MISSOULA, Mont. - The annual Mountain West Classic cross country meet in Missoula fields top runners from all over the Northwest, and this fall Bigfork High junior Makena Morley won the event for a third straight season finishing in 16:43.
"I'm just really proud of myself for doing that because you never knew who is going to come from Idaho or Washington," said Morley. "So you don't know if there's going to be somebody who can actually run with me this time, but I just go out there and try to run as fast as I can."
Not only did Morley cross the finish line 46 seconds before second place, she also finished almost 17 seconds than the previous meet record set by Flathead phenom Zoe Nelson back in 2002.
"I actually didn't think about it," says Morley. "I've noticed that whenever I think that I want to break this record then it usually doesn't happen. So I just wanted to see what I could do and I wanted to see how fast I could run and it ended up breaking the record so I was excited about that."
The only thing more impressive than the fact Morley is only a junior is the fact she has improved every season and she's becoming a more intelligent runner every race.
"Last year and the year before I'd go out too hard and so the last mile I would be dead, and so this year I've paced myself and gone out the first mile like it wasn't too hard, and so my last mile I was actually like. 'Oh, I can do this.'"
"Yes she is beating her people by a lot but it's not at the beginning anymore," explained Bigfork cross country head coach Sue Loeffler. "And that's something that has made her even a better racer than she was in the past."
Morley has never lost a cross country race in her entire high school career. She says following in the footsteps of the excellent Bigfork runners that came before her been a big help towards her individual achievements.
"It's awesome because I could always look up to them like now I have to go after Kayla or now I have to go after Brooke so I've always thought of them as my inspiration kind of and it's just been awesome having them," says Morley. "Sometimes it's hard if there's no one to follow in; I got to follow in their footsteps so it was awesome."
"We've had a lot of girl distance runners; we've just been blessed," reflected Loeffler. "And I don't know what it is, if it's the water or whatever but it's really neat because she's just a little bit more mature than some and has a little bit higher goals and she just trains all year round."
"My family runs so it's really easy to get out there and say hey let's run today, and my dad runs with me and my brother and my sister," says Morley. "It's easy to go out in the winter time even when it's cold and say hey let's go run, and it's fun too."
The only thing left for Morley this season is to win her 3rd straight Class B state title. And it would not come as a surprise if she sets a state record in the process.
"It would be awesome but to her personally I think whether she wins it is not as important as how she performs there, that's more important to her," said Loeffler.
"Of course I want that state record but I'm not going to think about the state record," said Morley. "I want to see what I can run and if it beats the state record that day, awesome. If it doesn't then it doesn't but I just want to run for me, see what I can run that day."