Belgrade to AA heads busy Advantage Butte agenda

Belgrade to AA heads busy Advantage Butte agenda

By Bruce Sayler

Some likely Montana High School Association sports alignments have put Butte administrators in preparation mode for the developments, they said Tuesday at the January Advantage Butte meeting held in the Butte Plaza Inn.

President Rody Holman, secretary Dorea Wilmoth and members Ron Davis and Bill Melvin represented Advantage Bute at the MHSA meetings held Sunday and Monday in Bozeman. Holman is the PayneWest Insurance delegate to Advantage Butte, Wilmoth represents the Comfort Inn and Butte Town Pump Stores, Davis is affiliated with Butte Broadcasting Co., and Melvin is the manager of the Butte Civic Center.

They reported that Belgrade will move to the Class AA ranks from Class A due to steadily increasing enrollments associated with population growth of the area. Similarly, a new high school is being built in Bozeman. The Belgrade move to AA in the fall of 2019 is to be followed by the second Bozeman school joining in 2000. With Belgrade’s inclusion in Class AA, it will be assigned to the Eastern AA Conference and Butte High will move to the Western AA.

The eventual 16-team set-up will consist of Butte High, Helena Capital, Helena High, Kalispell Flathead, Kalispell Glacier, Missoula Big Sky, Missoula Hellgate and Missoula Sentinel forming the eight-team Western AA Conference. So, Belgrade, the two Bozeman high schools, Billings Senior, Billings Skyview, Billings West, Great Falls C.M. Russell and Great Falls High will be in the Eastern AA.

The Belgrade move to AA will also change the Central A Conference to a three-team membership. What new conference assignments might be in store for Class A were not told.

“With Butte High moving to the Western AA, we will then be bidding on their divisional tournaments,” Melvin said.

(Butte High will be the Eastern AA host for this year’s return to Class AA divisional basketball tournaments. The Eastern AA is to be played March 1-3 at Butte High and Montana Tech. The state Class C boys’ basketball tournament will be held at the Butte Civic Center that weekend).

The delegates also said Butte would be a strong perennial contender to play host to the state Class AA and A golf tournaments if any of the local courses would agree to availing itself for Saturday play. The prep tourneys are now being mostly held on weekdays because the courses want to keep the weekends available for recreational play.

Holman said such an endeavor would likely require the hiring of a golf tournament manager by Advantage Butte to alleviate the pressure on the already busy local athletic staffs at the schools. Chuck Merrifield, Butte High activities director, said golf tournaments require a lot of staffing, mostly by volunteers, and a manager might be better suited to oversee the process.

The Advantage Butte delegates to the MHSA convention also confirmed the Clarion Copper King Inn of Butte was selected for next January’s meetings, the first since 2006 that the MHSA meetings will be held in The Mining City.

Wilmoth noted that Advantage Butte was the only community interest group to attend this year’s meetings. She and the other delegates said they felt the presence was well-received and helped to keep interest from the state administrators on Butte possibilities.

“I think everybody there got the idea that Butte welcomes tournaments,” Holman said.

They reported, too, that Class C will be going to a combined boys’ and girls’ state tournament, provably beginning in 2020. Melvin said it means one less tournament to bid on and likely limits Butte to one state basketball tourney per year in the future. However, he assured the bids for such will continue to be made.

Merrifield, who attended the MHSA meetings for Butte High, said time is nearing that will allow eighth-graders to participate in high school sports in all enrollment classes. He said a proposal for such came up just short of passing this time. Class C allows, with petition, for eighth-graders to participate in varsity and junior varsity basketball and volleyball programs, and on relay teams for track. The enrollments in many Class C schools have diminished to such the eighth-graders are needed, in some cases, to field teams in those sports.

Brad Spear, of the Anderson ZurMuehlen and Co. firm, and who is the Advantage Butte treasurers, said the organization’s checking account shows $24,669. He said unpaid commitments are at $8,850 for this school year.

Holman suggested tabling of a potential funding request from the Butte Family YMCA for the state short-course swim meet to be held next month until “more information” is available. He suggested the Advantage Butte Executive Board be able to take action on the matter when the questions are answered. It was agreed.

Melvin and Don Peoples Jr., of Butte Central Catholic Schools and the Maroon Activities Center, both reminded The Mining City Classic youth basketball tournament will be held February 10-11 and both the Civic Center and the MAC will be put to use for it. Melvin said, too, that the Civic Center will be the site for the Cyclops Classic invitational wrestling tournament February 17-18.

