Bulldogs excite coach as Dahlberg makes return

Bulldogs excite coach as Dahlberg makes return
Holt Downey of Butte High clears the final hurdle on his way to second place in the 110-meter hurdles Friday on the Charlie Merrifield Track. Zac Crews of Missoula Sentinel, right, won the race. Gallatin's Nash Coley is also shown. (Bill Foley photo)

Kalispell Glacier boys take home team title

By Bill Foley

Butte High’s boys track & field team placed exactly in the middle of the 17-team field at Friday’s Harry “Swede” Dahlberg Invitational on the Charlie Merrifield Track.

No Bulldogs picked up individual victories in the meet that brought all 16 Class AA teams and Butte Central to the Gene Fogarty Complex. (Team scores; Individual results)

Still, Butte High head coach Arie Grey could not be happier after the first Dahlberg Invitational since 2019.

“I’m really excited with what we did today,” Grey said. “I’m really proud of the kids. With the elements and being a little chilly, the kids were excited to compete.”

The elements were better than much of the state Friday, but they were far from ideal. Early-morning rain and snow gave way to dry, but cold weather. That came with a biting wind out of the north that was right in the face of runners heading toward the finish line.

Athletes, however, did not seem to mind too much. Instead, they were just happy to compete in the first major invitational meet in three years. The boys-only Dahlberg was wiped out the last two springs by COVID-19.

“I was so impressed,” Grey said. “Tons of kids all over the state competed and did some good things. I didn’t hear any kids complain. From anywhere.”

Kalispell Glacier took home the team title. The Wolfpack scored 200 points to easily top second-place Gallatin’s 148. Sentinel placed third at 138, followed by Billings West at 90, Great Falls High at 80, Missoula Hellgate at 76, Helena Capital at 63, and Butte High at 61.

Butte Central did not score points, even though the Maroons had some solid performances.

Holt Downey and Jonas Sherman posted second-place performances to lead the Bulldogs.

Downey, a senior, took second in the 110-meter hurdles, and Sherman took second in the high jump.

Downey finished 110 hurdles in 15.77 seconds, just behind Missoula Sentinel’s Zac Crews at 15.62. Downey also placed eighth in the 300 hurdles.

Sherman, a junior, cleared 6 feet for the first time this season in the high jump. Only Missoula Big Sky’s Porter Gibbs was better at 6-2.

Senior Dylan Snyder placed third in the long jump. He uncorked a season-best leap of 21 feet, 1 ¾ inches.

“Dylan got our day started,” Grey said. “He popped off a big jump.”

Butte’s Jaric Sparks and Gavin Vetter both cleared 12 feet in the pole vault. Sparks tied for third on jumps, while Vetter tied for fifth. Helena Capital’s Alex Brisko and Belgrade’s Aidan McGoldrick each cleared 12-6, with Brisko winning on attempts.

Cameron Tobiness, who competed well in the long jump and triple jump, placed fifth in the high jump with a season-best height of 5-10. Bulldog Cameron Gurnsey cleared 5-8 to take eighth. He dropped out of the competition because the cold irritated his sore knee.

Morgan McClernan placed seventh in 110 hurdles and 11th in the 300 hurdles, and fellow Bulldog Casey Kautzman placed 13th in the javelin with a season-best mark of 142-10.

“I was proud of our kids for stepping up and competing in a big meet,” Grey said. “I don’t think an of these kids competed in this meet in 2019.”

To show how tough the competition was Friday, Butte High’s 400-meter relay team posted a state-qualifying time of 43.80 seconds. They finished seventh.

Wyatt Gross, Kenley Leary, Vetter and Downey each ran a leg for the Bulldogs.

Noah Dahlke of Gallatin won the 100, Jackson Hensley of Glacier won the 200, Jake Turner of Glacier took the 400, Keagen Crosby of Sentinel won the 800, Sam Ells of Glacier won the 1,600, and Carson Steckelberg of Gallatin won the 3,200.

Drew Klumph of Sentinel won the 300 meters. West won the short relay, and Gallatin took the long relay.

Josh Goleman launched the shot put 51-11 for a PR and a win. West’s Isaiah Claunch won the discus at 144-10. Aiden Nichols of Hellgate’s PR of 171-09 won the javelin. Garret Coley of Gallatin won the long jump with a PR of 22-2 ½, and Glacier’s Tate Kauffman won the triple jump in 43-10.

Riley Gelling placed 12th in the discus with a PR of 131-7 to lead the Maroons. Sam Henderson placed 20th with a PR of 38-3 ¼ in the triple jump.

Butte Central and Butte High will get to compete in another major invitational a week from Saturday when the Maroons host the John Tomich Invitational. Grey said he expects his boys to continue to improve.

“It’s a good measuring stick for us,” the coach said. “Knowing these kids, they’ll come back and get better. I’m super proud of them.”

Grey also praised the many volunteers who braved the cold to make sure the return of the Dahlberg went off without a hitch. Of course, that was led by Liza Dennehy and her mother, Betty Merrifield.

“We’re lucky,” Grey said. “The community of Butte is so great. It turned out to be a good day.”

Butte High’s girls will head to Great Falls Saturday for the Optimist Invitational at Memorial Stadium.

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