MISSOULA — One of Montana's household names in high school track and field has been absent for most of the season.
Trey Tintinger, an All-American high jumper for Helena, set foot on the track for the first time since early April this weekend at the Western AA Divisional at Missoula County Stadium.
Tintinger didn't willingly choose to sit out for most of his sophomore campaign. It was a punishment for his actions — actions he says he regrets.
"The reason why I didn't get to compete in all the other meets was because I got an MIP for Juul pods," Tintinger said openly. "It was pretty bad. I wasn't too happy about it.
"I'm disappointed in myself."
"Juuling" — or using Juul-branded flavored e-cigarettes to smoke — is one of the latest trends among high school students. The Juul device can be easily mistaken for a flash drive and, in Montana, the legal age requirement is 18. To buy the products directly from the Juul website, the legal age requirement is 21.
Tintinger said he was caught at school with the Juul and its pods and that he's learned from it.
"I've learned not to be a dumbass," Tintinger said candidly.
Despite not being able to participate for a majority of the season, Tintinger was able to practice.
But for someone who loves competing, especially in front of crowds, that was hard for Tintinger.
"It put it in perspective," one of Tintinger's coaches, Andrew Mozer, said. "Being away from it, he's been wanting competition for so long. There's a new appreciation for it again, having sat out for so long."
Tintinger came very close to clearing the 6-foot-11 mark on Friday at the Western AA Divisionals, but couldn't quite get there. He won the event, clearing the 6-foot-7 mark.
"I feel OK," Tintinger said of his performance. "Everybody has bad meets, and I got first place, so I can't be too mad about that. I feel good. I can't wait to jump better at state."
Even though Tintinger already has the all-class high jump record, he wants to break it again.
"I'm looking to beat that record this year at state," Tintinger said. "I know I can."
ALREADY AMONG LEGENDS
Only four Montanans, including Tintinger, have cleared the 7-foot mark in high jump, according to the Montana High School Association's records.
The first one was Great Falls' Mark Reed, who reportedly cleared the 7-foot-2 mark at an invitational meet in Helena in 1983. Billings Skyview's Brian Kooyer eclipsed the mark, reportedly going 7-foot-0¼, at the Simplot Games in Pocatello, Idaho, in 1987.
Then came Hellgate's Mark Koefelda. He broke the Western AA Divisional record in 1993 with a leap of 7-foot, and bettered that mark at the state meet the following week at 7-foot-1.
Twenty-four years passed before Tintinger became the fourth.
But he sure didn't start out that way.
A friend pushed Tintinger into high jumping in middle school.
"He was able to jump 5-6, it looked more like a cannonball because he had no idea what he was doing." Mozer said.
By the time his eighth grade year ended, Tintinger, according to Mozer, cleared the 6-foot-4 mark.
And that turned some heads.
"We realized at that point, like, 'Where does he stand for his age because he's really young?' And for his age he was one inch off of the national record," Mozer said.
As a freshman, Tintinger flirted with the 7-foot height at a triangular with CMR and Belgrade, but didn't exceed the mark until the state meet when he went 7-foot-1½ to break Koefelda's record.
"It's pretty cool." Tintinger said of being a part of Montana's track and field tradition. "It's pretty awesome knowing that and knowing I hold the state record is even cooler."