2008 State “A” Champions

Check out all the stories below gathered from the regional newspapers.

Lady Pirates splash to State Title

By Trent Makela/Leader Staff

The Polson High School girls’ track team ran, jumped, threw and nearly swam their way to the Class A girls’ state title in Bozeman’s swampy Van Winkle Stadium last weekend.

The Lady Pirates were involved in a tight race for team points over the meet’s two days before pulling away from the two-time defending state champs from Belgrade 75-66.

The Polson girls trailed the Lady Panthers in the team scores 66-65 as late as 9 p.m. on Saturday’s final night of competition. That is when the girls’ last event, pole vaulting, finally began away from the rain at Montana State University’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

The girls’ warm-ups were delayed an additional 15 minutes as the Polson vaulters attempted to recover their uniforms, shoes and meet-required identification numbers from a locked changing room before the competition.

Eventually, sophomore Nicole Davey posted her best height of the year at an even 10 feet to secure second place and seal the team title. Her classmate, Tara Johnson, tacked on some insurance points and tied for fifth place with her personal best height of nine feet and six inches.

“We were one point away from a championship and running around getting uniforms. You’d think [Davey and Johnson] would get nervous and I tell you they weren’t,” Polson head coach Bob Gunderson said. “They were a lot calmer than I was. I’ve never seen Davey pole vault that well and Johnson too.”

The event continued until 11 p.m. and the team was forced to stay an extra night in Bozeman.

Most of the team points for Davey and the rest of the Lady Pirates, though, were scored far, far away from the climate-controlled comfort of a college arena.

No new state records were set over the weekend as the athletes endured a steady sprinkle of rain Friday before battling a heavy downpour Saturday that came with bursts of wind and hail.

“That was absolutely the worst weather I’ve seen at a state track meet in the 32 years that I’ve been in Polson,” Gunderson said. “Absolutely it affected the athletes. The track drained pretty well, but it pooled in spots and there was a river of water on the finish line.”

The 1,600-meter relay team, Polson’s most consistent scorers this season, powered through the weather to take the state title in 4:04.73, finishing nearly three seconds ahead of second-place Hamilton. The Lady Pirates never trailed in the race and finished with their second-fastest time this season.

The team consisted of Davey, Breanne Kelley, Merilee Mowbray and Christa Redcrow. Redcrow was a late addition to the lineup after Sierra Pete’s hamstring tightened up midway through her 800-meter run.

Redcrow was fighting through an injury herself, having torn a tendon in her toe at the Lake County meet.

“She said she could make it and I said she had better be telling me the truth,” Gunderson said. “She hadn’t practiced real hard in four weeks. I could tell it hurt, but she ran a great leg for us.”

Davey, Kelley and Mowbray returned with Pete to take second in the 400-meter relay, finishing just twelve-hundredths of a second behind the Belgrade team.

Polson’s only individual title came from Davey in the 300-meter hurdles. The race was dead even between the Lady Pirate and Belgrade’s defending state champion, Kirsten Haas, as they crossed the race’s final two hurdles. Davey sprinted away across the finish line, though, finishing with a personal record time of 45.18 for the win. Breanne Kelley finished fourth in the race.

“I figured if we did really really, really well we had 68 points and we got 75. We were outstanding,” Gunderson said. “The weather didn’t seem to bother them at all. They took the sweats off, got drenched and went to work.”

Davey, a sophomore, added a second place in the 400-meters, falling by just a half second to Corvallis’ Whitney Henderson. She finished with five top-two performances, including her results in both relays, the pole vault and the long hurdles.

Bree Kelley, a fellow sophomore, was “tough as nails,” according to Gunderson. She also placed in five different events for the Lady Pirates. She added a third in the 100 hurdles, fifth in the 200 and sixth in the 400 to her long hurdles and long relay scores.

Redcrow added to her long relay title and overcame her aching toe taking third in the long jump with a leap of 15 feet and eight inches.

Loni Havlovick exceeded her personal best by a full foot with a throw of 35 feet and seven inches to place fourth in the shot put after placing fifth in divisionals. She also took fourth in the discus. Teammate Natasha Lafferty finished right behind her for fifth in the shot put for Polson.

The state title is the third for the Lady Pirates. Bruce Thomas led them to their first in 2003 and second in 2004.

