Big in numbers, Bulldogs open track season in Billings

Butte High’s track season begins Tuesday in Billings, as the Bulldogs will get to knock the offseason dust off with a triangular against West and Senior.

In addition to another year of experience under the belt of two fairly young teams, both the Butte High boys and girls added numbers this season as well. The Bulldog boys are up 15 athletes to a total of 76, while the Butte girls added 20 to bring their number to 45. Both squads are heavy in numbers at the younger end of the spectrum, but head coach Arie Grey said he’s just happy to have his teams back in action.

“They’re excited,” Grey said last Friday, following a starting-blocks session with his sprinters. “It’s a tribute to the kids that they’re working hard to get better every day, and they’re having some fun too.”

Butte High’s boys bring back both of their state placewinners from last season, senior Dalton Daum and junior Shannon Tempel.

Daum established himself as the fastest high school sprinter in Montana with top times and state title runs in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Daum, who has signed to play football for the University of Montana, also led the Butte High mile relay team to a divisional win last season, as well as a runner-up divisional finish in the sprint relay.

“You look at what Dalton has done in three years of track, and then realize he’s got a chance to improve on what he’s done,” Grey said. “We’ll try him in a few more events this year and see what happens. We’re excited to have him back.”

Tempel is back after a personal-best time of 1:56.56 in the 800 put him on the state podium in fifth place last May. As another member of Butte’s long relay team, Grey expects plenty from Tempel this season.

“Shannon’s got a motor,” Grey observed with a smile. “He just goes, and he’s a 4.0 (GPA) student. He’s a hard worker and we’re looking for him to be a leader.”

Butte High’s boys also see the return of senior Clay Dean, who will shake off a tough weekend at state and be back to work on the hurdles and mid-distance runs. Dean was a member of both Butte relay teams last year, as well as the top 110- and 300-hurdler for the Dogs. He also placed at divisionals in the 400.

“Clay takes working hard to a different level,” Grey said. “He’s the guy I have to tell to go home. We’ll be looking for a big range of events from him again this year.”

Some other top returners for Butte’s boys include juniors Paul Campbell (4×4, 100, 200, 400), Nic Raiser (distance) and sophomore Kiley Caprara, whom Grey said will compete in a range of events.

Butte’s throwers are a young bunch, led by Nolan Boyle and Bryce Libel. Led by enthusiastic throwing coach Terry Faulkner, Grey said the sky’s the limit for the field events.

“They’re competing in practice and they’re out there every day working hard,” Grey said. “It’s good to see.”

The bad news for the Butte High girls? They graduated Erika McLeod, who scored 48 of the team’s 50 points at state last spring. The good news? They get a lot of young girls coming back with added experience, and hopefully, speed.

Butte’s sprint relay team of Mijah McLeod, Bailey McCarthy, Sydney Pendergast and Mar Sorini is back to try improving on its fifth-place divisional finish last spring. McLeod is now a junior and the other three sophomores, all with valuable experience at state.

“We lettered six freshmen last year,” Grey said, noting the performances of Abby Dodge (high jump, etc.), Caitlin Carmody (mile relay) and Joby Rosenleaf (distance). “Kass Caprara is a senior leader, and we’ll look for her in the long jump and some other places. She’s another versatile athlete.”

“This is a fun group of kids,” Grey said. “They come ready to work every day, but in track it’s really on you as the athlete. You have to have the desire to get better.”

Grey isn’t alone heading up the group of more than 120 athletes.  In addition to Faulkner in the disc ring, Grey looks to Gwenn Abbott in the high jump, Chris Alexander in the javelin, Bryan Arntson in the javelin and discus, Dale Burgman in the shot put, Eric Zahler in the shot and jumps, Angela Richards in the discus, Jaric McElroy in the jumps, Dave Susanj in the pole vault, Mara Osborne in the distance events, along with father-son team of Chuck and Charlie Merrifield in the hurdles.

With the opening meet of the season fast approaching, Grey is more interested in finding the right fit of athletes in events than he is in state qualifying times.

“Our philosophy for the first three weeks is to see where we are,” Grey said. “We’ll figure out what we need to do from there.”

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