HELENA — McKinlee Mihelish may not participate in another track meet at Helena Capital High School, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But regardless, she will continue her track career, at the University of Montana.
That's after head coach Brian Schweyen offered Mihelish a scholarship for the Grizzlies track program Wednesday and the three-sport athlete at Capital, promptly accepted.
"It feels really good," Mihelish said of committing to be a Division-I athlete. "It's something I have wanted to do for a really long time. I have been competing throughout my life, so it was a goal of mine to continue to compete in college and I am just really grateful for the opportunity coach Schweyen is giving me."
Mihelish, who just completed a state championship season with the Capital girls basketball team last month, said she had been in contact with a few different schools, but the Montana offer is the one she wanted.
She plans to pursue a degree in either nursing or physical therapy, which made her decision to attend Montana even easier.
"I really like UM," Mihelish said. "I wanted to keep my career path in the back of my mind as well and I think that school just fits me best."
Mihelish has been a sprinter and a jumper for the Bruins and was part of 1,600-meter relay teams that finished fourth at state in 2018 and 2019.
Additionally, Mihelish was a key part of the Bruins' 2019 Western AA girls track championship, which was the first in 22 years.
The senior has also qualified for the AA state meet in the 400 twice, finishing 11th as a sophomore and seventh as a junior. She has finished top-4 in the event at divisionals twice, with a personal-best time of 1:00.49 coming at state last May in Kalispell.
"It's crazy to think about," Mihelish said of being a Montana Grizzly. "I couldn't imagine not competing, because I wasn't sure If I wanted to run track in college or not, but one day it just kind of hit me, 'You have to compete, you can't just not compete.'"
In addition to the 400-meter relay and the 400-meter dash, Mihelish has also run the 200, the 300 hurdles, the long jump and the triple jump. She was also interested in running the 800 during her senior season of track, only now, it might not happen.
The MHSA has suspended spring sports until at least April 24, with the caveat that if school isn't back in session by May 4, the spring season will be cancelled.
"I really miss it," she said of spring sports. "Track is my favorite sport and I have been looking forward to it all year. It would be heartbreaking if we weren't able to have a season, but you have to keep everyone's best interests in mind and that's everyone's health.
"This isn't how I imagined my senior year ending at all," she added. "I am really crossing my fingers that we get, at least a graduation."
It remains to be seen if Mihelish and the rest of the high school seniors in the Helena area will get to walk across the stage at a normal graduation, however, no matter what happens, Mihelish can always say, at least she made ESPN's "Sportscenter."
Mihelish and the entire 2019-20 Capital girls basketball team was featured on "Senior Night" a segment put together by Scott Van Pelt honoring high school and college seniors from around the country. Capital was shown last Thursday alongside Missoula Hellgate.
The Bruins got Van Pelt's attention after a 22-1 season ended with a co-state championship at the Class AA state tournament in Bozeman.
"That was crazy," Mihelish said of being on ESPN. "I never thought that would happen. It was really cool though how they did that and for all the other seniors getting honored as well across the nation."