“They all just stepped up. Most of the boys’ times were a lot slower,” Gunderson said. “Some of our girls’ times were faster – that shows you how much they competed.”

The Lady Pirates will lose just one senior, Merilee Mowbray, who was fighting through tightness in her hamstrings and back over the weekend.

“We could have scored 100 points if we had Merilee back and everyone else healthy, too,” Gunderson said.

The rest of the Polson team, including all of this year’s points scorers, will return for next season. Most will also return for the season after next.

“You never know from one year to the next, but we could win it next year, too,” Gunderson said. “We should just be better next year if we can get all the girls healthy. I’m looking forward to next season with these kids.”

Class A state track meet


Girls’ team scores: Polson 75, Belgrade 66, Corvallis 43, Miles City 34, Billings Central 33, Livingston 30, Lewistown 28, Laurel 27, Frenchtown 26, Whitefish 24, Glendive 23, Hamilton 23, Bigfork 20, Sidney 20, Hardin 18, Stevensville 14, Dillon 9, Columbia Falls 7, Libby 6, Ronan-St. Ignatius 1.

200 – 5. Breanne Kelley, Polson, 26.67.

100 hurdles – 3. Breanne Kelley, Polson, 15.89.

300 hurdles – 1. Nicole Davey, Polson, 45.18; 2. Haas, Belgrade, 45.49; 4. Breanne Kelley, Polson, 47.42.

400 relay – 1. Belgrade, 50.49; 2. Polson, 50.61.

1,600 relay – 1. Polson, 4:04.73.

Discus – 4. Loni Havlovick, Polson, 112-11 1/2.

Pole vault – 2, Nicole Davey, Pol, 10-0fi; 5, Tara Johnson, Pol, 9-6.

400 – 1, Henderson, Corvallis, 58.34; 2, Nicole Davey, Polson, 58.88; 6, Breanne Kelley, Polson, 61.03.

Shot put – 4, Loni Havlovick, Polson, 35-7 1/2; 5, Natasha Lafferty, Polson, 34-2.

Long jump – 3, Christa Redcrow, Polson, 15-8 1/2.

Corvallis boys, Polson girls in hunt for titles
By FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian

Rain is more than likely and they’re going to miss those big points in the shot put, yet the weekend forecast isn’t all that gloomy for the Corvallis Blue Devils track and field squad.

The Blue Devils are among a handful of teams who’ll battle for the boys’ crown this weekend at Van Winkle Stadium, which sits just north of Bozeman High School.

Corvallis coach Spencer Huls takes in a club that has star thrower Dalton Sybrant in one event instead of two, but adds in some excellent relays and talent in the hurdles and 400. Whether that will be enough to catch or hold off Whitefish, Laurel and Lewistown is the question.

“We’ve got some things going for us, obviously,” said Huls. “I’m hoping. We’re just going to have to see. Friday’s going to be big for us. We’ve got the 300 hurdles and the 400. That’s going to tell us a lot.”

Friday’s also going to be rainy, if a 70 percent chance of precipitation means anything. Field events begin at 10:30 a.m. and the timed events start with the short relay trials at 10:40, under presumably grey skies.

“We’re packing our snow gear right now,” said Polson coach Bob Gunderson, who has another state favorite in his Pirate girls. “I’m so sick of state meets being crappy in terms of weather. I keep checking the reports every hour, hoping it’s going to change.”

The Pirates seem to adapt. They started the year with senior Merilee Mowbray and freshman Sierra Pete as two of their better runners, then lost both to injuries. They’re both back – Pete ran the 400 in 60 seconds flat at last week’s divisionals – but now hurdler Christa Redcrow has a hurt toe.

“We got a release on Wednesday before divisionals for Christa,” Gunderson noted. “If the kids do well, we should be all right. These are young kids. You hope they do their best and they’ll all try their hardest, but you never know.”

Polson has its vaunted long relay and hurdlers Nicole Davey and Breanne Kelley, but has to contend with two-time defending state champion Belgrade, plus Whitefish and Hamilton.

Belgrade has a pair of returning champs in Kristen Haas (300 hurdles) and Brittany Harvey (shot put), though each has yet to meet their 2007 marks. Haas clocked 44.65 seconds a year ago, and 47.22 last Saturday.

