MISSOULA — Missoula Big Sky's Rylan Wilcox began to get frustrated.
About four weeks ago, he was starting to top out on all of the pole vault poles at Big Sky's disposal.
"We were just running out of options," Wilcox said. "We really didn't know what we were going to do.
"And then all of a sudden (Eagles' coach Dan) Nile shows up with a magic trick and a new pole."
The pole isn't exactly new, though. Just new to Wilcox.
Nile bought the pole when he coached track and field at Arlee nearly 20 years ago for his star pole vaulter Rafe Espinoza.
The pole hasn't been used, to Nile's knowledge, since Espinoza won his third-straight Class C state title in 2001 and broke the Class C record — which still stands today — at 15 feet, 1 inch.
"I remember buying it 18 years ago about two weeks before state," Nile said. "... Luckily I knew where it was. I knew it was still on the shelf when we put it away many years ago."
Nile added: "Rafe was exactly the same type of kid Rylan was as far as big, tall, strong kid. It was pretty cool that we were able to borrow it. A little deja vu for me, bringing back some pretty good memories."
With the pink accented pole in hand on Friday, Wilcox was mere inches away from tying Big Sky's school record at 15 feet.
He cleared 14-6, which was a personal best, and good enough to earn the silver medal at the Western AA Divisional, which began Friday at Missoula County Stadium.
"It got me my PR," Wilcox said of the pole, "so hopefully we can keep that going. It's awesome. This pole has championships in it."
Wilcox, a senior, originally committed to play football at Montana Tech next year, but last Friday, the life-long Montana State Bobcat fan received an offer he couldn't refuse.
He's walking on to the Montana State football program. He doesn't know what position he'll be playing yet, but that doesn't matter right now. All Wilcox cares about, he said, is the spot on the team.
"I can't wait. Doors are opening that I'd never imagined would open," Wilcox said of the offer. "It's humbling, too. Growing up you never think something like that would happen."
Through the first day of competition, the Missoula Sentinel girls lead the pack with 81 points. The Missoula Hellgate girls are currently in second with 44 points.
On the boys' side, Kalispell Glacier has a narrow lead over Kalispell Flathead, 58-55. Helena Capital and Sentinel are currently tied for third with 41 points.
"Overall, there's a lot of cool talent out there that, people, if they weren't here, they better be here Saturday to witness," Sentinel coach Craig Mettler said. "There are some good athletes that are pumping out some good marks."
THE FINAL TIME
Kalispell Glacier senior star Annie Hill wrapped up the last divisional meet in her high school career on Friday.
The future Colorado Buffalo ran in only one event: the 800-meter run. Hill dominated the field, winning the race by seven seconds.
"I went a little bit conservative in the first 400," Hill said of her race. "At Archie Roe a couple weeks ago, I went out really hard. It kinda kicked me in the butt and the last 200 I kinda jogged it in, but I ran almost the same time and this one felt a little bit easier."
Hill's been a staple of Montana distance running since her freshman year, when she won the 3,200-meter run at the state meet by nearly 20 seconds.
But Hill's the first to admit her career hasn't always gone to plan.
"I've had a lot of ups and downs and I definitely have not won every race. Even my sophomore year at state, I didn't win one event," Hill said. "It's been really fun and I'm really grateful that I've been given a gift and I just hope I can use it and keep growing."
She added of this year being the last: "It's kinda sad, but I'm kind of excited for the next step. I think I'm ready for the next step and I'm excited to go somewhere new and have different training and keep going further in my running career."
But she's not hanging it up quite yet.
She's running in five events next weekend at state: the 400-meter dash, the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs and the 1,600-meter relay.
"I want to give everything I have on every single race," Hill said. "I just want to feel good about how I do and finish my high school career really well. I know there's going to be a lot of competition and a fight in every race, but I'm looking forward to it."
'A HELL OF A RACE'
Coming into the divisional meet, Sentinel senior Jonathan Harrison had only won the 800-meter run one time and that was in a quadrangular.
That changed Friday.
Harrison found himself boxed in after the starting gun went off, but he relied on his coaching to get him through.
With 300 meters to go, Glacier's Elijah Boyd moved into first place after passing Hellgate's Will Dauenhauer. Harrison knew that was his chance to move too.
"I just went with him," Harrison said of Boyd. "He eventually died down, so I just sprinted the straight away. It was crazy and very hard, but it was a fun race, a good race."
Harrison crossed the finish line in a time of 1:57.50 — just 0.45 seconds faster than Dauenhauer and 0.98 faster than Boyd.
"That was a hell of a race," Mettler said. "... It was just a sweet race for Jonathan. He's really come a long way. I'm really proud of that kid.
Capital senior Justin Jenks crushed the divisional shot put record with his toss of 63-foot-1¾, breaking the old mark of 61-foot-8½ set by Hellgate's Mike Violette in 1989.
Sentinel junior Rylan Ortt blew the doors off the javelin competition with a new personal best of 194-foot-4. The second place finisher, Glacier junior Evan Todd, threw 179-foot-7.
Flathead junior Ben Perrin cruised to win the 3200-meter run with a time of 9:23.40 — nearly 40 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
Helena sophomore Trey Tintinger made his first appearance on the high jump stage in over a month, winning the event at 6-foot-7.