McLeod, Daum lead Bulldogs on Day 1

On one of the best Butte track days in a long time, athletes took advantage of the favorable weather conditions and turned in a number of strong showings – including three new meet records — during the first day of the Eastern AA Divisional Track meet at Charlie Merrifield Track at Bulldog Memorial Stadium.

Bozeman led team scores in both boys’ and girls’ races, though host Butte High had some excellent individual performances. The Bulldog girls currently sit in fourth place, while the boys are sixth.

Butte High senior Erika McLeod paced the way for the Bulldogs Friday, winning the long jump and the 300 hurdles, all while posting solid qualifying times in the 100 hurdles and 200-meter dash.

Dalton Daum was the top performer for the Butte High boys, recording the fastest qualifying times in the 100 and 200, and led the Bulldog sprint relay team to a second-place finish.

Butte High’s Dalton Daum takes the baton from Damien Hayden for the final leg of the 400-meter relay race.

Shannon Tempel had a great run in the 800, taking more than four seconds off his previous personal best with a fourth-place 1:57.70, less than a second and a half off the lead.

“What I love about Shannon is how he competes,” said Butte High head coach Arie Grey. “He lays it all out there and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Butte’s boys also saw Peter Granger qualify for the long jump with a fourth-place mark of 20-8, only three and a half inches off the top jump. Mitchell Harper also earned a trip to Great Falls with a fourth-place high jump of 5-7.

Tyler Earles and Clay Dean both earned lanes in Saturday’s 110-meter high hurdles finals, while Dean was third in the 300 hurdles.

Butte’s sprint relay team of Jake Eisenbarth, Earles, Damien Hayden and Daum had already run fast enough to qualify for state, but wanted to get warmed up for next weekend with a good showing Friday. Butte’s first three legs ran well, but the others were quicker and Daum was in seventh when he got the handoff on the anchor leg. The junior speedster made up a pile of ground in the final stretch, bringing the Bulldogs from seventh to second place.

Daum easily won his qualifying heats in the 100 (10.94 seconds) and 200 (22.29 seconds) as well, setting up his place in the finals in both events Saturday. The 100 final will come at high noon, while the 200 will be run at 1:40 p.m.

“It’s nice to see where we are with this side of the state,” Daum said, noting that this meet will be the last good workout before state. He added that Legion baseball is off his plate for the next week as well, as he’s getting into game mode for the final meet.

In addition to McLeod’s big day, Butte High had some nice finishes on the girls’ side as well.

Bailee Hanson cranked out a solid finish in the 800, lowering her personal-best time to 2:21.00, good for third place, while McKenzee O’Neill had her best throw of the season in the javelin to take third place with a mark of 117 feet, eight feet farther than her previous best this year, but two feet shy of her top mark last season. Billings Skyview’s Shealynn Wacaser, headed to Weber State for track, set a new meet record in the javelin with a mark of 138-4.

Butte’s Sydney Pendergast, Mijah McLeod, Bailey McCarthy and Mar Sorini also earned a ride to state, as their 4×100 relay time of 52.58 seconds was good for fifth place.

McLeod, who had already recorded state qualifying times/marks in six events, settled for all but the 400 as her events of choice, as athletes may run only five individual events at state or divisionals. McLeod’s best 400 clocking of 58.98 was the third fastest Class AA time recorded this season. She will compete in the long jump, the triple jump, the 200, the 100 hurdles and the 300 hurdles, and possibly in the mile relay in next weekend’s Class AA State Track meet at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls.

She began the day with a convincing win in her 100-meter hurdles heat, .09 slower than her best time of 15.04 seconds. Billings Senior standout Morgan Sulser won her heat at 14.70 seconds, establishing a new meet standard by .01 second. The pair will run side-by-side in the event finals at 11:50 a.m. Saturday.

McLeod then went on to win the long jump, and will defend her state title in the event next weekend. McLeod leapt 18 feet, 2 ½ inches, a few inches shy of her best mark, but still a foot and a half better than her closest competition Friday.

Probably the race of the day was in the girls’ 300 hurdles, where McLeod and Sulser lined up in adjacent lanes for the first time ever. Sulser took second at state last spring in the event, and is the top returning finisher. McLeod, on the other hand, took up the hurdles just four months ago and was running in just her third competitive 300 race.

“I was nervous, but I was excited too,” McLeod said. “I really wanted to race her.”

Sulser took the early lead and extended it when McLeod caught a toe on a hurdle on the curve. Still, McLeod’s strongest part of the race was yet to come. On the final straightaway, McLeod made up distance and won with a new meet record time of 43.06, just ahead of Sulser’s 43.21. Both times were faster than a 34-year-old meet record of 43.60 set by Paula Payne.

“To be honest, it was a really ugly race,” McLeod said, referring to the tipped hurdles and stutter steps before a number of the obstacles. McLeod said she knew what she had to do toward the end of the race.

“I knew my best chance to catch her was between the hurdles,” she said. “I wanted to focus on the end.”

Veteran hurdles coach Charlie Merrifield was pleased with the results of the race, but said his star athlete has plenty more where that came from. Merrifield said he and McLeod have decided to change from her current 17-step approach to a 16-step method that would eliminate the stutter steps.

“The only problem is that with 16 steps you have to alternate hurdling legs,” Merrifield explained. “But if she can get through a whole race without a stutter, there’s no telling what she can do.”

The Montana All-Class State record in the 300 hurdles was set by Missoula Sentinel’s Liz Harper last year at 42.85 seconds.

McLeod also qualified for the 200-meter finals, checking in at 26.01 seconds, a half second faster than Sulser, who was the second fastest in the race.

“Someone told me to take all the nervous energy and pack it together and turn it into something positive,” McLeod said. “That seems to work pretty well.”

The Eastern AA meet will continue Saturday with a 10:30 a.m. start in the field events and an 11:30 start on the track.

Day 1 team scores

Day 1 results

Kennedy Smith finishes strongly for Butte High in the 400-meter relay race.

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