MISSOULA — Frenchtown sophomore Jace Klucewich had quite a thrilling three-day stretch.
On Saturday, Klucewich was the lone competitor to win three individual events in the 24-team Kim Haines Invitational track meet at Big Sky. He set two personal records and two meet records in the process and now sits in first place in Class A for the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash.
But the real enthusiasm came on Thursday, when the football standout got invites from Notre Dame and Marshall to go their football camps this summer.
“I’m pretty excited about those,” said Klucewich, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound wide receiver, safety and return specialist who’s already had both the Montana and Montana State football coaches come out to see him at Frenchtown.
“I’m a football player at heart. I just run track on the side.”
Klucewich started his day by blazing down the track in the 100 to clock a personal-record time of 11.06, lowering what was already the best time in Class A. He moved up to fourth in the state and topped the meet record of 11.07 set by Drummond’s Mark Estes in 2016.
“I was a lot more relaxed and just confident in myself, so that helps a lot,” Klucewich said, noting that running in nice weather — 68 degrees and sunny — for the first time this year helped.
After running the final leg of the winning 400-meter relay, Klucewich took over the top spot in Class A with a 200-meter dash time of 22.46 seconds. That mark is fifth in the state and broke the meet record of 22.56 set by Estes in 2016.
Klucewich concluded his day by winning the long jump with a leap of 21 feet, 3 inches.
“His overall sprinter endurance has increased and it’s just allowed him to get more comfortable with that 200-meter dash,” Frenchtown head coach Ryne Nelson said. “I think that was a big improvement this year. His overall strength is his biggest thing. He’s consistent with his starts.
“We’ve worked on him trying to run a little bit smoother. He’s a little bit of a tense gritter when he sprints, and you can see it in his face when he runs down the track. So, we’ve been trying to focus on having him relax a little bit more, which I think will bring his time down. Today, you could see that he was a little more relaxed running down the track.”
Klucewich is hoping to run the 100 in under 11 seconds this season as well as win an individual state title and a team state title. Last year, he was third in the long jump and fourth in the 200 but has already surpassed the marks he had at state.
With his eye on playing college football, Klucewich feels the work he’s been putting in during track and field has paid off on the gridiron and hopes that continues.
“I can tell my speed’s increased,” he said. “Just breaking away from tackles and just running hard for breakaway scores.”
If he keeps up the improvement on the football field, the interest from Notre Dame and Marshall may be just the beginning.
“To think that he’s only a sophomore and is getting that kind of attention, it’s pretty crazy to think about,” Nelson said, “but it’s exciting for him.”
Seeley-Swan senior Hunter Shelmerdine couldn’t hear his winning time in the 400-meter dash but figured it was good news when the section of Blackhawks fans in the stands erupted and his sprints coach, David Cahoon, ran over, hugged him and lifted him up.
Shelmerdine ran the race in a school-record 49.82 seconds and became the first runner in the state to break 50 seconds this year. He sits first in Class C and in the state, 0.2 seconds clear of Huntley Project’s Mitchell Burns. His time was also a personal record and the meet record.
“Going into this race, it was probably the most nervous I’ve been at a meet just knowing there’s a lot of competition there and some faces I haven’t run against yet and knowing that they had some pretty good times,” said Shelmerdine, who took fourth in the 400 at state last year. “Nervous going into the race, and then once the race got going, felt loose, relaxed, really good.”
The key for Shelmerdine was winning the first 250 meters on the back stretch and around the third turn, areas on which he’s been working.
“I liked that I was able to keep that back stretch strong instead of dying a little bit like I had been,” Shelmerdine said. “So, being able to keep speed through there and then power down the finish.”
Manhattan Christian senor Caleb Bellach, a Montana State basketball signee, has found success early on this spring after trading in his golf clubs for track and field cleats.
“Before the season started, I knew it’d be good to help me stay in shape and get in better shape for this summer with the Bobcats,” said Bellach, who tied for 10th individually at the State C golf tournament last year. “Our golf team is going to be just fine without me. We won by a lot last year and there’s some younger kids coming up.”
Bellach automatically qualified for state with an event-winning triple jump of 42 feet, 5.5 inches. It was just his second time competing in the event, but that distance is the third best in Class C and the 10th best in the state.
“My jumping coach told me he thought I’d be good at it,” Bellach said. “I haven’t even really practiced with it, but I thought it was pretty fun.”
Bellach also set a personal record of 52.94 seconds in the 400 while finishing fifth. He was on the 1,600 relay team that took fourth and the 400 relay team that placed sixth. He’s already qualified for state in the 400 relay.
“We haven’t placed at state as a team in track for a long, long time,” said Bellach, who led the boys basketball team to the state title in March. “We have a pretty good chance this year. So, I’m looking to be a part of them.”
Seeley-Swan freshman Sariah Maughan lowered her personal record in the 1,600 by 12.25 seconds, winning the race in 5 minutes, 22.39 seconds, which is now tops in Class C.
Valley Christian senior Benjamin Tuinstra set a personal record and a meet record when he ran the 300-meter hurdles in 40.86 seconds. His time ranks second in Class C and 10th in the state.
Frenchtown junior Faith Rebich moved into second place in Class A with a 400-meter time of 1:00.40. That mark is 10th in the state.
Charlo senior Kaitlin Cox moved into first in Class C and broke the meet record in the triple jump, making a leap of 35 feet, 11.25 inches. She qualified for state in the long jump with a personal best of 16 feet, 10 inches, which ranks third in Class C.
Charlo sophomore Carlee Fryberger ran the 200 for the first time this season and posted a time of 27.04 seconds, which ranks third in Class C and is 0.19 seconds shy of the state-qualifying mark.
Loyola junior Bryce Danielson moved up to second in Class B in discus with a personal-best toss of 144 feet, 6.5 inches.
Frenchtown freshman Kayla Botkin hit a personal record in the discus with a toss of 122 feet, 11 inches, which is the fifth best in Class A.
Frenchtown junior Tyler Schmautz broke the meet record in the 800 with a time of 2:00.28. Schmautz also won the 1600.
Deer Lodge’s Kamryn Scully set a meet record in the pole vault, clearing 10 feet.
Frenchtown senior Jesse Mecham, a Montana Grizzly track and field commit, had season highs in the discus and the shot put. He won the shot put with a throw of 48 feet, 0.5 inches.
Frenchtown won the boys team title with 132 points. Seeley-Swan was the girls winner with 92 points.