BILLINGS — Lockwood High School’s track had lots of foot traffic before this spring, just not for its intended purpose.
The facility hosted many football games in the fall. Soccer and lacrosse practices have been held there, as well. But people walked over or past the running lanes, the jumping pits, the discus sector and all of the other areas meant for track and field.
“You get the football season going on, you see the beautiful track out here and the grass growing around it, and you're just excited to get things going and have people out here,” said Lockwood athletic director Mike Erickson. “It's just been awesome to see this place being used like it was supposed to be.”
Erickson spoke Saturday during the Lockwood Invitational, the third track meet the school has hosted in its track facility’s debut season. Each event has required hard work and significant manpower, which Erickson and others at Lockwood are more than happy to supply.
“That's what I enjoy doing. That's what I'm here for,” Erickson said. “I want to continue to bring as many opportunities here to our community. It’s why they built this place.”
Saturday’s track meet, which featured Lockwood and 17 schools from Class B and C, was minor compared to some of the other events Class A Lockwood has hosted this school year. The State A championship football game between Laurel and Billings Central was played at Lockwood Stadium. The inaugural state girls wrestling tournament took place in the Lions’ gym. The State C basketball tournaments moved from Bozeman to Lockwood.
Lockwood didn’t request to host a state track meet this year but plans to in the years to come, said Erickson, who was the AD at Hardin before Lockwood hired him last year. The Lions hope to host state track every other year in part to take some pressure off of annual host Laurel, Erickson said.
Lockwood’s track is unique, Erickson said, because it only has eight lanes from 300 meters and in but has 10 lanes from the 200 and around. That makes the corners less sharp than other tracks, and that gradual nature leads to faster running times overall. The track programs at Rocky Mountain College and Montana State Billings have competed there this spring.
“What intrigued me about coming here is just being a part of bringing people to Billings and running events here,” Erickson said. “It was definitely a golden egg for us this year to put it all together.”
Among the many personal records set at Saturday’s meet were two from Lockwood sophomore Makenzie Anderson. She finished third in the girls 3,200 meters with a personal-best time of 14 minutes, 17.39 seconds, and her PR of 6:08.87 in the 1,600 was fourth.
Such feats looked wishful to Anderson a year ago. First came the suspension (and eventual cancellation) of the 2020 spring sports season due to COVID-19. Then Anderson ended up in the hospital with reactive hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar that occurs after eating. The condition caused frequent fainting, she said, and she lost 40 pounds in three months.
With medical help and dietary adjustments, Anderson was able to gain back weight and limit the worst outcomes of her hypoglycemia. She was already motivated for track season after last spring’s cancellation. Overcoming her health issues gave her an extra nudge. All of those factors made Saturday’s performance that much more special.
“I wasn't even at one point able to walk up my street without being tired. Now I'm out here PRing,” she said. “I feel so good to be back out doing the sport that I love.”
Anderson is one of 39 athletes on Lockwood’s track team, according to coach Katie Browning. About 15 freshmen signed up for the sport last year, and Browning expected about 25 this season (the school is in its second year).
“These freshmen and sophomores I’ve got out here are working their tails off competing against juniors and seniors and having to square up with these teams that have a full varsity,” Browning said. “I'm really excited to see what it's going to be like when I've got them as juniors and seniors and I have underclassmen under them for them to lead and be role models for. We have a good group of kids to start that tradition.”
The increased interest surprised Browning at first, but it makes sense now. Softball is the only other spring sport Lockwood offers, and Browning advertised track as a way to supplement other sports.
The track program also has a brand new facility that yields many PRs.
“I tell our kids every day that they have it better than every other school out there. They've got state-of-the-art everything here,” Browning said. “Everything that we could ever want, we have.”