By Pat Ryan
Butte High’s track season will get off to an early spring start Thursday, as the Bulldog boys’ and girls’ teams hit the road to Missoula to take on Big Sky.
Arie Grey, head coach of both boys’ and girls’ teams, said his team hasn’t had an abundance of quality practice, but he feels an early meet will help get his athletes going.
“We need to get those first-meet jitters out of the way,” Grey said after his teams’ practices Wednesday. “And this should tell us a lot about where we are.”
Butte High has good overall numbers, as 80 boys and more than 40 girls are out for the spring sport, but Grey said the kids’ attitudes are what stand out.
“They’re excited,” he said, with a detectable amount of excitement in his voice. “They’re hard workers with a great attitude and they want to get out to that first meet.”
On the girls’ side, Butte High has just two returning senior letter winners — Mijah McLeod and Kaleigh Shutey-Fogerty — and just four seniors in total, but the Bulldog girls have plenty more returning talent led by junior Abby Dodge. Her fourth in the triple jump and fifth in the high jump at State last spring represent Butte High’s only medals returning from last season. She also qualified for State in the long jump.
“We’ve got a lot of depth and experience coming back for the girls,” Grey said. “Abby has been a consistent performer in the high jump and she got better all last year in the triple.”
Dodge won’t be competing in Missoula in the opening meet, but Butte will have plenty of athletes on hand. McLeod, who took third in last year’s divisional triple jump, is also one of four legs of the State 4×400 relay team coming back. She’s joined there by junior Caitlin Carmody, who also qualified for the State triple jump last season, as well as juniors Mar Sorini and Joby Rosenleaf.
“Joby had phenomenal divisional and State meets,” Grey said noting that she notched personal-best times in the 1,600 and 3,200 at both meets. “She’s willing to hurt, and she put in a lot of miles in the offseason.”
Coming back with State experience also includes sophomore Hailee Regan, who qualified for State last spring with a sixth-place divisional showing in the shot put..
Other returning letter winners on the girls’ side include junior sprinter Bailey McCarthy, junior hurdler/sprinter Sydney Pendergast and sophomore sprinter/jumper Mckenna Wendt.
With twice the numbers, Butte High’s boys have decidedly less State qualifiers returning. Junior Bryce Gallagher comes back as the only remaining leg of the sprint relay team that took fourth at divisionals, while Bryce Liebel’s sixth place shot put at divisionals also brought him to State.
“We’re young in the sense of State experience,” Grey said, “but we’re not young in that we have a lot of seniors out there.”
Returning letterwinning seniors include weightman Nolan Boyle, hurdler Josh Cox, distance runner Nic Raiser along with hurdler/jumper/javelin thrower Quinn Dennehy. Junior Kiley Caprara is back in the jumps and hurdles, while sophomore sprinter Bo Mortenson and sophomore pole vaulter Ty Peterson are back after winning letters as freshmen.
“We have a lot of unknowns on the boys’ side,” Grey said. “We should be good in all three throws, but we’ll know a lot more two weeks from now.”
Grey said his coaching staff has allowed the athletes to choose their events this week.
“I told them to make it count because this will be the only time,” he said with a laugh.
The relaxed demeanor will slowly disappear as the calendar heads closer and closer to the Eastern AA Divisional meet May 20-21 in Billings and the State AA meet May 27-28 in Missoula.
“We’ve got to be at our best at divisionals and State,” Grey said. “Qualifying standards are great, but we’re more interested in seeing the kids improve every day and each meet get a little better.
“We want to get personal bests and have some fun,” he said. “I want them to take something from the sport.”