LAUREL — Two Class A records were broken, as were two long droughts. Seniors wrapped up fantastic careers, while a freshman emerged to possibly take their place.
Oh, and three teams, not two, were crowned state champions. It was that kind of day Saturday at the Laurel Sports Complex as the state track and field meet wrapped up on what was one of the rare warm days of the spring.
Glendive’s Karsen Murphy (triple jump) and Polson’s Bea Frissell (3,200) walked away as new standard-bearers while the Laurel and Dillon boys both landed on 81 points to share the team title. Whitefish’s girls, who didn’t have in individual champion on Saturday and just one all weekend, won their first title since 1984.
Fun fact: The last coach to win a title with the Whitefish girls, Colleen Sullivan, was present at the meet. She was in charge of making sure all the placing athletes received their medals.
“This team is just a unique group,” said Whitefish coach Derek Schultz, whose team did win both relay events on Saturday. “We consider this a team sport and they buy into that. That’s why those seconds and thirds and fourths added up for us. These girls have really put the time in and I’m really proud of them.”
While the Whitefish girls won going away — the Bulldogs had 82 points to Dillon’s 62 — Laurel’s boys and Dillon’s boys took it down to the wire.
Wins by Chris Abell (110 hurdles) and Levi Taylor (1,600) helped Laurel build a two-point lead with two events to go. And as Dillon’s 1,600 relay team took first place to move the Beavers ahead by eight points, Laurel’s Ely Kraft was finishing second in the discus, the last event to be completed.
Those final eight points earned by Kraft left the Locomotives and Beavers to share first-place honors. It’s Dillon’s first championship since 2016 and Laurel’s first since 1991. Both sides seemed more than happy to take what they could get.
“Some tremendous performances by our kids, when they knew they had to,” Laurel coach Curtis Fox said. “They were locked in. They knew it would have had to have been a perfect weekend for us to walk away with first place, and we did.
“And that’s just a testament to our coaches. It was great to host this but everything just came into place.”
Said Dillon coach Tammi Myers: “We tell the kids all the time when you come to the state meet there’s going to be some hiccups. You’re going to have some highs and you’re going to have some lows where things don’t pan out like you hoped. But in the spirit of competition you have to fight to the bitter end and leave it all on the track and then you have no regrets when you do that. I’m just extremely proud of our boys and our girls for doing that.”
Other highlights on Saturday included:
• Nine months removed from ACL surgery, Miles City’s Keith Vanderlaan repeated at the boys 100-meter champion. Though he didn’t repeat in the 200, the Cowboys’ senior was more than thrilled with the one medal he did win. “My coaches and me have been working so much in the offseason, we put in a lot of work,” he said. “Honestly, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here right now. They pushed me a lot.”
• Vanderlaan appeared headed for a win in the 200, only to be passed up by Livingston’s Jack Waddell near the finish. Only .01 of a second separated the two, and Hardin’s Hunter Bear Cloud finished third, just .01 behind Vanderlaan. In fact, when Waddell first looked up at the LCS scoreboard, he felt Vanderlaan had won since Waddell didn’t see his own name posted yet. “I kind of started wandering away, and then I hear a bunch of fans cheering,” Waddell said. “I looked back up at the scoreboard and my name was up on top. So I was really happy with that.”
• Laurel’s Taylor said on Friday that he had plans to make a push to set the classification’s boys 1,600 record. He acknowledged that a photo finish in the 800 might have depleted his energy stores, and that might have been the case Saturday. Taylor ran a winning time of 4:33.37 in the 1,600 but that was 14 seconds shy of Scott Adams’ Class A mark set in 1995.
• Laurel’s Abell had been nothing if not consistent. He’s put up good times in the 110 hurdles but had been unable to break 15 seconds. He did that Saturday, winning the race in a time of 14.98. “I’ll be going to Carroll next fall, so I really wanted to just keep pushing that mark down, not only for myself, but for my coaches at Carroll so that I could show them, hey, I’ve got what it takes, and prove that I was worth their recruit,” Abell said. “It really felt great.”
