By Bruce Sayler
BOZEMAN — The Butte Central boys were literally hamstrung for much of their performance while Rachael McGree won two more events for the Maroon girls Saturday as the state Class A high school track meet closed at Van Winkle Stadium.
Team winners in the conjoined Class A and B meets were the Dillon boys and Corvallis girls in Class A, and the Manhattan boys and Malta girls in Class B. It was Corvallis’ fifth straight title and the Manhattan boys’ fifth consecutive, too, and seventh crown in the last nine years.
The BC boys picked up their two points with a gutsy effort in the 400-meter relay. They lost senior anchor Kyle Harrington to a hamstring pull in Friday’s preliminary heat. Clay Fisher subbed for him and Butte Central notched a fifth place in 44.16 seconds.
The other three in the quartet — Blake Burton, Cole Harper and Nate McGree adjusted to the emergency change. However, it was a difficult situation.
“We’d had Harrington all year,” Burton commented. “Nate and Fisher practiced their exchanges this morning and it went great.”
Fisher anchored with Burton running the lead leg, followed by Harper and McGree.
“We’re happy with our finish,” Harper said.
McGree was also battling a hamstring issue and it probably cost him a place in the triple jump. He completed one jump in the prelims, a 40-foot, 9 ¼-inch bounce that took him to the finals. He opened the last round of jumps with one that measured 37-4 ½, but could do no more.
“We were hoping for the best with Nate, but his leg kept giving out on that second landing and he couldn’t finish it,” head coach Zack Stajcar said. “It was bad time for him to have an injury.
“Our boys kind of got bit by the injury bug. But our relay ran really well with Clay Fisher. Nate tried his best, but couldn’t finish. But, we’re not the only school to have ever had that issue.”
Kyle Schulte measured 140-1 with the discus to finish seventh, only one spot away from scoring another Butte Central point.
It was not exactly known Saturday night where Butte Central finished in the girls’ team standings. Early compiliations reportedly showed the Maroons in fourth place, then final postings showed them in eighth. An error in the scoring of the triple jump results was discovered and had not yet been rectified as of Saturday night. Stajcar said he was sure his girls’ team placed fifth, one point behind Belgrade, which he figured took fourth, speeding past Butte Central by winning the 1,600-meter relay, the last event.
Rachael McGree came up with two of her biggest efforts on the year’s biggest stage. She followed her Friday win in the long jump with performances of 14.48 in the 100-meter hurdles and 35-10 ½ in the triple jump for two more triumphs. They were by big margins.
The hurdles time was just off the 14.48 state Class A record. The second-place time was 15.40. Her 35-10 ½ triple jump was a personal best, “by about a foot,” the junior said.
“I feel pretty good,” she said with a smile. “I wanted to go 35. I was hoping I had another (big jump) in me.”
It came on her last jump, but she had already posted a leading jump of 35-2 that was her first career journey into 35-foot territory. She stood third in the event until then, having a previous best on the day of 34-1 ¾ to erase three scratches over the prelims and finals. McGree said her fouls could be attributed to running the hurdles and in the 400-meter relay while also vying in the triple jump between races.
“I was really super warmed-up,” she said. “I had to compensate by moving back on the runway.”
McGree said she felt “really good, relaxed” in her hurdles victory.
Maybe the only participant quicker on the track at the time was a wild bunny that found its way onto the oval. It hopped the straightaway between hurdles, which it dodged and darted through, while eluding a bevy of chasing, arm-waving officials. After a few minutes, it found its way back outside the fence, unharmed.
Rachael McGree’s older sister, Whitney, scored two points with sixths in the two short sprints, and also helped the all-McGree girls’ quartet place second in the 400-meter relay. Whitney McGree ran the anchor and nearly caught the Columbia Falls leader, Mary Baker, at the tape with a strong sprint down the straightaway. She closed similarly in gaining her place-winnings.
Rachael McGree ran the first leg of the relay, her freshman sister Lindsay the second, followed by senior first cousin Lacy, who handed off to Whitney, the senior older sister to Rachael and Lindsay.
The squad clocked 50.29, just behind Columbia Falls’ 50.23..
“Think how fast we could’ve been,” Lindsey McGree commented. The senior McGrees — Lacy and Whitney — rushed to grab and hug her.
“We were that fast,” Whitney McGree told her.
Whitney McGree proved to be a hard finisher with good closing speed in all three races she ran on Saturday. The place-winnings meant a lot.
“I was very anxious (about waiting for the 100-meter results) and I was hoping,” Whitney McGree said. “I was happy with what I ran.”
“Our girls had a fantastic weekend,” Stajcar said. “Rachael was able to win three events and a second (as part of the 400-meter relay) and that’s more than you can ask from any athlete.”
The performances gave her 32 points for the meet.
“Abby McGee ran really well for us the two days,” Stajcar said. “Lindsay and Lacy were great as well, and Whitney gave us a chance to win another event in the relay. She just ran out of room.”
McGee timed 5:48.67 in the 1,600 meters, but didn’t place in a pretty quick field. She was eighth in the 800 on Saturday.
The only state all-class record to fall came in the Class B girls’ javelin where Colstrip throwing star Hailey Poole chucked it 152-8, winning the event by almost 16 feet and eclipsing the old record held by Marissa Tschida of Missoula Loyola, who set it at 149-6 in the 2005 State B meet.
Then, for what-the-heck purposes there was a Class B hurdler in the boys’ 110-meter highs, who tried to salvage what he could after being tackled full-on by the second-to-the-last hurdle in his lane. He crawled out of the entanglement, found that he was well behind all the other competitors and so jogged to the last hurdle, and got down and crawled under it before rising to resume his jog to the finish line with a wave to the crowd.