BILLINGS — About this time last spring, Jesse Dimich-Louvet was chasing down tennis balls, smashing them back across the net as he honed his game for the Class AA state singles title he would eventually win.
Earlier this week, though, the Billings Senior junior was trying to chase down Broncs teammates Finn Bentler and Owen Smith in the 1,600-meter run during a track and field meet at Daylis Stadium. Dimich-Louvet shaved two seconds off his previous time, but still finished third in what was just his second career race in the 1,600.
Yep, the state tennis champ is now a full-time trackster.
“It’s been a long few months having to make the switch, the adjustment,” Dimich-Louvet said Tuesday after running 4:45.94 in the 1,600 and before he finished second in the 3,200 behind Smith. “It was one of the hardest decisions in my life.”
To hear Dimich-Louvet explain it, the decision almost seemed made for him.
After five years in France, Dimich-Louvet returned to Billings prior to his sophomore year of high school, intent on playing tennis for the Broncs alongside best friend Jay Montague. Dimich-Louvet won the singles title and helped the Broncs to the team title as well, their first since 2005.
Five months later, Dimich-Louvet crossed the finish line in eighth place at the state cross country meet. It was the reaction to those two results — in tennis and cross country — or maybe the lack of reaction in one of them that prompted Dimich-Louvet to weigh his options.
His eighth-place cross country finish brought him multiple inquiries from college coaches in California and from the East coast. And the number of letters Dimich-Louvet received from college tennis coaches after winning his tennis title? Love.
“So that was kind of interesting,” Dimich-Louvet said before providing a bit of perspective, something he seems to have plenty of despite his youth.
“If you run a 4:30 mile, it doesn’t matter if you run it in Billings, Montana, or if you run it in New York City, the times don’t lie,” he continued. “Tennis, there’s a lot of discrepancy. Like, the level is only as good as where you are and the level of tennis in Montana isn’t at the point where running is. You can win the state championship, but if you’re not making at least the semifinals, the quarters of the Las Vegas Invitational or some of those bigger Intermountain tournaments (sanctioned by the United States Tennis Association), colleges won’t really look at you.”
Dimich-Louvet did try the Intermountain circuit for a bit, and, in his words, “kind of got my butt kicked.” So running it is.
Dimich-Louvet feels he’s more naturally suited to be on the track or cross country course than the tennis court. He said he thought about participating in both track and tennis this spring, but in the end felt the injury risk was too high.
“Right now there’s a tennis match (going on) as we speak,” Dimich-Louvet said, nodding toward Pioneer Park where the Broncs were taking on Billings Central. “I’d love to clone myself. I mean, I could have done it, but it would have been very hard on my body. And both sports deserve a big commitment.
“I’ve always loved to shoot for the stars, strive for greatness. I’m definitely taking baby steps … try to qualify for state and then hopefully place at state and then who knows, maybe a state title in another sport.”
The coaching openings seemed to come at a landslide pace this winter and spring, but Mark Wahl, the director of athletics and activities for School District 2, can see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Wahl said Friday that the vacancies for Senior girls soccer and Skyview boys soccer could be announced as soon as next week, still leaving openings for Senior volleyball and girls basketball, West boys soccer, and all cheerleading positions at all three schools.
The number of openings at one time have certainly made the spring much busier for school officials.
“It’s just really difficult to keep coaches for a long period of time now,” Wahl said. “There are a lot of dynamics that go into that, but it’s just more difficult.”
Wahl said he expects the remaining positions to be filled soon, though he conceded the pool of those interested in coaching is smaller than it used to be.
“There just aren’t a lot of people applying for positions,” he said. “It’s not that you’re not getting good coaches out of a small pool, but you just don’t have a lot of choice when you do go into those interviews.
“When you have a limited pool you might not be hiring the most experienced coaches and that just increases the time it takes to mentor them.”
New look for Laurel
For the first time in nearly a quarter century, the Laurel softball team is playing for a new coach.
Greg Branstetter resigned in October after guiding the Locomotives for the past 23 seasons. Branstetter cited his desire to watch his seven grandchildren play sports as a reason.
“My ball season was during their ball season and I never got to go watch them, so I quit,” Branstetter told 406mtsports.com late last month. “If it wasn’t for that, I would still be doing it.
“I have to travel to Colorado and Whitefish and Bozeman, but I’m going to do it.”
Branstetter took the Locomotives to four Class A state title games. Laurel beat Libby for the 2006 state title after losing to Frenchtown in the 2005 championship game. Laurel also played in the title game in 2001 and 1999, losing to Polson and Butte Central.
Taking over for Branstetter is Aleesa Olsen, a Cheyenne, Wyoming, native who moved to Laurel to take a teaching job at the middle school. Olsen played softball and basketball at Mid-Plains Community College before walking on at Chadron State for the 2012 season.
Project's Poole already playing long toss
Huntley Project’s Emily Poole launched a personal best javelin throw of 146 feet, 6 inches Tuesday during the Billings West Small School track and field meet. That throw has her ranked seventh nationwide, according to athletic.net, as of Friday.
Sydney Juszczyk of Trinity Catholic in Missouri has the country’s best mark, a 155-0 throw. Okanogan, Wisconsin’s Kendra Sachse is sixth with a throw of 146-8.5.
Poole is the defending Class B state champion in the javelin and discus. Her sister, Hailey, was a three-time state champion in the javelin and won two discus titles. She currently competes for the University of Minnesota. Emily and Hailey’s father, John, was a two-time state javelin champion for Belgrade and a three time All-American at the University of Texas (1989-91).
On the docket
Tuesday, softball: Tuesday marks the third of five Eastern AA games this week for Billings Skyview when the Falcons host crosstown rival Billings Senior at 5 p.m. Skyview also hosts Bozeman for a doubleheader on Monday, then entertains Butte for two more games on Saturday.
Thursday, softball: It was a rare sight last season to see Laurel and Billings Central bringing up the rear in the Eastern A. The rivals tangle at 5 p.m. at Ben Steele Middle School.
Saturday (April 13), track and field: More than 20 teams are expected to compete at the Billings Invitational. The meet is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. at West.