Dalton Daum thriving in the shadows

It seems like a ridiculous statement to say you feel kind of bad for a high school junior who had just won the 100- and 200-meter titles at the Montana Class AA State track meet.

Yet, that was exactly what I was thinking Saturday night about Butte High junior Dalton Daum.

On the day Daum put in one of the most impressive performances in the rich history of Butte High athletics, he was drastically overshadowed by the great Erika McLeod.

McLeod, a Butte High senior who was a steal of a signee for the University of Montana’s track team back in February, won four state titles, claiming the top spot on the podium in the long jump, triple jump, 200 and 300-meter hurdles.

That made Daum’s historic day seem almost like an afterthought, something that seems to be the norm for an athlete destined for an NCAA Division I football scholarship and a spot in the Butte Sports Hall of Fame.

Even though he placed second in the 100 and 200 as a freshman, the first time most Butte fans got a look at Daum was the first football game of his sophomore season.

Daum went back for a kick return in the first quarter of the season opener against Great Falls Russell at the east end of Naranche Stadium. With the sun in his eyes, Daum made what was almost a catastrophic mistake when he let the ball bounce around. And bounce. And bounce.

As the CMR players converged on the ball and at least two Bulldog coaches suffered mild-to-moderate heart attacks, Daum reached down and snapped the ball up with one hand. He made one cut and took off like he was shot out of a cannon.

By the time he got to the 10-yard line you knew he was gone, and 89 yards later he was in the end zone for a record 99-yard touchdown.

It was perhaps the most amazing play in a season filled with amazing plays. At the very least, it was the play that first gave Bulldog fans a sense that there was something very special about the 2012 season.

Daum also ran back a clutch kickoff and made a brilliant catch on a slick sideline to set up Jake Dennehy’s game-winning 46-yard field goal as time ran out in the state championship game against Bozeman.

Yet, what most people seem to remember was that kick, quarterback Dallas Cook’s game-tying and game-winning touchdowns in the semifinal and Billy Robinson’s tackle that sent the Bulldogs to the title game by an eyelash.

Without Daum’s key plays, those other plays would have gone for naught.

Daum placed third in the 100 and 200 as a sophomore. Even though his times were faster than the previous years, the bronze medals really seemed to fuel Daum’s fire heading into this season when he really put on a show.

Daum repeatedly broke 11 seconds in the 100. He ran an amazing 10.66 in Billings.

Still, as the season went on, McLeod was the show stealer. When Daum dominated at the divisional track meet, McLeod dominated more. One writer called him Dustin Daum.

Through it all, Daum continued to thrive in the shadow. He just kept going out, routinely beating the state’s best. He often made it look easy, too.

During the 2014-15 school year, Dallas Cook will be playing junior college football. McLeod will take her greatness to the Grizzlies.

That will leave Daum as the focal point of the Butte High football and track teams, and college coaches from both sports will be paying attention. A bunch of football coaches are already hoping they will be the lucky one to land the speedy receiver who somehow looks even faster in football pads.

Someday, we will be watching television to see Daum play on Saturdays. Perhaps, even, we’ll see him play on Sundays one day, too.

On the track, Daum will again be the man in the Class AA in 2015. As he continues to grow, Daum will likely make a run at the state records in the 100 and 200. Maybe he’ll even add another event to eventually dominate his senior season.

Anything seems possible for an athlete with so much speed, so much talent and so much determination.

One thing is for sure, though. With the end of the 2013-14 school year comes the end of Daum living in obscurity.

Next school year, nobody will cast a bigger shadow in Montana high school sports than the great Dalton Daum.

—Bill Foley, who casts a large shadow for other reasons, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 3 comments

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  • Jodi Johnston
    June 3, 2014, 7:13 am

    Bill Foley you never cease to amaze me with your awesome articles but this one takes the cake… Even though I may be prejudice when it comes to our precious Dalton… I’m starting my Tuesday with tears rolling down my cheeks!!

  • Rich Daum
    June 3, 2014, 11:21 am

    Thanks for the article Foles. A couple of things most people don’t know about the last two football seasons is that Dalton needed surgery after both. The 2012 season he played all season with a bone spur on each foot and a tear in the capsule at the base of his right big toe. Five days after the state championship game he had surgery on both feet. The 2013 season he played all season without being able to breath through his nose. In January he had sinus surgery and can now finally breath through his nose. Throughout both seasons he rarely complained and just went out and played the game he loves. I think the comment he had after the championship game says a lot about him “I wanted to win it for our seniors”. This track season though he wanted to win it for himself after placing second and third the past two seasons. I think his actions on and off the field and track also say a lot about his coaches. We are very proud of him. Thanks again.

  • Bill Daily
    June 4, 2014, 11:12 am

    Erika McLeod and Dalton Daum restored my interest in track this year. I have gotten to the point where I compare the results of these two outstanding Butte athletes with their peers here in New Mexico. Both Butte atheletes would be very competitive with those from Class 5-A schools here in the Land of Enchancement. Hardy congratulations to both and much success in the future.


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