MISSOULA — Time flies when you're having fun.
And Loyola Sacred Heart senior Ryan Tirrell has been cruising right along for the ride.
It was just over a year ago as a junior that Tirrell announced his commitment to join the Montana football team. Since then, he has been finishing out his final high school year, which has been chock-full with ups and downs and is one that he is doing his best to finish on a high note.
On Thursday, Tirrell continued that success for the Rams' track and field team as he racked up an individual win in the long jump and was the opening leg of Loyola's winning 400-meter relay team during the Western B-C Divisional at Missoula County Stadium.
Thanks to Tirrell's efforts, Loyola leads the Class B boys race after the first day. The Rams racked up 74 points with Bigfork sitting in second with 30 and Eureka in third with 26.
Tirrell won with a jump of 20 feet, 10 inches on Thursday. His best mark is 21-04 which ranks second overall in Class B and is tied for the 10th-best mark in the state overall. As he prepares for the State B meet in Kalispell next weekend, Tirrell said at this point it's all about taking care of his body and avoiding injury.
"Basically in practice not destroying our legs too much on the landings and just going back to the basics and making sure everything is fundamental," Tirrell said. "At this point of the year, you're not really going to get more in shape. You're just focusing on getting down what you learned."
Even though he knew his post-high school future so soon, continuing to be a three-sport athlete was always in the cards for Tirrell, and the rewards have been fruitful. Along with football and track, the future Grizzly starred in basketball as well. The Rams were the runner-up in football and basketball this season, but Tirrell's season has been a memorable one that he's had the opportunity to share with fellow three-sport athletes and seniors Cooper Waters and Jeff Twite.
"Senior year has been a dream year," Tirrell said. "It was so much fun making it to both championships. I couldn't ask for anything more. We've come a long way."
Loyola actually has graduation this weekend, so school itself is basically finished for Tirrell. And state track next weekend will mark the end of his time as a Ram, and he hopes to head out on top.
"Definitely just have a bitter taste in my mouth from second," Tirrell said. "We're doing everything we can to improve and take first."
Morse leads Blackhawks
When looking at the results for Seeley-Swan's girls track and field team, the Blackhawks sport a number of talented underclassmen who score a lot of points and are gunning for repeat state titles.
The Blackhawks don't have many seniors, but the ones who do compete for them provide a core group of leaders for a team that is primed to bring home some hardware at next week's State C meet in Laurel.
Senior Autumn Morse fits that category perfectly for the Blackhawks. A team captain for Seeley-Swan in volleyball and basketball this year, Morse has been a go-to leader for the young Blackhawks squad this spring as a vocal and lead-by-example senior.
"Our underclassmen really pull some weight for the team," Morse said. "All of those girls impress me so much. It's kind of an honor to have them look up to me because they're just so much better than I ever was when I was that age."
She added with a laugh, "I just try to make them not be so nervous all of the time. Just pushing them in practice when we do our warm-ups and when they're running around you just have to yell for them and kind of get rowdy for them a little bit."
Her own success this track season has added another reason why the younger athletes should view her as a leader. Morse won the javelin on Thursday with a toss of 125 feet, 3 inches, a throw good enough to grab the best mark in Class C this season and seventh overall in the state regardless of classification. The throw beat her previous best by a foot.
"As soon as I took my first step into my run-up I was like, 'Oh, this feels nice,'" Morse recalled of her throw. "I got into my crossovers and when I let it go, it didn't even feel like I threw it. It just fell out of my hands."
After dominating the District 13C meet last week, Seeley-Swan's girls lead the divisional after the first day with 85 points. Charlo is second at 32.50, and West Yellowstone is third at 27.
But with one week left, the Blackhawks have even bigger goals.
"We just talk about how cool it would be to take state," Morse said. "That would be such a cool way to end my high school career. Just talking about it and seeing ourselves doing it and imagining it, that helps a lot."
Young steps up for Bigfork
When you think of distance running in Bigfork, you have to start with the Morley family.
With Makena Morley earning All-American honors left and right at Colorado and Bryn Morley in her first year at Northern Arizona, the two were some of the most decorated high school track and field and cross country athletes to suit up in the state of Montana, winning multiple cross country and track state titles.
But with them gone now, Bigfork has been led in the distance races by senior Anya Young who is picking up where they left off. Young walked away from Thursday's opening day at the divisional meet with wins in the 800 and 3,200. She ranks in the top five in Class B in both of those as well as in the 1,600, an event in which she ranks third.
"It's been kind of a weird season because it was hard to train this winter because of the weather," Young said. "I came into the season a little out of shape, which was frustrating, but I've been getting into it, and I don't think I've peaked quite yet so we'll see what happens at state. I'm pretty excited."
Bigfork's girls lead the divisional with 69 points, ahead of Loyola, which has 37 and Deer Lodge, which put up 34.
Young was a three-time state placer in individual events a year ago for Bigfork. She took second in both the 1,600 and 3,200 and fifth in the 800. Young won't compete in college, so for her, getting over that hump and getting the gold medal has been her drive all season and has served as an end goal as she wraps up her high school career.
"It would really be my dream to win state this year especially in the mile because I'm so close but it's really just something I've wanted for so long that it's my goal," Young said. "I've be working so hard all these years. I want to win state."
While some athletes saw the Morley sisters once or twice a year, Young saw them everyday in practice and competed against the future Division I athletes. But with them gone now, the Class B distance races feel like it's anyone's game.
"It's kind of the same but there's a little more pressure now that the Morley's are gone and everyone thinks they can win now," Young said. "There's a lot of girls that have trained really hard and a lot of good competition out there and I think that's the big difference."
She continued, "That's kind of for me too that I feel like I have that shot now."
Notable winners from Thursday
Along with the Bigfork and Seeley-Swan girls and Loyola boys, the Manhattan Christian boys also lead the divisional after the first day. The Eagles didn't have any individual winners, but future Montana State men's basketball player Caleb Bellach placed second in the 400 and triple jump and ran a leg on Manhattan Christian's 400-relay team.
Seeley-Swan was second with 39.50 points and Charlo was third at 29. Blackhawk senior Hunter Shelmerdine won the 400 and ran a leg on the winning 400-relay team. Charlo's Wills Degrandpre (1,600) and Landers Smith (pole vault) also won, as did Lincoln's Aziah Blotkamp (high jump), Noxon's Levi Brubaker (triple jump), Gardiner's Favian Hudson (discus) and Twin Bridges' Steve Smathers (javelin).
The Seeley-Swan girls also got wins from Lily Mercer (400), Sariah Maughan (800), Terra Bertsch (pole vault) and Klaire Kovatch (discus). The Blackhawks 400-relay team won as well. Jourdain Klein of Ennis won the high and triple jumps while West Yellowstone's Averi Parker won the 3,200.
Ashton McAnally won the shot put to help put Bigfork out front while the Valkyries' 400-relay team won as well. Deer Lodge's Kamryn Scully walked away as a winner in the 400 and the pole vault, while Loyola's Alexis Cooney won the long jump.
In the boys Class B ranks, the top four placers in the long jump belonged to Loyola, while Bryce Danielson won the shot put for the Rams. Troy's Hunter Leighty won the 400, while other winners included Deer Lodge's Marik Chrisman (1,600) and Anaconda's Brennen Blume (pole vault).