Whitefish coach Derek Schulz has qualifiers in 15 of 17 events, including the tandem of hurdler-javelin thrower Ashley Ferda and distance queen Lauren Kuennen.

The Bulldogs seem to be 100 percent, though Kuennen suffered a cramp at the end of a long divisional meet, and collapsed with a lap and a half to go in her 3,200. Her teammates rallied around her and Kuennen led a group of five Whitefish runners across in 12:20.98 (though Bigfork’s Kayla Carlson won the event).

“Basically by the end she was up to race pace,” said Schulz. “It was real hot – by far the hottest temperature we’ve competed in. And she’s been fine ever since. I expect her to be back at full strength.”

If Kuennen surges to the front of a 3,200 pack that includes Livingston’s Heather Haug – and brings some Bulldogs with her – Whitefish could be a force. She’ll have two races each day, since she’s also running the 400, 800 and 1,600.

Meanwhile, the weather is turning back to cold, though not as cold as Butte was two years ago.

“We practice basically in everything,” said Schulz. “This year we’ve competed in basically everything. We stress that we want to be capable of competing no matter the conditions.”

Events to watch

Boys’ 800, 12:15 p.m., Friday: The race is packed with do-everything runners – Drew Coco of Whitefish, state leader Logan Torgison of Polson, defending 1,600-3,200 champ Patrick Casey of Laurel, Ben Jessop of Hamilton and Lewistown’s Logan Mossey. The first four run the 3,200 later Friday.

Girls’ 300 hurdles,

11:15 a.m., Saturday: Polson could score big with Class A leader Nicole Davey and Breanne Kelley, but defending champ Kristen Haas of Belgrade – who clocked 44.85 seconds a year ago – will have some input.

Boys’ 1,600 relay, 3:20 p.m., Saturday: Corvallis has the fastest time in the state, and the Blue Devils may need it to nail down their second state title and first since 1977.

Friday, May 23

Idol puts Bulldogs in chase

By FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian

BOZEMAN – The wind blowing through Van Winkle Stadium may have kept times down Friday, but there were some high fliers.

On the girls’ side, two-time defending champion Belgrade had 22 points after six events to 21 for Polson and 20 for Frenchtown.

A  jumper who had little trouble with the wind was Frenchtown’s Tasha Huset, who cleared 5-3 to win the girls’ high jump. Just a sophomore, it took her three tries at the winning height. At roughly the same time, her teammate Chelsea Bagnell threw a career-best 37-6 to take the shot put.

There were excellent times on the track, too. Corvallis junior Whitney Henderson zipped to a 400 state title in 58.34 seconds, not far off her season best.

“I was really nervous until I got in the blocks,” said Henderson, second in this race a year ago. “Then I was, ‘OK, you can do this.’ ”

She did, surging through the wind to edge Polson sophomore Nicole Davey, who came in at 58.88.

“It was really nice with the wind carrying you (on the back stretch),” Henderson said. “Then when you got around the corner and hit it, it was like the worst wall I’ve ever hit in my life.”

The Polson and Whitefish girls put themselves in position for Saturday. The Bulldogs scored a win from Ashley Ferda in the javelin. Ferda divided her time between that and the trials for the 100 hurdles and open 100. The Lady Griz basketball signee then uncorked a throw of 125-3 on her last attempt to edge Belgrade’s Nycole Devers (124-11).

Whitefish’s Lauren Kuennen added a third place in the 1,600, which Livingston’s Heather Haug won.

Girls Friday Results

Team scores (after six finals): Belgrade 22, Polson 21, Frenchtown 20, Miles City 18, Lewistown 18, Whitefish 16, Hardin 14, Corvallis 10, Livingston 10, Billings Central 6, Laurel 6, Columbia Falls 5, Glendive 5, Dillon 5, Bigfork 4, Libby 4, Sidney 2, Ronan/St. Ignatius 1.

400 – 1, Whitney Henderson, Corvallis, 58.34; 2, Nicole Davey, Polson, 58.88; 3, Justine Simons, Laurel, 60.00; 4, Mariah Litton, Billings Central, 60.09; 5, Gio Raffatto, Sidney, 60.19; 6, Breanne Kelley, Polson, 61.03.

