MISSOULA – By the looks of the weather, you wouldn’t be able to guess that spring sports have been in full swing over the last few weeks.
But they are and whether the weather improves or not, the seasons are underway as track and field athletes from around the state get set to prepare for the state meets. Class AA and B teams will compete in Kalispell on May 24 and 25 while A and C will be in Laurel.
Western Montana will be well represented at those meets once they roll around. Here is a look at some of the key returners who will look to bring home some hardware in late May.
Missoula Sentinel comes in as the two-time defending State AA champion on the girls side and could likely be in contention again. The Spartans return the state’s most talented jumping duo in senior Ashley McElmurry and junior Lauren Heggen. Heggen set the all-class triple jump record last spring with a leap of 39 feet, 7 inches, besting a 39-5.25 jump by McElmurry, which also would have reset the all-class record which previously was 39-2. McElmurry, who has signed with the University of Nebraska for track and field, won the triple her sophomore year at 38-7.75, which at the time was the Class AA record before her and Heggen topped that in 2018.
Heggen also returns as the 100-meter hurdles champ, an event in which McElmurry placed sixth. McElmurry also placed second in the 300 hurdles and in the long jump. Back in February, Heggen won the triple jump at the Simplot Games in Pocatello, Idaho, one of the nation’s largest indoor track and field meets.
Spartan head coach Craig Mettler said the girls have a lot of points to replace in the throws with the graduations of Emily Malone (North Carolina) and Madi Arneson (Montana State). Senior Shelby Schweyen’s status is up in the air as well due to injury that forced her to miss most of volleyball season and all of basketball. Schweyen is the defending AA high jump champ.
“I kind of know where we are at but I don’t know where everyone else in the state is at,” Mettler said of the attempt at a three-peat. “It’s so hard to predict in track and field. We lost a lot so with that said, if we just focus on us, we have a mountain to climb for sure in order to be at the top of the pedestal at the end of the year.”
For Sentinel’s boys, who finished fourth last year, senior Jace DeWalt, junior Jaden Foster and sophomore Payton Ater will carry the Spartans in the sprints as returning state athletes. Senior Rylan Ortt enters as last year’s runner-up in the javelin while sophomore Neil Daily placed third in the high jump last year as a freshman. Senior Brock Field was also a state-placer for the Spartans last year, finishing fifth in the discus and sixth in the javelin.
Joining McElmurry and Heggen among the state’s best jumpers is Big Sky junior Whitney Morrison. Morrison placed fourth in the triple jump a year ago and sixth in the long jump for the Eagles and is geared up for another big season. She also took sixth in the 400 and placed fourth in the javelin as the Eagles finished fifth as a team a year ago.
Morrison will be joined by twin sisters Madison and Makenna Edwards to lead the Eagles this season. Madison placed third last year in the 800 and fourth in the 1,600 and has accepted an appointment to run track and cross country at the Air Force Academy next year. Makenna, who went to state in three events last year, is signed to run at Gonzaga. Isabella Reed, who took third last year in pole vault, is back as well. Hurdler Gianna Migliaccio will bolster the Eagles on the track too.
“I think we have a little balance around all of the events. We shouldn’t have any weak areas,” Nile said. “You have to stay healthy and peak at the right time and we have some pretty good depth. I think we have a chance to be pretty good.”
On the boys side, Big Sky coach Dan Nile said Everet Fred in the javelin and jumps will be one to keep an eye on. Ben Maehl is another athlete to watch out for. But Nile said the boys had about 100 kids come out but they’re a young team looking to improve on last year’s 13th place finish.
Coming off of a state championship in cross country, Hellgate’s distance crew will look to replicate that success for the Knights’ girls team, which was eighth a year ago. All seven of Hellgate’s runners placed in the top 20 at state cross country with seniors Ember Stratton, Elise Stearns and Ella Degrandpre all placing in the top six. Degrandpre took second in the 3,200 last year while junior Katie Munro finished sixth. Stearns placed fifth in the 1,600 and sixth in the 800 a year ago while Degrandpre also placed sixth in the 1,600. Seniors Madeline Swanberg and Wren Cilimburg both qualified for state a year ago as well.
Head coach Jeff Dohn said the team expects big things from throwers Piper Pfister (junior) and Allison Halverson (senior), sprinter/hurdler Mikhaila Janes (junior), jumper Gillian Sherrill (sophomore) and sprinter Emily Ratz (sophomore).
