By Bill Foley
Butte High’s track and field team hasn’t been near a track or field just yet as it prepares for the 2019 season.
The heavy, late-winter snow has made the track — and even more so the field — at Bulldog Memorial Stadium better suited for dog sleds and cross country skis than for runners, jumpers and throwers.
That, however, is OK with the Bulldogs. They know the track and field will be cleared in time for the part of the season that matters.
“We’re gearing up for the end of the year,” Bulldog coach Arie Grey said. “Our philosophy hasn’t changed. We worry more about the end of the year than we do about right now. Divisionals and state are the two more important meets, and the kids understand that.”
The Eastern AA Divisional are May 17-18 in Bozeman. The Class AA State meet is the following week in Kalispell.
As far as the Bulldogs are concerned, the rest of the way is pretty much getting ready for those two events.
So when Tuesday’s season-opening meet is eventually canceled — or moved to Missoula — that won’t be a big deal for Butte High, which has been working hard mostly inside for the past three weeks.
“We don’t really know where we’re at, but the attitudes the kids have and the effort they’ve brought has been awesome,” Grey said. “It’s been a pleasure, and it’s been fun to watch them.”
The Bulldogs also have their biggest turnout since Grey took over both the boys’ and the girls’ at Butte High in 2014. He coached the girls in 2013.
Butte High has a total of 173 athletes out for the team. That includes 105 boys, 68 girls. Of those, 61 are freshman and 56 are sophomores.
In addition to adding to the number of busses the team will need for road meets, those numbers have Grey very excited.
“It’s the biggest number we’ve had,” Grey said. “That’s exciting. Kudos to our kids. A lot of our kids are multi-sport kids. We have a lot of first-year track kids who are older. They’ve done a great job handling this.”
Butte High returns 26 letter winners from a year ago. That includes four athletes who will likely finish their careers with four letters in track and field.
Three-year letter winners Jake Vetter and Josh Neil lead the Bulldogs boyos into action.
In addition to running a leg of Butte High’s third-place 1,600-meter relay team, Vetter placed sixth in the 800-meter run last year at the Class AA State meet in Great Falls. He also was part of the Butte High teams that placed second in divisionals in both relays.
Neil ran on the relays, including the bronze medal team. He also placed sixth in the 100-meter race at divisionals.
Junior Tommy Mellott ran in the relay races for the Bulldogs. He placed sixth at state in the long jump.
Junior Quinn Sullivan is also coming off a decorated season. In addition to running legs of Butte High’s successful relay teams, Sullivan placed third at divisionals in the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles.
Other returning with letters for the Butte High boys are seniors Zach Carlson and Billy Cunneen, juniors Kameron Moreno, Kobe Moreno and Tucker Winston and sophomore Christian Vetter.
On the girls’ side, seniors Ally Cleverly and Gabbie Parini will likely win their fourth letters this season. Both ran on Butte High’s sixth-place 400-meter relay team at divisionals.
Cleverly also ran on Butte High’s third-place 1,600-meter relay team at divisional. She placed fourth at divisionals in the 400. Parini placed fifth at divisionals in the long jump.
Junior Danika Murphy and sophomores Anna Trudnowski and Christiana Beierle are back after running on the third-place 1,600-meter relay team last year.
Sophomore cousins Taylinn and Braleigh Garrett are back after running, among other things, the 400-meter relay a year ago.
Junior Haley Herron will look to improve on her sixth-place finish in divisionals in the discus.
Trudnowski is looking to build on her big freshman campaign. She placed fourth in divisionals and fifth at state in the high jump.
Other Bulldog girl returning letter winners are seniors Gabby Haberman and Faith Kelly, juniors Mckenna Kennis and Kira Mortensen and sophomore Hailey Nielson.
Those and the other 147 Bulldogs have been patiently working on their craft.
Grey said the longest stretch away from the track the team has seen in his tenure will actually have some benefits.
“We’ve had the chance to get a really good base,” the coach said. “We’ve ran hills twice a week, we’ve done some speed stuff. We’ll be a little more fit when we get on the track.”
He said event the throwers, who cannot really throw, have been taken advantage of the opportunities presented by the limitation.
“Our throwers have not had the opportunity to do a lot with implements, which is not a bad thing,” Grey said. “Right now you’re doing a lot of foot work stuff and some technique, which is really important.”
More importantly, Grey said, his Bulldogs aren’t complaining about the snow predicament that is hampering most of the state.
“It is what it is. We’re stuck,” Grey said. “I’m excited that we’ve got a great group of kids. I’m proud of the kids and how they handled the elements. The numbers have stayed steady.”