could make the difference between first place or second. Last minute shuffles like that make it hard to know where a team sits in the standings, Gesling said. She compared it to not being able to see the scoreboard in the middle of a championship basketball game. Coaches must help the team in areas they think will help them the most without knowing for sure if it’s enough.
Adding to the success and celebration of the day was the third-place finish of Twin Bridges’ Andrew George in the boys Class C race. The senior was also celebrating his birthday on Saturday.
“He came through tremendously and ran almost 45 seconds faster than his season best,” Gesling said of Andrew George’s 17:15 state race. He also placed third last year at state.
The Falcons finished in 12th place as a team.