MISSOULA — Missoula Sentinel's Madi Arneson, Kylie Frohlich, Emily Malone and Aaliyah Woods racked up 35 of the Spartans' 91 points at the state track and field meet last year, propelling the program to its first team title in school history.
They were juniors then. And they're back for more as their high school careers draw to a close.
"It's really special. They're a unique group," Sentinel coach Craig Mettler said of the four throwers. "They're all very different. Their personalities are different, however, they come together and they just mesh as one. They support each other. They make each other better every day in practice. And they're experienced, confident, and I expect them to have some really good days on Friday and Saturday."
But it's not just about the winning for them.
It's more than that.
"I think the throws team has the best support with one another, honestly," Arneson said. "We compete against one another but we're so supportive if someone gets a throw farther, we'll be like, 'Hey nice throw. That was really good.' We're not just catty or anything."
Frohlich added: "Just having known each other for such a long time and then competing with and against each other. Sentinel girls throwers have such a good program. The competition has actually brought us closer and it's not even really a competition because it's more like, you're actually happy if they do well. It doesn't really matter to you because everyone that gets a good throw, you're just excited for them."
Malone qualified for state in all three throws events. Arneson and Woods qualified in both the shot put and the discus, and Frohlich qualified in the discus and the javelin.
All four of them are highly-ranked in their respective events. Arneson, Woods and Malone hold the top three spots in Class AA for shot put. Frohlich and Malone are second and third in the state (54th and 74th in the country too, respectively) in javelin. All four are ranked in the top 10 in Class AA for discus.
Their dominance in the ring and on the runway earns respect from those around them — even coaches of their competitors.
"That group of Sentinel girls have been one of the most impressive groups of throwers I've seen since I competed, and easily for as long as I've been coaching," Hellgate throws coach Joe Slemberger said in an email. "They are a major reason why Sentinel won the state title last year and will again this year.
"... They've been impressive to watch."
All four of them are continuing their track and field careers at the college level as well.
Malone is off to North Carolina to throw for the Tar Heels, Arneson will be a Montana State Bobcat in the fall and both Woods and Frohlich will be suiting up for the Grizzlies.
Frohlich, who will also be playing basketball for the Lady Griz, said the development of her deciding to throw in college too was a recent one.
"It was on the table but I didn't know if I was going to do it with basketball, but I'm going to give it a shot," Frohlich said. "It might be a little bit of work, but I think in the end it will be worth it."
The Spartan girls are the favorite to win the state title again this year, and with Arneson, Frohlich, Malone and Woods in Sentinel's arsenal, the chances are good.
"I think it would be the perfect way to end the year," Frohlich said of possibly winning the state team title again this year.
Arneson echoed: "To be a part of the team to bring home the first two state titles, ever, that would feel so good to be a part of that."
But whatever happens, the Spartan throwers are excited for the bittersweet weekend that's finally upon them.
"It's one last hurrah, go out there and show everybody what we've got," Woods said. "It's one last hurrah with each other too."
Other Montana-bound Spartans
Sentinel's girls throwers aren't the only Spartan track athletes who will be competing in sports at the college level.
Both Brendan Thompson and Caden Venters are staying home to compete in track and field for Montana.
Thompson, a hurdler, said Montana's coach Brian Schweyen talked to him about a walk-on offer back in March and he accepted it on the spot.
"I was honestly pretty set on going to Washington State just to be a student but then I had a light bulb moment where I realized that I love this sport and I live for hurdles. I have for a long time now. It just all felt like I just wasn't ready to give it up," Thompson said. "When this opportunity presented itself, it was nothing I would ever consider taking for granted."
Venters, a javelin thrower, is currently ranked No. 70 in the country with his personal best toss of 184 feet, 5 inches.
He started throwing the kid-friendly turbo javelin in seventh grade and instantly fell in love.
"It was always my dream to go to the U and continue to throw. I used jav just to be able to get into college, honestly," Venters said, laughing. "Just to continue to throw at the D-I level has been my dream."
Sentinel has 11 seniors who qualified for state in individual events: Arneson (shot put, discus), Allie Baldwin-Case (100, 200), Lauren Bingham (100H, 300H), Frohlich (javelin, discus), Jonathan Harrison (400, 800), Blake Linsted (discus), Malone (javelin, shot put, discus), Hudson Shermer (100, 200), Thompson (110H, 300H), Venters (javelin) and Woods (shot put, discus).
And this senior class, for Mettler, is a special one.
"Four years ago they set the foundation on which we stand today," Mettler said of his senior class. "A lot of these kids have been very successful from a young age. It's a tribute to them to stick it out and remain committed to their track and field teammates, the coaches.
"It's a very special group that I've not seen before and to be determined on if we'll see another group like this again."