KALISPELL — The Huntley Project High boys and girls track teams both won Class B state titles Saturday afternoon at Legends Stadium, though the girls will have to share their crown with Baker.
Huntley Project's boys won six events and tallied 122 points, well ahead of second-place Manhattan's 44. The girls team found themselves in a logjam with Baker and Colstrip, with the Red Devils and the Spartans scoring 74 and the Colts coming in third with 63.
Emily Poole was Huntley Project's only individual winner, but consistency enabled the Red Devils to match Baker, which rode Wrenzi Wrzesinski's first-place finishes in the 100- and 200-meter sprints as well as the 300 hurdles.
Huntley Project's Bradley Graves and Big Timber runner Casey Gunlikson had record-shattering performances. Gunlikson ran a state-record 10.7 in the 100 and clocked a 21.80 in the 200, which also would have been a record except race officials deemed it wind-aided.
Gunlikson also established a personal best in the 300 hurdles in 38.11.
Meanwhile, Graves finished with a personal best 14.14 to win the 100 hurdles and was first in the 4x100 and 4x400 relays with his teammates Mitchell Burns, Asher Croy and Austin Hernandez.
Graves said failure at the state meet three years ago was his motivator.
He said he utilized a long-time sports psychological ploy referred to as "bulletin board material" on himself. The tactic worked.
"I maybe finished 10th or 11th (my freshman year)," Graves recalled. "I knew from there on, and I wanted to leave my mark. I spent all kinds of times chasing it. Every year, I would put a list on my wall and my door in the bedroom, and every morning I would wake up and see my goals."
During the prelims Friday, Graves said he didn't perform his best. But that changed in the finals.
"I was too nervous during the prelims, and I didn't run very clean," he said. "I knew if I would just focus on my race, it would be good."
After Graves achieved his desired mark, he was at a loss for words.
"There is no way to describe (winning state)," Graves said. "(The feeling) is unreal."
Graves celebrated later with Burns, Croy and Hernandez in sweeping the relays in 43.17 and 3:23.84.
"It is so awesome knowing that all of the training all year paid off," Croy said. "Coming into state is so much different because there are three other guys that are counting on you, and you feel a lot of pressure to do your job."
Croy said he and his teammates devoted a year-round training regime to ensure success at state.
"Between the weight room and track season, training was a year-round thing," Croy said. "There are tons of hours and time devoted into the gym."
Burns said the team felt more pressure during the Southern Divisionals than at state.
"We've led the state by a good margin, and even knowing that coming into the race, we knew that state was so much different," Burns said. "Three other guys were counting on you, and we felt a lot of pressure to do your job."
Hernandez said between divisionals and state the group continued to focus on handoffs.
"We just tried to make our handoff as clean as possible," he said. "We had a few mishaps, but we still pulled it off. We were neck-and-neck (with our competition), and the race was nerve-wracking, but it was close."
On the girls side, Wrzesinski carried Baker to its first-place tie with Huntley Project. She said her decision to focus on track this year paid dividends.
"I was big on getting out there, and getting off to a good start," Wrzesinski said. "I was going to work as hard as I could, and I tried to stay relaxed during the race. I didn't play basketball this year, and (during basketball) season, I worked on the track. I would like to think it paid off."