She’s been building to it all year and Saturday marks the do-or-die moment for Bigfork senior runner Makena Morley.
Morley — along with her freshman sister Bryn and Kalispell Glacier freshman Annie Hil — will run in the national finals of the 36th annual Foot Locker Cross Country Championships this weekend in San Diego.
The national girls’ race begins at 10:15 a.m. Mountain with the boys to follow at 11 a.m. Both races are being held at Morley Field (serendipitous, no?) at Balboa Park.
Foot Locker nationals is a 5-kilometer cross country race featuring the 80 fastest high school boys and girls in the country. Runners had to first qualify in one of four regional races held last weekend.
Makena Morley qualified by winning her second West Regional in as many years at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California, this year’s top time coming in 17, minutes, 33.5 seconds.
Morley, a University of Montana recruit for track and cross country, was eighth at nationals last year, 23rd as a sophomore and ninth three years ago during her freshman try. She’s also a highly decorated prep runner with four State B cross country championships to her credit — along with the two quickest state times in Montana girls’ history.
Beind Morley, Hill was fourth at the regional race in 18:10.6 while Bryn Morley took sixth in 18:16.8. Both girls are making their first trips to nationals.
Makena Morley’s regional time is more than a minute slower than that of Ryen Frazier, the winner of the South Regional. The Raleigh, North Carolina, runner’s time of 16.27 is best by 20 seconds.
Also in the girls’ field Saturday is Anna Rohrer, the nation’s top-ranked runner and a national champion from 2012. She missed last year’s race with a broken bone in her left foot, but returns for a healthy senior try. The Mishawaka, Indiana, runner finished her Midwest Regional in 16:57 to win.
Her 2012 national title came in 17:25 two years ago.