BUTTE — On a smoky day following a practice for the Bob Cleverley 8-Man All-Star game, Cooper Gaustad is trying to remember all the sports he has been involved in.
Football since sixth grade, track since sophomore year, a bit of baseball in middle school and a season of basketball as a freshman. His twin brother, Tucker, is then asked the same question.
“Yeah,” said Tucker, who is older by about a minute. “The exact same.”
So excuse the pair if they are just a little excited to be headed to different colleges next season. Cooper’s headed to Montana State, while Tucker will be back to the Mining City to attend Montana Tech.
“We like to go our different ways sometimes,” Tucker said. “It’s nice to get away from each other, driving every day, with each other, yeah.”
When the Cleverley game finishes up on Saturday night (kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Alumni Coliseum), it will be the end of a long athletic journey together. The brothers were always great football players and helped the Spartans to three-straight state appearances, including a gargantuan upset on Joliet in the first round of the 2018 playoffs.
Playing mostly on the line, they were sometimes making catches on end-eligible plays and did tremendous things on the defensive side of the ball. And getting the chance to do all of that together? More than worth it.
“It’s been a lot of fun me and him, kinda working together,” Cooper said. “We always lifted together all summer and it’s just been a fun ride.”
Though they certainly never took it easy on each other.
“It’s fun, you know,” Tucker said. “In practice we have good competition against each other, we like to hit, we definitely like to hit each other.”
But they always picked each other up, which was something Tucker needed throughout his high school career. During his junior season, the elder twin tore his labrum in a playoff game versus Belt. His senior season saw him tear his meniscus with five minutes left in a playoff game against Great Falls Central.
The labrum tear was a bit scary, especially since he did not realize it was any sort of serious injury at first.
“It was like the second play and I went and hit the running back, tore my shoulder three-quarters of the way off,” Tucker said. “I thought it was just a stinger. I played the rest of the game.
“A month later I got an MRI and found out it was torn.”
Cooper was nearly always with Tucker in the weight room, trying to get him back to feeling like himself. Both injuries took time and more than a little mental strength for Tucker to heal from, but Cooper’s insistence to always be around helped.
There was another reason they wanted to get him back as soon as possible — track season. The twins competed in the shot put, discus and javelin throw. Tucker was especially proficient in the javelin and had the second-best mark in Class C entering the 2019 state track and field championships.
They had a good enough team to compete for a team state championship, something that had eluded the Gaustad’s senior class throughout high school.
While Tucker’s throws at the state meet in Laurel fell short of his expectations, the Spartans were able to win their first team track title since 1996, a very special moment for everyone involved.
“It was our last chance our class would ever be able to get a state title,” Cooper said. “And we did it.”
The brothers will have one last chance to grab some bragging rights in the Cleverley Game, as they will face off with a tough squad from the western half of the state. They are both excited for the opportunity and are confident they will stack up pretty well.
And after they will walk off the field together for the last time as athletes in a varsity sport. College will start not all that long after in different schools for the pair, but even then they might find a few similarities in their course work — they are both looking to become engineers.
Which makes sense, because after all, as different as they may be, there will always be some ways Cooper and Tucker are exactly the same.