Seeley/Corvallis 4X4

The Corvallis and Seeley-Swan teams complete the final 4x400-meter relay exchange. 

CORVALLIS — In his first ever 400-meter relay, Corvallis senior Jake Jessop leaned a little farther than intended.

Jessop lost his balance and tumbled onto the black track, turning his entire back cherry red, along with his shoulder. 

"It's kinda strange. I'm a distance runner," Jessop said. "I run cross country in the fall and I'm a 400, 800 guy, so they just threw me in there, just to see how it was going to go. I didn't really know where all the other kids were because I got the baton first.

"I know sprinters lean so I leaned just a little too far, took a tumble, sacrificed some DNA, but I'll be OK."

The bruises on his skin lasted longer than the bruise on his ego, as the latter faded quickly because his Blue Devils won that relay, as well as the Corvallis-hosted Gene Hughes Invitational for both the boys' and girls' teams. 

Jessop played a big part in that, winning his 400-meter dash and anchoring the winning 1,600 relay too. 

"It's a huge confidence booster," Jessop said of Corvallis winning the meet. "... Taking the tumble was worth it."

Jessop wasn't the only one winning events on the track. 

Fellow Corvallis seniors Grant Martin and Anders Watt battled it out in the mile, with Martin edging out his training partner by .05 seconds. 

"It was real fun. It was a great finish," Watt said. 

On the girls' side, Kailee McCready took home the first-place ribbon in the 300-meter hurdles.

The real Corvallis dominance came in the field events. The Blue Devils won four of the six girls' field events and three of the six on the boys' side. 

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Corvallis' head coach Spencer Huls said of his teams' wins. " ... I'm pleased with how the kids performed and competed, but it's always foolhardy to put too much stock in the first meet. I'm happy."

State qualifiers

Several athletes made their state qualifying marks on Saturday, including Loyola Sacred Heart's David Koppang. Koppang leaped 41-feet, 1 inch in the triple jump — 8 inches longer than his outing at state last year as a junior. 

He's hoping Saturday's performance is just the beginning.

"Obviously my form isn't the best right now and I can learn from that," Koppang said, "but it finally felt good to be back. Triple jump is easily my favorite thing to do, so it feels nice to be back on it and try and improve from last year."

Corvallis' Ridge Albright hit the 6-foot-2 mark in the high jump, giving the senior a chance to duplicate his state title from last season. Fellow Blue Devil Zach Jessop heaved the javelin 168 feet, 1 inch to top the Class A mark by two feet.

Five other throwers threw their state distance on Saturday.

Frenchtown's Jesse Mecham and Butte Central's Aaron Richards surpassed 46 feet, 6 inches for the Class A mark in shot put. In the girls' rings, Corvallis' Denali Smith heaved the shot put 35 feet, 10½ inches to qualify for state and in discus, Seeley's Klaire Kovatch and Corvallis' Brooke Wiltbank made the Class C and Class A cuts, respectively.

Three girls high jumpers reached the 5-foot mark on Saturday: Corvallis sophomore Hannah Hutchison, Seeley sophomore Terra Bertsch and Stevensville senior Megan Pendergast. 

Butte Central's Lindsay McGree bested the Class A qualifying mark in long jump by 7½ inches. 

The lone state-qualifying performance on the track came from Dillon's Tylia DeJohn. She cruised to a win in the 100-meter dash in 13.16.

Weather woes

Track and field coaches tell their athletes they need to be able to perform in all types of weather — rain, shine, snow, wind, etc.

Athletes competing in the meet had a taste of all of the above on Saturday.

The wind howled all day long, knocking over tents and sending heat sheets airborne.

During the boys' junior varsity 100-meter dash, the winds gusted hard enough and kicked up enough dirt to send several spectators out of the bleachers to take cover.

Light flurries, and some drizzle, came down an hour later during the girls' mile events. And not long after that, the sun came out. 

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Amie Just covers Griz football and Missoula-area preps. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at Amie.Just@406mtsports.com.

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