By Pat Ryan
On your marks …
State Track meets for Montana’s four prep classifications will be held at two sites this weekend, as the Class A and Class B event will be held at Van Winkle Stadium in Bozeman, while the Class AA and Class C meets are scheduled for County Stadium in Missoula.
Events at both meets begin Friday morning and conclude Saturday afternoon.
Butte Central enters the Class A meet the same way it goes into most sporting events — with a small but talented group of athletes. Five girls and five boys will represent the Maroons in Bozeman, and while it’s unlikely they’ll win a team title, results in a number of individual events could be a different story.
“We’ve got more kids who really have a legitimate shot at winning their events this year,” Butte Central head track coach Zack Stajcar said. “It’s been a good year for us.”
First off, Maroon junior Rachael McGree could well walk off with wins in all four events she’ll compete. McGree comes in with the top time in the 100 hurdles, more than a second faster than her nearest Class A competition, and her best long jump is eight inches farther than the next best Class A mark. She’s one of the top triple jumpers in the state, and she also runs the first leg of Central’s speedy sprint relay team.
That group of sprinters is an all-McGree squad of sisters and cousins that also includes freshman Lindsay McGree, senior Lacey McGree and senior Whitney McGree. A series of clean handoffs could lead to a trip up the steps of the awards podium.
Lindsay McGree is also entered in the 100 and long jump, while Whitney McGree will participate in the 100, 200 and 400. The Maroons also post an entry in longer distances, as junior Abby McGee will run in the 800 and 1,600.
On the boys’ side for Butte Central, a strong sprint relay team is the core of the squad. Junior Blake Burton gets the start on the first bend, handing off to senior Cole Haprer in the back straightaway. The baton then goes to junior Nate McGree and on to senior Kyle Harrington in the homestretch. The team has improved its time over the course of the season, and will be among the favorites Friday.
McGree owns the best Class A mark in the triple jump by more than a foot this season, and should set the standard in the event this weekend. He’ll also be a force in the long jump pits.
Another of Butte Central’s hopes is pinned to Kyle Schulte, who will be looking for a big showing in the discus. He’ll need a good spin out of the ring to top Corvallis standout Skylar Jessop.
Harper will be all over the track for Central, competing in the long jump, the 100 and the 200, while Burton will also run the 100 and toss the javelin. Speedster Harrington is also an entry in the 100, where he could make some waves.
“These kids have all put in the time and effort this season,” Stajcar said. “Every one of them has done everything we’ve asked and I’m confident we’ll have some good luck this weekend. They’ve paid the price and this weekend will be the reward.”
Butte High sends nine girls and eight boys to the Class AA meet, including three freshman boys and a pair of freshman girls. The Bulldogs will see freshman Josh Neil run the first leg of their first event — the sprint relay, while freshman Trevyn Roth will run the final leg of Butte’s last event — the mile relay.
Lone senior Mijah McLeod and junior Abby Dodge lead the Butte girls into the weekend. McLeod, a four-year letterwinner, runs legs on both sprint and mile relays and is also entered in the triple jump. Dodge has the third leg of the mile relay and will also compete in the 100 hurdles, the high jump, the long jump and the triple jump.
“Abby is such a strong competitor,” noted Butte High head coach Arie Grey. “She could medal in every event she’s in. And Mijah is the ultimate relay member who is a great team leader.”
Junior Joby Rosenleaf will represent Butte High in the 1,600 and 3,200 after narrowly missing a State berth in the 800 at divisionals last weekend in Billings, while fellow junior Mar Sorini will sprint in the 100 and 200, along with an anchor leg of both the sprint and mile relay team.
“Mar’s progression this season has been crazy,” Grey said. “She has the opportunity to do great things. We’ll look for some personal bests from Joby and see how that fits in.”
Sophomore McKenna Wendt runs the second leg of the sprint relay and is also headed for the triple jump pits, where she’ll join Dodge and teammate Kaitlin Carmody. Freshman Gabbie Parini runs the first leg of the 4×100, while fellow freshman Ally Cleverly gets her first State event as the first leg of Butte’s mile relay team.
Sophomore Hailee Regan rounds out Butte’s girls, as she will look for a big effort in the shot put ring on Friday afternoon.
Butte High’s boys are led by junior hurdler Bryce Gallagher, who is entered in both relays as well as the 110 and 300 hurdles. He has also stood out in the javelin, but an elbow injury hindered his progress in the event this season.
“Bryce has great potential to come home with a couple of medals in the hurdles,” Grey said. “He’s such a strong, physical athlete.”
Gallagher will be flanked in the 300 hurdles by senior teammate Quinn Dennehy, as both will run in the first heat of the timed finals on Saturday.
Butte’s sprint relay team is led by Neil, then to Gallagher and off to senior Matt Merzlak on the back turn and senior Justin Best on the anchor.
“Those guys ran their season best last week,” Grey said, adding that he was happy to see Best get the chance to compete after injuring his ACL as a junior in wrestling and sitting out the track season.
The Bulldog mile relay team is powered by Gallagher and three freshmen. Neil opens with the first lap followed by Gallagher, Jake Vetter and Trevyn Roth. Matt Sweet joins the team as an alternate in the long relay.
“This has been a fun group of kids to work with,” Grey said. “Also I’m very proud of all our coaches. They’ve been there and helped give the kids an opportunity to get better. I’m sad to see our seniors go, but it will be exciting to see them compete in the purple and white for the last time.”