On the boys side, Dohn said senior sprinters Burke McGowan and Matt Baldridge and javelin thrower Logan Riddle will be key, as will juniors Ian Curtis, Lukas Horejsi and Dax Summers in the distance events. Hellgate’s boys were ninth a year ago.
“We are hoping to compete really strongly toward the end of the year,” Dohn said. “We do think this is a really talented group.”
The Corvallis Blue Devils are looking to replicate their State A title run from a year ago. Corvallis loses a lot of state placers, though, as it looks to win its third team title in five years.
Some athletes who should be back for the Blue Devils include Logan Lewis, who was the triple jump runner-up a year ago; Jakob Dalbey, who finished fifth in the 400; and Garrett Brown, who took fourth in the shot put. Polson returns a strong core as well. The Pirates finished seventh last year but senior Quin Stewart returns as the defending 800 champ while sophomore Trenton Adler returns after placing fifth in the 100 as a freshman.
Frenchtown returns Jace Klucewich, who took third in the long jump and fourth in the 200 last year as a freshman. Hamilton should be strong in the throws with senior Jacob Campbell back (third in shot put, sixth in discus) while senior Michael Graves was the runner-up in the javelin for the Broncs.
For the girls, Corvallis senior Calla Haldorson is aiming to become the 26th female athlete in Montana high school history to become a four-time state champ in a single event, which for her would be the discus. According to the Montana High School Association website, Haldorson will be the first to accomplish that feat in the discus if she wins the state title in May.
Polson senior Beatrix Frissell, who recently signed to compete for Montana in college, is the defending champ in the 1,600 and 3,200. Whitefish senior Lauren Schulz is the defending Class A champ in the 400 while Frenchtown junior Faith Rebich placed fourth a year ago. Junior Angellica Street of Columbia Falls is also the defending javelin champion.
Last year, Bigfork’s girls ran away with the State B title right from the get-go with dominant performances by Haile Norred (Montana State) and Bryn Morley (Northern Arizona) to win a second consecutive title for the school. Bigfork now looks for a three-peat with returning seniors Anya Young (second in 1,600 and 3,200, fifth in 800) and Jordan Nelson (fourth in 200, also a leg on both of Bigfork’s state champion relay teams).
Another athlete to keep an eye on is junior Karolyna Buck of St. Ignatius who is back after tying for third in the high jump last year.
On the boys side, Bigfork’s Wyatt Duke finished second as a freshman in the high jump a year ago and is back. Loyola Sacred Heart’s Ryan Tirrell also returns after placing third in the long jump and fifth in the triple jump. Loyola junior Bryce Danielson is also back after a third-place finish in the javelin last year.
Charlo’s girls placed fourth last year and return two of the top sprinters in Class C in senior Tyrah Hammond (fourth in 100, fifth in 200) and sophomore Carlee Fryberger (fifth in 100, second in 100 hurdles). Both ran a leg of Charlo’s third-place 400-relay team and Hammond placed second in the pole vault while Fryberger added a third-place spot in the triple jump.
Darby junior Gracie Lang placed second in the 3,200 and sixth in the 1,600 last year for the Tigers while senior Casey Ehmann returns as the defending Class C 300 hurdles champion. Seeley-Swan junior Terra Bertsch was a state champion pole vaulter as a sophomore and also placed fifth in the high jump while teammate Klaire Kovatch was a state champ as a freshman last year in the discus for the Blackhawks. Arlee junior Peyton Lammerding is back after placing second last year in the shot put.
For the boys, St. Regis junior Ian Farris returns after placing second in the 100 a year ago. Seeley-Swan placed third as a team but loses a lot of talent and will rely on sprinters Hunter Shelmerdine (senior) and Dakota Wood (junior), both of whom were legs on the Blackhawks’ state champion relay teams a year ago. Shelmerdine also placed fourth in the 400.
Valley Christian senior Benjamin Tuinstra is the defending State C 110 hurdles champ and Noxon senior Levi Brubaker returns as the triple jump winner who also took fifth in the long jump. Charlo senior Wills Degrandpre also could have a big year after placing fifth in the 1,600 and 3,200 a year ago. Drummond’s Jonah Park, a senior, also returns after placing third in the high jump.