Peoples said the MAC will play host to the area’s Class C district boys’ and girls’ basketball tournament Feb. 14-16 and that Butte Central will be the host school for the Western A SuperDivisional boys’ and girls’ basketball tournament February 20-24 at the Civic Center. Some loser-out games of the SuperDivisional will be played at the MAC, he added.

“We’ve also been asked to bid on four Class C tournaments for (2018-19),” he said, explaining that the C schools requested the MAC be considered for the district and Western C divisional tournaments in both basketball and volleyball.

Peoples also said the annual Southwest Montana All-Star Hoops Classic game for area high school basketball standouts has been scheduled for March 15 in the Montana Tech HPER Complex.

Borup said the Snowball Classic swim meet ran smoothly at the YMCA pool last weekend. It drew 154 competitors, he said. He added that participation in Y swim meets have grown from 253 to 573 athletes from last year, through the first three meets of this season. He said high school meet participation would likely grow the number to 700-800.

The state short-course meet is set for February 22-25.

Borop also said the Y went to a longer single session  of grade school basketball and it received a better response than did the past seasons of two shorter sessions.

Another new project for the YMCA, Borup, said will be running the formerly Kiwanis Sunshine Camp and converting it to a day camp the next two summers. He said the Y will lease the camp for a $1 with the intent of completely taking it over after the two-year trial period.

Matt Stepan, representing the Silver Bow Amateur Wrestling Association (or Butte Wrestling Club), said membership is up this year to 130 wrestlers as of last week with registration still available. He said scholarship help is also available for families unable to foot the costs of being in the program.

Stepan reminded that the East Middle School junior high wrestling tournament will again be held in conjunction with the Cyclops meet at the Civic Center next month. Also, the annual Smith/McCarthy Invitational meet will be held in April in Butte. Stepan said a Butte contihgent will again be wrestling in the USA Wrestling Western Zone Nationals tournament this year, but that the tourney is being held at the end of April this year and in Las Vegas, Nevada. In recent years, the tourney was held in Pocatello, Idaho, during June. Stepan said this year’s meet will be held with the U.S. Open tournament in Las Vegas.

Stepan also serves as the Montana Tech athletic director and told the group the second half of the Montana Tech-Providence (Mont.) men’s basketball game will be held Thursday night in Great Falls. A broken backboard causes suspension last week of the scheduled game as the second half was about to start. The half will begin at 7 p.m. and will be free to the public to watch. Providence begins the half with a 33-31 lead.

Then, on Friday, the Orediggers and Argonauts will play a women’s and men’s basketball doubleheader, regularly scheduled, at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. in Frontier Conference action. The Montana Tech teams will finish the week with games at Montana State-Northern in Havre on Saturday.

Stepan said this year’s Diggers Uncorked fundraiser has been scheduled for February 16 at the Front Street Station. Wine and craft beer will be available while vendors will also set up and artwork will be featured. The annual ‘Digger Auction is slated for April 14.

Stephanie Sorini of the Butte 100 mountain bike spectacular said that, except for 13 spots left in the 100-mile race, entries for the July 20 event sold out in the first 13 minutes registration opened on January 8. She said 198 entrants are from Montana, but other contestants will be from all over — including one from New Zealand. Distances of 25 and 50 miles were also offered.

She also announced that Monster Energy Drink has signed on as a title sponsor.

J.P. Gallagher, the Butte-Silver Bow Recreation director, said the Butte’s second SnoFLINGA winter festival will start on Thursday with a presentation and film about climbing Mr. Denali by Jim Blow. It will be held at 5518 Designs.

Official opening ceremonies are to be held Friday evening at the U.S. High Altitude Sports Center. Events through the weekend will be held there, Homestake Lodge, the Butte Community Ice Rink and the Mountain Con Mineyard. Skiing, biking, skating, curling, sledding and fort building competitions will be held. Food and drink will be available.

Gallagher said progress on the Stodden Park project continues, ,with slides schedueld to be installed in the pool next week.

Cooper Fisher of the Butte Local Development Corporation said fly rod designer Annette McLean, general manager of Winston Fly Rods in Twin Bridges, will be the guest speaker for the Mile High Innovation Network meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Thornton Building.

The next Advantage Butte meeting is set for February 20 in the Butte Plaza Inn Hops conference room.


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