1,600 – 1, Heather Haug, Livingston, 5:16.80; 2, Brook Rodgers, Lewistown, 5;19.16; 3, Lauren Kuennen, Whitefish, 5:21.00; 4, Kayla Carlson, Bigfork, 5:21.87; 5, MacKenzie Maki, Miles City; 6, Nocona Frame, Glendive, 5:40.24.

Shot put – 1, Chelsea Bagnell, Frenchtown, 37-6; 2, Jami Kittelmann, Miles City, 36-10; 3, Brittney Harvey, Belgrade, 36-7; 4, Loni Havlovick, Polson, 35-7fi; 5, Natasha Lafferty, Polson, 34-2fi; 6, Ellie Fjeseth, Dillon, 32-10fi.

Javelin – 1, Ashley Ferda, Whitefish, 125-3; 2, Nycole Devers, Belgrade, 124-11; 3, Josie Sweeney, Lewistown, 124-2; 4, Stephany Kluver, Libby, 119-3; 5, Abbi Hoerning, Dillon, 118-0; 6, Maggie Warren, Dillon, 115-11.

High jump – 1, Tasha Huset, Frenchtown, 5-3; 2, Jamie Greany, Belgrade, 5-2; 3, (tie) Emily Stoltz, Columbia Falls, and Lillian Temple, Glendive, and Charis Hugs, Hardin, 5-0; 6, Sadie McMillan, Ronan/St. Ignatius, 5-0.

Long jump – 1, Charis Hugs, Hardin, 16-0fi; 2, Jennifer Hartman, Miles City, 15-10/; 3, Christa Redcrow, Polson, 15-8; 4, Kenzie Allen, Lewistown, 15-6fi; 5, Maggie Powell, Billings Central, 15-4; 6, Jylisa Fields, Columbia Falls, 15-3fi.

Saturday, May 24

Polson girls,Whitefish boys victorious

By FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian

BOZEMAN – The difference between Corvallis getting its second-ever boys’ track title and Whitefish earning its sixth State A crown in a dozen years was one little miss.

Kaleb Prestegaard was the last hero for Whitefish, placing second in the pole vault – on criteria – and helping the Bulldogs to 59 points and the state crown. He and Corvallis vaulter Austin Byron both cleared 13 feet, 6 inches, but Prestegaard had the edge because he’d missed just once to that point while Byron missed twice.

Which is about as close as you can get.

“That’s about as pressure-packed as it can get, really,” said Whitefish coach Derek Schulz, whose club edged Corvallis by three points. “I’ve seen a lot of mile relays come down to it, but that’s relay team against relay team. This was kind of one kid versus one kid.”

It was made necessary by the monsoon-like conditions at Van Winkle Stadium on Saturday. Wind moved the Class B pole vault up to Brick Breeden Field House on the Montana State campus Friday; driving rain caused the vault to be the last event of the State A meet Saturday.

The girls’ team race was decided the same way: Polson sewed up its third girls’ crown, all since 2003, by making sure Belgrade’s Jackie Dringle didn’t score too high in the pole vault. When sophomore Nicole Davey matched her career best by clearing 10 feet, the title was Polson’s.

For good measure Tara Johnson finished fifth in the vault, which ended at 10:47 p.m. The Pirates finished with 75 points, Belgrade with 66. Corvallis, getting a sprint sweep from Whitney Henderson, took third with 43 points.

It was a nice, warm finish to a rough weekend, gut-checks included.

“There was some pressure on those young men out there, that’s for sure,” Schulz said. “He (Byron) had some great attempts. He was into it. He vaulted very well.”

No records were set at the meet, though it had its share of standout performances. Patrick Casey helped the Laurel boys to the third-place trophy with his third win of the meet, taking the 1,600. Libby’s Seth Wright marked 43-7/ in the triple jump, a personal best, but lost by three inches to Bigfork’s Roland Benedict.

“We were talking the whole time that we wanted to go 1-2, either one of us,” said Benedict. “And we got it.”

Benedict marked 43-10 on his first jump, and tweaked his back in the process. He banged up a knee on his third jump, but the mark held up. Blame it on the rain.

“We fought through it,” said Benedict. “It was fun.”

