Huff’s four golds leads Bulldog boys to second

Huff’s four golds leads Bulldog boys to second
Butte High senior Tanner Huff raises his arms to celebrate after crossing the finish line to win the 200-meter race Saturday at Missoula County Stadium. (Bill Foley photo)

Hansen tops field in triple jump, Trudnowski podiums four times

By Bill Foley

MISSOULA — Tanner Huff won so many gold medals this weekend that he lost count.

“Three times,” Huff said as he celebrated with Butte High senior teammates Colton Case, Ryan Neil and Christian Hansen after the four won the 1,600-meter relay.

Actually, his teammates said, that’s four.

“I forgot about it,” Huff said with a smile.

A packed house at Missoula County Stadium set the scene for the combined Class AA and Class C State track and field meets. It was a perfect stage for a big-time performance by Huff. (Results)

After running with classmates Christian Vetter, Rylan Richards and Zach Merrifield to win the 400-meter relay on Friday, Huff ran to titles in the 100- and 200-meter races before capping the meet with the championship in the mile relay.

Seniors Colton Case, Ryan Neil and Christian Hansen also ran a leg for Butte High’s championship in the long relay.

“It hasn’t really hit yet because I still want more out of myself,” Huff said of being a four-time state champion. “I’m never satisfied.”

Oh, and Huff also earned an All-State nod by placing fifth in the javelin Saturday. He registered a mark of 165 feet.

That performance led Butte High to its highest team finish in 14 years. The last time Butte High’s boys won a team trophy at the State meet was when the Bulldogs placed second in 2007.

Missoula Sentinel ran away with the team title with 132 points. Butte High scored 76, and Missoula Hellgate placed third at 51. Kalispell Glacier and Missoula Big Sky tied for fourth at 39.

Hansen was the other Butte High athlete with an individual title. He jumped 43 feet, 9 ½ inches to win the triple jump shortly be for heading to the final event of the day, the 1,600-meter relay.

Case, who went out for track for the first time this season, kept Butte High in the hunt after the first leg. Huff gave the Bulldogs the lead for good in the second before Neil and Hansen extended the lead for Butte High to win with a time of 3 minutes, 26.16 seconds.

Billings Senior placed a distant second at 3:27.54.

One day after winning a bronze in the long jump, Hansen said the triple jump was not an event he was overly concerned with. He was thinking more of his team.

“I really just wanted to win the 4×4 today,” Hansen said. “Team sports are just the best. You rely on your teammates, and they rely on you.”

That response nearly brought Butte High coach Arie Grey to tears.

“That’s the thing about this group. It was never about themselves. It was about the whole team,” Grey said. “That is what is so great about those relays. That is what is so great about the 4×4 relay. That’s why it’s the best event in track and field. It’s four people working together and getting something.”

Hansen’s leg in the long relay capped a remarkable season by the senior. That season included the third-best long jump in Butte High School history.

“He’s such a competitor. He goes into the finals I think eight, and he comes out winning it,” Grey said. “He just kept getting stronger as it goes on.

“Then you look at him here. He ran a phenomenal leg in no man’s land. You have no one to chase. It put the exclamation point on the weekend. We had a really nice weekend on both sides.”

When talking about Hansen’s competitiveness and improvement, he could have just as well been talking about Huff, who surprised himself with his remarkable season. On Friday, he ran personal bests in the 100 and 200 preliminary races. His 100 time of 10.9 tied for the fifth best in school history. His 200 time ranks seventh.

Running into a headwind, Huff’s times were a little slower on Saturday. They were fast enough, though.

He won the 100 in 11.06 seconds. Missoula Sentinel’s Jace Klucewich was second at 11.14. Huff pumped his fist as he crossed the line.

In the 200, Huff finished in 22.40. Belgrade’s Evan Major was second in 22.48. Tanner Macy of Billings senior was third at 22.91, while Neil placed fourth with a personal record of 23.08.

As he crossed the finish line, Huff raised both hands. Then he got a hug from Neil.

“Honestly, I did not really see it coming,” Huff said of his great 2021 on the track. “But I knew my training during the lockdown would lead to victories.”

The entire 2020 season was ruined by the COVID-19 pandemic. It did not stop Huff from working hard, however.

“We’d go up almost every day and run at Butte High,” Huff said. “It was more for football, but it definitely helped with track.”

Like with the coaches, Huff said the athletes were flying blind into the season after losing 2020.

“No one really knew,” Huff said. “I don’t think any of us had high expectations for ourselves. We didn’t know what times to reach for or anything.”

Grey said he did not know that Huff would win four gold medals, but he knew he would be great.

“The one thing I’ve always known about Tanner is that he is going to go as hard as he can,” said Grey, who also coached Huff in football. “I knew he was going to be a great teammate, and he was going to be a great person. That’s what you know.

“I thought he was going to be pretty good. I don’t know about this. I just know that he kept getting stronger every day and just kept getting better. He amazes me every single day with the things that he can do.”

Huff has signed to play football for Montana Western. He acknowledged after his last event, though, that he might be hearing from some schools about track.

“I definitely have to look over my options, but go Dawgs always,” Huff said.

Merrifield earned All-State with a sixth place in the 200. He finished in 23.19. In the 100, Merrifield also placed eight in the 100.

Nearly two years removed from a gruesome leg break, Merrifield is still not 100 percent. He is much further from 100 percent on the second day of a meet.

Still, Merrifield closes his Bulldog career as an All-State competitor and a state champion.

Earlier in the meet, Brennen Blume placed third in the pole vault, Cameron Gurnsey took fourth in the high jump, and Dylan Snyder took fifth in the long jump and sixth in the high jump.

On the girls’ side, Butte High senior Anna Trudnowski did not return home as a state champion. She did, however, rack up four podium finishes and five top-eight performances in individual events.

After placing second in the high jump and third in the 400 on Friday, Trudnowski added a third in the triple jump and a fourth in the 300 hurdles on Friday. She also took eighth in the 100.

“The range that Anna has is just unbelievable,” Grey said of the future Montana State Bobcat. “I’m so proud of what she did all weekend. It was personal best after personal best.”

She jumped a personal best 37-3 ¼ in the triple jump. Her time of 46.20 in the 300 hurdles was also a personal record.

During the season, Trudnowski reached the qualifying mark in the long jump. She did not compete in that event because athletes are limited to five events.

Missoula Sentinel won the team title with 91 points. Helena High was second at 72, one point better than Billings West.

Butte High scored 25 points for eighth place.

On Friday, senior Hailey Nielson placed sixth in the 800 to score points for the Bulldogs. 1 comment

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1 Comment

  • Sheila Buckley
    May 30, 2021, 2:28 pm

    Great job. Bulldogs.


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