‘Great group’ of Maroons set to open on track

‘Great group’ of Maroons set to open on track
Butte Central's Ella Moodry, left, and Rileigh McGree are shown in these Butte Sports file photos.

By Bill Foley

Dan McGree is well known as an optimist.

So, it isn’t surprising that the Butte Central track coach is feeling good about his team as the Maroons prepare to open the season Saturday at the Gene Hughes Invitational in Corvallis.

As the Maroons prepare for the opener, though, McGree really does have reason for a rosy outlook. Getting on the bus for the Maroons for the 9 a.m. Saturday meet will be a pair of reigning state champions, an exciting newcomer and a whole lot of potential.

“We’ve got a great group,” McGree said.

Butte Central has 17 boys and five girls out for the team. Central will just have three girls head to Corvallis for the opener. (Schedule)

The Maroons, though, are sending three promising athletes in seniors Rileigh McGree and Kinley Hamilton and sophomore Ella Moodry.

McGree, the daughter of the head coach, won state titles in the long jump, 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles last May at the Class A State meet in Laurel.

Moodry won the state crown in the javelin and placed seventh in the 100 meters. Hamilton, a former Chinook Sugarbeeter, transferred to BC for her senior season. Coach McGree said she plans to sign with Carroll College to compete in track & field.

The coach pointed out that Hamilton’s personal best in the shot put is 34 feet, 8 inches. She threw the discus 92-1.

That is welcome for a girls’ squad that placed seventh with 40 points at the Class A State meet last May. With McGree and Moodry the only ones scoring, BC finished just 14.5 points out of third place.

“She’s a pretty good thrower,” the coach said of Hamilton. “She’ll help us for sure.”

McGree will look to keep the “McGree Streak” alive when the Class A State meet is held in Butte in conjunction with the Class AA meet. Nobody other than a McGree has won the Class A girl’s long jump title since 2015.

Rileigh’s sister Rachael won it in 2016 and 2017. Her sister Lindsay won it in 2018 and 2019. No tournament was held in 2020 because of COVID.

Rileigh McGree, who has signed to compete for the University of Montana, is again coming off an injury, so she will be brought along slowly.

“We just want to be good in May,” Coach McGree said. “That’s what we’ll shoot for that.”

Moodry is coming off an incredible freshman season that goes well beyond her state title in the javelin. She can compete in pretty much every event. Actually, she might be the biggest threat to the “McGree Streak” when the State meet rolls around.

“She beat Rileigh at the Tomich,” Coach McGree said of the long jump at Butte Central’s John Tomich Invitational. “It was good for both of them. We’re thrilled to have them both.”

The coach said he expects Moodry to be even better this year.

“She’s the real deal,” McGree said. “Last year she was banged up a bit, so we kind of held her back a little bit. This year she’s feeling good and really working hard. The sky is the limit for Ella.”

Sophomore Alice Stajcar will also figure to contribute for the Maroons. She is fighting past an injury and will not compete this week. Freshman Arianna Grundhauser will also figure into the mix. She will not have enough practices for the Corvallis meet.

The Maroons return three boys with State experience.

Junior Kyle Holter is back after placing 11th in the high jump and 12th in the long jump in Laurel. Sophomore Jack Keeley and junior Dougie Peoples ran a leg of the 1,600-meter relay.

Peoples will not compete in Corvallis because he is playing in a basketball tournament in Havre.

McGree said he is fine with that because he knows Peoples, who is now a statewide celebrity after his 27-foot buzzer beater to win the Class A state title in Missoula two weeks ago, is competing in track to improve his speed for basketball.

“If we can help him be a better basketball player, that’s what he wants and that’s what we want,” McGree said.

While the Maroons have been able to practice outside, McGree said the Corvallis meet will be a lot like a practice.

“I’m going to make them all run the 100 this week,” he said. “We’re going to get them a 100 time.”

McGree said Holter is ready for a big season.

“Kyle is just crazy athletic,” the coach said. “He was 20-foot long jumper last year, and he never did it before.

“Jack is really grown up. He’s a big strong kid. We’re thrilled to see what he can do. And Zane (Moodry) is just a beast.”

Moodry, a sophomore, was close to competing at state in multiple events last year. Junior Riley Gelling had a big season throwing last year, and McGree let us in on a secret about the Butte Central offensive lineman.

“He’s probably our fastest kid, even though he’s a tackle and throws the shot and discus,” McGree said. “He was just out of the money at making State. He’s got the bit in his teeth this year.”

Other athletes out for the team are seniors Eyston Lakkala, a future Montana Tech football player, Keegan Johnson, juniors Garrett Button, Cayden Kibler and Randy Larson; sophomore Ayden Durkin; and freshmen James Bradshaw, Sam Henderson, James Holmes, William McAnulty, Keefer McGree and Michael Peck.

Eric Loos and Konnor Pochervina are also practicing with the Maroons to work on their football speed. They do not plan to compete in meets, but Coach McGree is hoping that will change.

Central will head to Missoula next Friday to compete with Butte High, Missoula Sentinel and Missoula Hellgate. The Maroons will compete in Butte for the first time in a April 14 Butte High meet.

The Tomich is set for April 30, and the Western A Divisional is May 20-21 in Hamilton.

The State AA and A will be held together for the first time this century May 27-28 at the Charlie Merrifield Track inside the Gene Fogarty Complex.

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