The girls’ competition was highlighted by Henderson, who won the 100 in 12.66 seconds and the 200 in 25.61.

“I was pretty surprised for the 100,” said the junior, who took the 400 Friday. “The 200 was more of a hope – that was one of my goals.”

Merilee Mowbray battles the elements anchoring the Lady Pirates to a State 4x400m title.

The goal for Polson’s girls was a state crown. To get it the Pirates had to overcome injury (Sierra Pete injured a hamstring in the 800; Christa Redcrow scored points in the long jump and long relay despite an injured foot) and the weather. Davey provided a couple huge lifts, including a win over defending champ Kirsten Haas in the 300 hurdles.

“We’re so proud of her,” said Merilee Mowbray, the lone senior on the team. “All the younger girls really stepped up. But personally I’m really proud of our relay team.”

The Pirates won that race in 4:04.73, not far off their season best.

Haas won the 100 hurdles for Belgrade, which was trying for a third straight state title. The Panthers also took the short relay.

Livingston’s Heather Haug completed a distance triple with wins in the 800 and 3,200 on Saturday.

That the Blue Devil boys were in range of their first title since 1977 in Class B was a minor miracle. They scored just four points Friday. Then sophomore Slater Powell won the 110-meter hurdles Saturday, and Dalton Sybrant came through with a win in the discus, and Corvallis won the short relay before finishing second in the 1,600 relay.

The Blue Devils’ approach was simple.

“Just do our best and see what we can get out of it,” said Powell, who won the high hurdles in 14.83 seconds. “Then come back next year.”

Next year was now for Whitefish, which didn’t win an event Saturday (Hardin’s Jake Bowman soared 14-9 to win the pole vault). Drew Coco gave it a shot, staying on Casey’s shoulder in the 1,600. But the Laurel star withstood every charge to claim his third victory of the meet.

“I was thinking if I had it, I might be able to get him,” said Coco, a junior. “I just wanted to be in striking range the last lap. But he’s such a great sprinter.”

The Bulldogs couldn’t argue with the results.

“This is a good team,” said Schulz. “We had great event balance. We were everywhere, so we had a lot of opportunities to score points. We had a lot of kids contribute. It is a different type of team than some of the other ones that we’ve had.”

Saturday, May 24

GIRLS Final Team Scores

Team scores: Polson 75, Belgrade 66, Corvallis 43, Miles City 34, Billings Central 33, Livingston 30, Lewistown 28, Laurel 27, Frenchtown 26, Whitefish 24, Glendive 23, Hamilton 23, Bigfork 20, Sidney 20, Hardin 18, Stevensville 14, Dillon 9, Columbia Falls 7, Libby 6, Ronan-St. Ignatius 1.

100 – 1. Whitney Henderson, Corvallis, 12.66; 2. Justine Simons, Laurel, 12.75; 3. Mariah Litton, Billings Central, 12.87; 4. Mallery Knoll, Bigfork, 13.13; 5. Emily Pilcher, Dillon, 13.18; 6. Jackie Dringle, Belgrade, 13.19.

200 – 1. Whitney Henderson, Corvallis, 25.61; 2. Justine Simons, Laurel, 25.84; 3. Mariah Litton, Billings Central, 26.27; 4. Ashley Skillestad, Glendive, 26.63; 5. Breanne Kelley, Polson, 26.67; 6. Jackie Dringle, Belgrade, 26.81.

800 – 1. Heather Haug, Livingston, 2:19.30; 2. Misha Trotter, Hamilton, 2:20.38; 3. Lauren Kuennen, Whitefish, 2:22.40; 4. Mackenzie Maki, Miles City, 2:23.08; 5. Jackie Elliott, Billings Central, 2:24.32; 6. Leann Quinlan, Lewistown, 2:24.99.

3,200 – 1. Heather Haug, Livingston, 11:44.55; 2. Brook Rodgers, Lewistown, 11:45.25; 3. Kayla Carlson, Bigfork, 11:54.68; 4. Nocona Frame, Glendive, 11:58.56; 5. Mackenzie Maki, Miles City, 12:06.95; 6. Franki Romano, Hamilton, 12:16.84.

