The home team lit up the track in the last event of the meet Saturday, as Butte High’s boys’ 4×400 relay team cruised to a season-best 3:26.96 to win the event and close out the 2014 Eastern AA Divisional Track and Field meet at Charlie Merrifield Track.
“I guess they were saving it for last,” Butte High coach Arie Grey observed at the end of the meet. “We hadn’t run that team together this season, but we challenged them to get out and go fast.”
Along with victories in the 100 and 200 by Butte junior Dalton Daum, the win cemented Butte in at fifth place among the boys teams, the same spot the Butte High girls took, thanks in large part to a couple of wins from senior sensation Erika McLeod. The UM-bound speedster won the 200 and triple jump, and took second in the 100 hurdles Saturday.
Bozeman’s boys won the team title, while Billings Senior’s girls surged past Bozeman thanks in large part to a big day from Morgan Sulser, who erased her own day-old record in the 100 hurdles with a 14.65-second finish.
McLeod and Sulser, who will be both teammates and roommates next fall at the University of Montana, posted the top two times in the 100 hurdles preliminaries on Friday, and faced each other for only the second time in their careers in the first running event Saturday morning. A more experienced hurdler, Sulser edged McLeod for the win before going on to claiming a title in the 100 for the Broncs.
The pair lined up next to each other again in the 200 and McLeod held off a tough challenge to win the event in 25.20 seconds, two tenths of a second ahead of Sulser.
McLeod then went on to punctuate her outstanding weekend with a victory in the triple jump, where her mark of 35-8 was nearly a foot better than second place. The Bulldog senior advances to the state meet next weekend at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls, where she will compete in the 200, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, long jump, triple jump and possibly the 4×400 relay, thanks to a fifth-place finish Saturday from Mariah Richardson, Sydney Pendergast, Caitlin Carmody and Bailee Hanson. McLeod won four of her five chosen individual events on the weekend.
Hanson ran the anchor leg of the fifth place team, and earlier scored a sixth-place finish in the 400, while Joby Rosenleaf was 10th in the mile.
Daum left little doubt in all three races he ran Saturday. The closest finish came in the 100, where his winning 10.87 was only six hundredths of a second faster than Bozeman’s Wyatt David. Daum then established a personal best mark of 21.78 in the 200, two tenths of a second faster than David.
The speedy Butte junior’s biggest accomplishment Saturday came in the mile relay, where Daum’s second leg took Butte from the back of the pack to first place.
“Paul (Campbell) got us started,” Grey recalled, “then Dalton really picked up some time. I had him at 49.3 seconds. Shannon (Tempel) and Clay (Dean) held on for us. They really came together today.”
Dean had a very good weekend as well. The Butte junior opened his day with a fifth-place finish in the 110 high hurdles, then ran a personal-best time of 51.56 to take fourth in the 400.
“I usually end up with the JVs in the 400,” Dean explained. “Running against the big boys really helped me bump up my time.”
In addition to his anchor spot on the mile relay team, Dean will compete at state in both hurdles as well as the 400.
“Clay competes like no other,” Grey said. “Whether it’s checkers or school or athletics or in the weight room, he does a good job and he won’t back down. Credit Charlie (Merrifield), who’s always got Clay ready to go.”
Peter Granger added a second state event Saturday with a fifth-place finish in the triple jump, while butte High discus spinners Keiffer Hepola and Connor Lee took fourth and fifth with throws of 133-10 and 133-4. Both Bulldog athletes scratched on longer throws in an event that saw Billings West’s Michael Quesenberry launch the winning toss of 160-9 on the last spin of the competition.