McLeod stands out among legends

GREAT FALLS – The best? Ever?

Butte High senior Erika McLeod certainly made her case to be considered the best ever female track athlete in the history of Butte High.

That includes some big Bulldog names, including Heidi Hemmert, Tami Matthewson, Gwen Abbott, Keli Dennehy, Holly Maloney and Liza Merrifield.

McLeod won the triple jump, 200 and 300 hurdles Saturday to go with the long jump crown she earned Friday. Add that to the long jump title from last season, and McLeod becomes one of six athletes to win state titles in two different years. With her five state titles, she joins Heidi Hemmert as the only Butte High girl with that many top finishes at state.

The thing McLeod has done that sets her apart, however, is win four titles at a single state meet. Her performance Friday and Saturday at the State Class AA Track and Field meet at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls will go down as one of the best ever, regardless of school.

McLeod said she was excited at the thought of her name next to those she idolized as a youngster.

“I can remember in sixth grade thinking Gwen Abbott was so cool,” McLeod said. “When I was younger, those girls were like gods to me.”

In the true spirit of leadership, McLeod said she was happy to be setting a good example for the big freshman class of girls on the track team.

“I don’t know if I’m the best ever, I just know I worked very hard for this,” she said. “I’ve never been this focused on anything. I decided that I wanted this to be my year.”

When asked what it was like to coach such an athlete, Butte High head coach Arie Grey had a short answer.

“It’s easy,” he said. “Every new challenge we gave her, she took it and did it. She’s one of the best competitors I’ve ever been around, and she works so hard. She’s up in the morning working. She’s working in the summer. She comes in on Sundays and works. There are a lot of things she’s done that not very many people do.”

McLeod will get a chance to run and jump some more as she transitions to the University of Montana this fall. She’s not sure what all she’ll be asked to do, but she’s ready for it.

“I’ll do whatever,” she said with a smile. “I like it all. I’m just excited to know that I get four more years of track.”

McLeod said she felt lucky to have the coaching staff she’s had, including Charlie Merrifield and Grey, but the love goes both ways.

“I just wish I had bigger words to describe her,” Grey said. “You get to coach someone like this maybe once in a lifetime.”

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