100 hurdles – 1. Kirsten Haas, Belgrade, 15.49; 2. Paige Squire, Corvallis, 15.72; 3. Breanne Kelley, Polson, 15.89; 4. Ashley Cooper, Laurel, 16.24; 5. Emily Stoltz, Columbia Falls, 16.30; 6. Ashley Ferda, Whitefish, 16.45.

300 hurdles – 1. Nicole Davey, Polson, 45.18; 2. Kirsten Haas, Belgrade, 45.49; 3. Mallery Knoll, Bigfork, 47.03; 4. Breanne Kelley, Polson, 47.42; 5. Michelle Jones, Hamilton, 47.46; 6. Mariah Litton, Billings Central, 47.69.

400 relay – 1. Belgrade, 50.49; 2. Polson, 50.61; 3. Billings Central, 50.69; 4. Hamilton, 50.88; 5. Dillon, 51.15; 6. Laurel, 51.21.

1,600 relay – 1. Polson, 4:04.73; 2. Hamilton, 4:07.57; 3. Belgrade, 4:12.29; 4. Billings Central, 4:12.33; 5. Sidney, 4:14.41; 6. Corvallis, 4:15.61.

Discus – 1. Jami Kittelmann, Miles City, 120-11; 2. Brittney Harvey, Belgrade, 117-10; 3. Jennifer Brown, Frenchtown, 115-5; 4. Loni Havlovick, Polson, 112-11; 5. Kelsie Ray, Billings Central, 101-5; 6. Abbi Hoerning, Dillon, 99-10.

Triple jump – 1. Lillian Temple, Glendive, 33-11.25; 2. Brekka Johnson, Stevensville, 33-3; 3. Jessi Brunett, Stevensville, 32-5.5; 4. Charis Hugs, Hardin, 32-4; 5. Shantell McLinden, Libby, 32-2; 6. Heather Melcer, Whitefish, 32-1.5.

Pole vault – 1, Mykayla Fink, Sid, 10-6; 2, Nicole Davey, Pol, 10-0; 3, Vanessa Bawden, Sid, 10-0; 4, Melissa Cousins, Cor, 9-6; 5, Tara Johnson, Pol, 9-6; Caitlin Fox, Lew, 9-6.

Monday, May 26

State meets survive bad conditions
By FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian

Polson coach Bob Gunderson wondered aloud whether the State A track and field championships would resemble one from 1981, when teams couldn’t even get to the state meet because roads were under water.

My personal high-water mark was two years ago in Butte, when everybody was soaked through their four layers of clothing, exhaling three-foot breath plumes and wondering how it wasn’t snowing.

So after a weekend of Biblical rains I can tell Gunderson and myself: Whew, that was close.

The show went on, of course, at Bozeman’s Van Winkle Stadium and all over the state. If it rains, it pours, and if it pours, you run.

The guys and gals who had it worst were the placers – the athletes who finished in the top six in their events. They followed the unwritten but oft-spoken rule of stripping down to their uniforms to take the awards stand and wait for the announcement, plus their cards, then their pictures.

Tick, tick, tick. It wasn’t policy to make the placers wait for a race to be completed when the rain was particularly hard. It just seemed that way.

The best part was how certain teams handled it. Like the Polson girls, who sport just one senior – Merilee Mowbray – on a team that won the program’s third state crown.

Freshman Breanne Kelley was all over, getting points in both hurdles, the 200 and 400. Sophomores Loni Havlovick and Natasha Lafferty finished fifth and sixth in the shot put, garnering six points for the squad. The relays, on which Mowbray ran, were second in the short and first in four-by-400.

“I was just happy about that, with the weather,” said Mowbray. “We’re kind of used to the rain, though. Our practices have been in pretty crappy conditions.”

This was before sophomore Nicole Davey added a second in the pole vault to her second in the 400 and 300-meter hurdles title. When the running events were done – before another wave of hail battered a Manhattan boys’ team celebrating its first State B crown – the Pirates still had work to do.

The pole vault had been moved up to Brick Breeden Field House. Polson needed two points to overtake Belgrade.

“That’ll be exciting,” Mowbray said brightly. “I’ll be inside and not so dirty.”

Davey’s performance in the field house was gravy: The Pirates got the two points they needed from sophomore Tara Johnson, who finished fifth in the pole vault.

Blasts from the Past

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