• Lee Walburn of Whitefish “fell short” in the boys 300 hurdles last year by finishing third as a junior. This year he became a state champ after running a 39.83. “Just my coaches helped, telling me to stay calm and have a good time,” Walburn said. “Stay relaxed and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Thanks to my coaches and my teammates for pushing me and helping me get there.”
• Zane Johnson of Dillon repeated as triple jump champion a day after he won his first long jump title. The future Montana track athlete didn’t place in the pole vault Friday night (his seed height had him in the running for a medal) and that was something he had to move past, he said. “It was just a bad night,” he said of the pole vault. “I dwelled on it for the night and I this morning I woke up and said there’s nothing I can do about it. I might as well compete in the triple and finish off my senior year on a good note.”
• Sidney’s Carter Hughes won the discus with a toss of 163-2. That gave the Minnesota-bound athlete three discus championships to go with the third shot put title he won on Friday.
• Hamilton’s Michael Graves threw 184-11 to win the boys javelin. “It honestly feels pretty great, especially coming from last year. I took second at this (last year) and, I mean, it was a big accomplishment to take first.”
• Dillon junior Tylia DeJohn repeated as the girls 100-meter dash champion with a time of 12.45.
• Billings Central’s Kellan Wahl has been chasing the sprint titles for the past two seasons. The sophomore earned one Saturday, winning the 200 in 25.88. “I just need to keep working hard,” Wahl said. “I'm even more excited for next year. I'm going to keep trying harder and hopefully get one in the 100.”
• Brynnli Paulson’s dad has been telling the Hamilton sophomore since she was in eighth grade that she should run the 800. “I was always like, no, I hate the 800, it’s the worst race. And then I tried it one meet (this year) and my time bumped right up to the best in the state and I was, well, all right, I guess I’m running the 800.” She won the state title with a time of 2:17.86. “I still don’t know if I like it,” she said, “but it’s fun to win.”
• Frissell seemed as if she was strolling through the park, sunglasses and all, on her way to a Class A record in the 3,200. The Polson senior, who is headed to the University of Montana, cruised to victory in 10:47.33, smashing the previous mark of 10:56.69 set by Belgrade’s Pipi Eitel in 2017. “It definitely wasn’t easy,” Frissell said. “Just thinking about all the training I’ve done in practice, I have been hitting those times in workouts. That was the number one thought going into it was I know I can do this, I have basically done it in practice. So that helped a lot.”
• Dillon freshman Ainsley Shipman claimed both hurdles races, taking the 100 hurdles in 15.98 and the 300s in 46.92. As the medalists were leaving the podium after the 300, Libby’s Emma Gruber, who placed fifth, congratulated Shipman, saying, “Good luck in your future years. You’re insane.” Said Shipman: “I really like the 300s because you have to push yourself and it’s more about being mentally tough. At the beginning of the season my coaches said you can either run the 4-by-4 (relay) or the 300. I said I would try (the 300s) out and it ended up working out.”
• Glendive’s Murphy, who won the high jump on Friday, added to her tally with a Class A-record performance in the triple jump by leaping 37-11½. Murphy also blew away her personal-best by nearly a foot. “I did not expect this at all,” said Murphy, a junior. “I set a goal for myself before every meet and this was like an idea, but it wasn’t exactly something I thought I would accomplish. I’m definitely in shock.”
• And Corvallis senior Calla Haldorson closed out an impressive career with her fourth consecutive girls discus title by throwing 147-7. She became the 26th female in Montana high school history to be a four-timer in the same event, and she was the first female athlete to do it in the discus. Haldorson conceded she felt some pressure to win it all this season. “Yeah, it’s been a difficult year for that. But I’m glad made it,” the soft-spoken Haldorson said.
• Columbia Falls boys won the boys 400 relay.