MISSOULA — And finally, they're off.
High school track & field athletes that is. After weather uncertainties have dominated the spring sports season so far, Missoula Big Sky hosted Butte and Butte Central for a triangular on Thursday afternoon at Missoula County Stadium.
The Big Sky girls are riding momentum after last year's fifth-place finish at state. Senior Isabella Reed and junior Whitney Morrison are two vets who paced the Eagles last year with state placements, and the duo is ready to propel the Eagles into top-three contention.
Reed took third in the pole vault last year at state, vaulting 11-feet, 6 inches. She went 10-6 on Thursday, good enough to get the win while also taking third in the high jump at 4-6 in her first time ever competing in the event.
"I didn't really take pole vault as seriously last year until I realized I could go to state, so I've been working throughout the winter and offseason and I'm definitely a lot stronger this year," Reed said. "I feel more comfortable and I don't have to think about everything I'm doing. It's more natural because I've been doing it for so long now."
She added with a laugh, "I'm glad it didn't rain today. With the first meet, there's definitely a lot of improvement to be done."
That third-place finish in pole vault is fuel for Reed. It was the only event in which she qualified for state a year ago, so knowing what it took to advance adds to her confidence that she can do so in the high jump and triple jump as well.
"I think we definitely do have some really strong girls this year and I'm really exciting to see what the freshmen do," Reed said. "I know a lot of the younger girls look up to us so showing them support and showing them where we were and where we are now makes a big difference and helps them.
"I know when I was a freshman, looking up to those senior girls and seeing them on the podium was a big thing for me and so I want to be the best role model I can be."
Morrison echoed those sentiments and said her approach as a leader is simple.
"I just try to lead by example," she said.
Morrison placed in four events last year for Big Sky, finishing in fourth place in the triple jump and javelin while finishing sixth in the long jump and 400. On Thursday, she walked away with wins in the javelin and triple jump, a second-place finish in the long jump and ended up third in the 200. She also ran as the anchor of Big Sky's 1,600-relay team which finished in first. Her offseason training also allowed her to hit the ground running.
"I started out with indoor track and I try to do that every season to try to get myself in shape and get a head start," Morrison said.
A busy day, no doubt, and Morrison, who led the Class AA in goals scored with 19 during the fall soccer season for the Eagles, was just happy to be back out on the track. But she's already gunning for improvements across the board.
"I wish that I would've had some better jumps, throws and times, but it's a good start I think," Morrison said. "I really want to hit the 18-foot mark for long jump and 38-foot mark for triple jump, so hopefully I can get there."
Along with Morrison, Big Sky's Erin Murphy was also a double-winner on Thursday afternoon. Murphy took home wins in the shot put and discus for the Eagles.
Thursday's meet was not scored between the three schools.
Other winners on the girl's side: Big Sky's Grace Denman, 100 hurdles; Big Sky's Gianna Migliaccio 300 hurdles; Butte Central's Lindsay McGree, 100; Butte's Brenda Fode, 200; Big Sky's Sabryn Knight, 400; Butte's Hailey Nielson, 800; Big Sky's Madison Edwards, 1,600; Butte's Anna Trudnowski, high jump; Butte's Gabbie Parini, long jump. Butte's 400-relay team won as well.
Two boys were multi-winners on Thursday. Big Sky's Sean Stineford won the 1,600 and 3,200 while Butte Central's Cutter Thatcher was victorious in the 400 and long jump.
Other winners on the boy's side: Butte's Quinn Sullivan, 110 hurdles; Butte's Joshua Neil, 100; Big Sky's Ben Maehl, 200; Big Sky's Jackson Bailey, 800; Big Sky's Dylan Sandry, high jump; Big Sky's Josh Smalley, pole vault; Butte Central's Thomas McGree, triple jump; Butte Central's Aaron Richards, shot put; Butte Central's Ryan Wahl, discus; Butte Central's Cade Holter, javelin.