MISSOULA, Mont. - A busy and hugely successful season came to a close over the weekend for Bigfork junior Makena Morley.
On Saturday Morley competed at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships as one of top 40 high school girls runners in the nation. It was the third straight year she has competed in the top prep race of the year. Morley's previous best finish at nationals was 9th place. On Saturday Morley finished with a new personal best taking 8th place and finishing the 5k course with a time of 17:43.
"Nationals I was really excited because there's four regions and I won the West region, so I was like that's maybe top four at nationals," said Morley. "I wanted to go there and win but I didn't have the best race at nationals. I went in there to go win it but at least I'm happy that I did the best I could that day and I mean that's all you can really ask for."
Amazingly that was the only race this entire year that Morley did not win. The weekend before she ran at the Foot Locker Western Regional looking to place top-ten and advance to nationals. Morley didn't just finish in the top-ten, she won the regional race finishing 20 seconds better than second place.
During the Montana season Morley had an unprecedented Fall. At this year's Mountain West Classic back in September, she dominated her competition to a first place finish :46 seconds faster than second place. Morley also set a new meet record at the classic.
"For the Mountain West I was just like okay I 'm going to go out there and run and have fun and just see how fast I can run," said Morley. "I was pretty excited when I ran a 16:43, I was like oh my gosh that's my best ever."
Of course, she followed that up with a record breaking performance at the state meet in October. Morley finished first in class 'B' with a time of 16:35, Not only snagging her third straight state title, but also breaking the all-class meet record for the state of Montana.
For state I was like I know I can run a 16:43, I didn't ever think I would run a 16:35," said Morley. "I mean I knew I still had one more year to maybe get the state record, but to get it this year is awesome and hopefully I can break my own record next year."
Morley says she learned a lot at nationals and plans to compete again next year.
"It definitely brings out your best in you when you're racing because those are all the top girls," said Morley. "It just taught me a lot about racing so definitely I have a couple new race strategies I'm going to go through maybe for next year, and hopefully I can go out there and maybe win it next year."
Below is a list of the top-ten results from the girls race at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships.