GREAT FALLS – Individual efforts were the highlight of the Class AA State Track and Field meet for the Butte High Bulldogs, as Erika McLeod won four events and Dalton Daum won two more as the two-day event concluded Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls.
McLeod, a senior who is headed to the University of Montana to continue both her education and track career, won the long jump Friday afternoon, then picked up victories Saturday in the triple jump, the 300 hurdles and the 200-meter dash. McLeod was also second in the 100 hurdles.
Butte High is lucky that Daum is only a junior, as he nailed down titles in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes Saturday.
Both athletes scored the majority of points for their teams, as McLeod was responsible for 48 of the Butte girls’ 50, and Daum racked up 20 of the boys’ 22 points. Billings Senior won the girls’ title with 100 points, while Missoula Big Sky was second with 69.5. Bozeman was third at 59, Helena had 55 for fourth and Butte checked in at fifth. Missoula Big Sky edged Helena 59-58 for the boys’ team title, while Butte was 12th with 22.
Bailee Hanson added a point to Butte’s total with a sixth-place finish in the 800. Hanson knocked nearly two seconds off her previous personal record, but got some unexpected help. Starting in the outside alley, Hanson raced to the lead and held the position for the first 500 meters. She explained that it wasn’t a new strategy.
“I’ve never had to start in the outside lane,” Hanson said, noting that with a staggered start, she couldn’t see the runners behind her. “I didn’t know where they were, so I guess I ran harder trying to keep up. I didn’t know I was that far ahead.”
Butte’s girls got their only other team point from McKenzee O’Neill’s sixth-place finish in the javelin Friday afternoon.
Daum had plenty to prove after second-place finishes in the 100 and 200 his freshman year and thirds in both races as a sophomore.
“It feels good to finally get it done,” Daum said after the finish in the 200. “I felt confident, like it was my time.”
The junior sprinter said he has no plans to ease up now that he earned a pair of trips to the top of the podium.
“I know I’ve still got to work hard,” he said. “I’ll be back in the weight room on Monday. I have work to do out of the blocks. There’s always tons of room for improvement.”
Daum, who’s not just a sprinter, said he’s ready to get back to some other things too.
“I can finally get back to baseball,” he said, in reference to re-joining the Butte Miners. “And we’ve got a lot of football this summer with all the camps.”
Daum didn’t lose a 100 race all year, and need to get the win under his belt, according to Butte High head coach Arie Grey.
“Once he got that monkey off his back he was able to relax,” Grey said of Daum’s 10.86 victory in the 100. “You could see it in the 200. That was one of the better corners I’ve seen. I couldn’t be more happy or proud of Dalton. What he’s done is awesome.”
Grey was impressed with Daum’s accomplishments, but said he’s ready to find a couple more events for next season.
“Dalton’s a hard worker,” Grey confirmed. “He doesn’t question it – he just does it.”
McLeod started her Saturday with a dramatic win in the triple jump. Going back and forth with Missoula Big Sky’s Hannah Porch – McLeod’s season best was only half an inch farther – the pair pushed each other well beyond where they had been.
McLeod opened with a leap of 35-5 which stood until Porch’s final jump of the flight that measured 36-7.5. McLeod had the 100 hurdles final between her first and second jump, and the Butte leaper scratched her second attempt. A third came in at 36-7.25, a quarter inch shy of the lead, but her second jump of the finals went just over, 36-7.75.
McLeod seemingly took the drama out of the competition with a final leap of 37-2.5, but Porch unleashed a big one too. The crowd hushed as the officials observed and announced 37-1, and McLeod took the title by an inch and a half.
“It shows how well you can do,” McLeod said of the tight competition. “But I was determined to get a personal best mark.”
Close competition helped McLeod in other races Saturday as well. Future UM roommate Morgan Sulser of Billings Senior – who set a new all-class record in the 100-meter dash – edged McLeod in the 100 hurdles final, but was herself left in second in the 300 hurdles.
“I know that (Erika) helps me out,” Sulser said. “I hope I help her too. I feel like I pushed her in the 300 and she made me faster in the 100. We’re competitive, but it’s not a rivalry or a hatred kind of thing.”
In last week’s 300 hurdle final at the Eastern AA meet, McLeod had to make up some ground to overtake Sulser. This time, McLeod led from the first barrier to the finish, and had a sizable lead at the end.
“I had a really bad practice Wednesday,” McLeod said. “But (coach) Charlie (Merrifield) talked to me and told me to just do what I do.”
The coach-athlete combo also worked on a different step pattern, which McLeod said she wasn’t sure if she used or not.
“In practice I did it, but I wasn’t counting steps today,” she said.
Either way, it worked for a new stadium record time of 43.09 seconds on McLeod’s fourth competitive 300 hurdles race.
The finish in the 200 wasn’t a guarantee for McLeod, who had the second fastest qualifying time behind Helena’s Callie Kanthack. Both Kanthack and Sulser are faster in the early part of the race, but it’s McLeod’s kick toward the end that does it. Trailing by a couple meters at the turn, McLeod surged at the end and won by four hundredths of a second.