HELENA — For the first time in more than three decades, Frontier Conference track and field athletes competed in a championship meet. Just the front-end of what will be a two-day event at Vigilante Stadium in Helena, athletes competed in the men’s and women’s 4 x 800 meter events and 10,000-meter runs on Thursday.
Carroll took three of the four events, winning both relay races with Spencer Swaim taking the men’s 10,000-meter run. With a time of 9:30.42 in the women’s relay, the Saints qualified for nationals, a goal Carroll rolled into the meet expecting to accomplish.
“That was exciting, that was their goal,” Saints head coach Harry Clark said. “That’s our goal this weekend is to get about eight more qualifiers for nationals for our team. This is the perfect time to do it, they’re a little more fired up for having the first-time meet here at home.”
Sophomore Natalie Yocum ran the second leg of the event for Carroll, and after qualifying for nationals herself earlier this season, helped three of her teammates in Elly Machado, Reghan Worley and Kate Picanco achieve the same goal.
“I really just wanted to qualify for my teammates because I had already qualified in the 1,500, so I knew I had to leave it all out there for them,” Yocum said. “[Now] I can have some friends and teammates with me at nationals. It feels like a relief, but we also want to qualify in the 800 tomorrow. There’s more work to do, but it was really fun.”
Clark said all of his athletes had a noticeable pep in their step heading into the championship meet, and having waited nearly a decade to participate on this stage, Friday’s events are going to be special.
“[Friday] is going to be really fun for me,” Clark said. “I’ve been waiting for this day for nine years since I got this job that we finally got a Frontier Conference [Championship] Meet. We were expected to do very well, but it’s not just about that, it’s about getting kids qualified for nationals and letting some of our kids that don’t go to nationals have success.”
After four events on Thursday, Carroll racked up 64 team points. The next closest team is Rocky Mountain College, who watched their runner Mei-Li Stevens win the women’s 10,000-meter run, with 36 points.
Having built his program for this moment, Friday is the day Clark finally gets to watch years of hard work pay off. Already ahead in the standings, Clark said he does not see his athletes slowing down in the way they are racking up gold medals.
“You’re kinda like a proud parent of all your kids, and now you get to show them off to everybody,” Clark said. “They know how good we are, but they don’t know how good we are in this conference and they’ll see tomorrow how good our team is. Will be a lot of medals and hardware going our way, so we’re really excited for tomorrow.”
Day two of the Frontier Championship Meet begins at 10 a.m. on Friday with the men’s javelin and women’s 400-meter relay.