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BILLING — Duncan Hamilton and Sydney Little Light, winners of the Montana Mile on Friday night in the Big Sky State Games opening ceremonies, both saw something special in their victories at Daylis Stadium.

For Hamilton, he was draped in the Montana State flag after his victory, as is the custom for all Mile winners. For Little Light, it was running for someone other than herself.

Hamilton won the men’s Montana Mile and set a record for the second consecutive year. The Montana State steeplechase enthusiast won in 4:04.83, edging Bobcats teammate Levi Taylor by nearly four seconds. Hamilton set the previous record last year with a time of 4:06.23.

Little Light, from Rocky Mountain College via Hardin, ran 5:00.43 to claim her first women’s title at the Montana Mile. She held off Sage Brooks of Missoula, who is racing for Syracuse, by just over a second.

Defending champion Becca Richtman warmed up before the race, but the Montana Tech runner opted out due to injury.

Refreshing win for Hamilton

Hamilton is coming off a spectacular season at MSU. The fifth-year senior finished second at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and fourth at the USATF National Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

He and Taylor, who had their own success this spring in the steeplechase of the NCAA and USATF Finals, quickly turned Friday’s mile into a two-man race.

At the start of the third lap, Taylor sprinted ahead of his elder. By the time the final corner came, Hamilton was slipping away as he raced to the finish line in record time.

“I knew Levi was going to be right with me,” Hamilton said. “You know, he took the lead with one lap to go…that was actually really helpful, you know, to keep the pace fast. And then (I) just work on knocking him down at the end.

The night’s festivities were not lost on Hamilton. Yes, he said, he was able to compete all over the country as a Bobcat. But, he added, it’s easy for his Montana and Bozeman roots to get lost in all of this.

Thus, Friday’s performance appreciation repeated.

“That’s why it’s so refreshing to come here,” he said, “to have a flag put around me at the end of a race. It’s just such a good feeling. I love it.”

Glendive’s Ase Ackerman, who races for Montana State Billings, completed the podium with a third-place finish in 4:17.61.

Neither gave ‘a thumb’

Like Hamilton, Little Light is always feeling the pinnacle of a stellar track season. The Hardin graduate wrapped up her junior year this spring by winning the national 1,500-meter title at the NAIA Outdoor Championships in late May.

But that wasn’t necessarily his flagship Friday. Little Light said her mother, Roberta Bird, was admitted to hospital on Thursday evening and had surgery for pancreatitis on Friday afternoon.

“I drove here from the hospital, and kind of been out all day,” said Little Light, who had his own state flag slung around his shoulders. “But she wanted me to race, so I did it for her.

“I definitely felt like crying every second because she’s usually there. She never misses a race, so I just missed her.

Little Light and Brooks were side by side for much of the race. As they completed the first corner on lap four, Brooks appeared to be trying to get ahead of Little Light. But Little Light held on.

There were small pushes between the two the rest of the race until Little Light retired on the home stretch.

“I love that neither of us gives an inch on the last bend,” Little Light said. “It was so much fun. I think one of my favorite races, definitely.

Billings Skyview County coach Mary Felig ran 5:12.17 to finish third.

Men’s results: Duncan Hamilton, representing Montana State, 4:04.83; Levi Taylor, MSU, 4:08.02; Ase Ackerman, MSU Billings, 4:17.61; Ellis McKean, Montana, 4:19.28; Owen Smith, USM, 4:19.84; Jorey Egeland, MSUB, 4:27.87; Jaxon Straus, Billings West, 4:29.59; Carson Jessop, MSUB, 4:29.70; Brandon Emineth, Red Lodge, 4:30.13; Carson Steckelberg, Bozeman Gallatin, 4:30.63; Ivan Colmenero, MSUB, 4:31.54; Sam Smith, MSU, 4:39.13.

Women results: Sydney Little Light, representing Rocky Mountain College, 5:00.43; Sage Brooks, Syracuse, 5:01.80; Mary Felig, MSUB, 5:12.17; Eireann Rhein, Montana Western, 5:12.78; Lindsey Paulson, MSU, 5:16.69; Kailee Stoppel, MSUB, 5:18.91; Hailey Nielson, Montana Tech, 5:24.27; Odessa Zentz, Northern Arizona, 5:25.65; Hayley Burns, Bozeman, 5:35.95.