By Bruce Sayler
The rain was the winner on Friday as athletes in the Western A Divisional high school track meet persisted through drizzle and cool temperatures.
Saturday forecasts are mostly for more of the same, except for maybe some snow complicating the conditions for the meet being held on the Charlie Merrifield Track in Bulldog Memorial Stadium at the Fogarty Sports Complex on the East Middle School grounds. (Team scores; Individual results)
The Columbia Falls girls and the Frenchtown boys ran to the day-one leads. The girls completed seven events and the Wildkats won two on the way to 43 points. Whitefish was second with 37 while Dillon tallied 34 points to stand in third place. The boys got in six events. Frenchtown tallied 49 points and had three winners. Dillon sat in second place with 43 points and Columbia Falls was third with 28 in the 11-school meet.
Rain-slickened elements prevented any holdings of the pole vault, so the event was moved to Saturday’s slate of competition. Warmups are to begin at 9 a.m. with competition to start at 9:30. The remaining events will start to click off at 11 a.m.
The Butte Central girls registered 13 points on the first day to hold sixth place. The Maroon boys had 17 points for fourth.
Lindsay McGree was Butte Central’s nearest-to-being-a-winner. She placed second in the long jump with a leap of 17 feet, 2 ¼ inches, only a quarter-inch short of the win by Ashton Lewis of Stevensville in an all-star field.
“Like mud puddles,” the reigning state Class A champion in the event said when it was suggested the jumping pit must have felt cold and wet.
The senior standout had already qualified for the state meet set for next weekend in Laurel by making qualifying mark. She competed Friday as another chance to try to win a meet event, and also for skill and technique maintenance, she said. It didn’t hurt to vie in the conditions, either, because next weekend’s might not be better.
“I’m still proud of myself,” she said after her good, second-place jump, which was more than a foot off her best of the season. “It was cool to compete. I went 17-2 today and that’s OK. Now, we’re ready if conditions are like this next week.”
McGree’s younger sister, Rileigh, a freshman, fared well on the track with a fourth place in the 100-meter hurdles. She timed 16.91 seconds, not too far off the winning 16.28 by Dillon’s Ainsley Shipman. The Butte Central girls’ relay team of the McGree sisters, Cheyanne Parks and Amira Bolton placed sixth in 54.02. Dillon won it in 51.11, sending through a quartet of Veronica Betts, Madalen Shipman, Jordyn McKay and Tylia DeJohn.
The weather was tough on the throwers as well as the runners.
Butte Central weights specialist Aaron Richards said the rain caused a wet shot that was difficult to grip and put. The water running down his arm was a distraction in competition, as well, and the water collecting in the ring was uncomfortable, despite workers’ constant efforts to push it out to the sand.
“Probably spinning was the hardest part,” he said after placing sixth with a heave of 45-½. “Trying to keep everything dry was hard. So, it was nice coming here already pre-qualified for State.”
The winning throw was 53-10 ½ by Jacob Campbell of Hamilton. Richards is eyeing another chance on Saturday when he vies in the discus.
“I like when my events on different days,” he said, reasoning the split allows him to give full concentration to each.
Thomas McGree might have been the contestant least bothered by drizzle and overall wetness. He posted a career-best time while placing fourth in the 110-meter high hurdles.
McGree, a first cousin to Lindsay and Rileigh McGree, clocked 16.49.
“I broke my career-best by 5/10ths of a second,” he said. “It was the longer spikes. I had more traction.”
The junior looked to have burst well out of the blocks then seemed to surge about the third hurdle and maintain the pace.
“I felt really good, but I was nervous about the rain and the slickness of the track before the race,” he said, noting he didn’t feel the course to be slippery anyway.
Frenchtown hurdlers finished first and second in the race with Tyler McDonald timing 15.78 seconds and Hank Rugg clocking 16.08.
McGree copped a placing in the long jump with a seventh by going 20-½. Cutter Thatcher, also a junior, grabbed two fourths, in the 400-meter dash and in the long jump. He leaped 20-6 and the winner was Alfred Peterson of Dillon at 22-1 ¾. Another Dillon jumper, Zane Johnson, went 21-10 for second. Thatcher’s 400 time was 51.19. Dylan Cervelli of Dillon won the 400 in 49.42.
McGree and Thatcher formed half the Butte Central 400-meter relay team that placed fourth. They combined with Luke Jensen and Clay Fisher on a time of 44.38. Columbia Falls won in 43.90.
The first day’s other event winners were Mikenna Ellis of Whitefish in the girls’ 400 (59.12), Bea Frissell of Polson in the girls’ 1,600 (5:16.04), Kiera Brown of Columbia Falls in the girls’ shot put (36-11 ½), Angelica Street of Columbia Falls in the girls’ javelin (124-6 ½) and Tyler Schmautz of Frenchtown in the boys’ 1,600 (4:36.11).
The top 10 place-winners in each event and relay will advance to the state Class A meet. Several athletes have already qualified by meeting qualifying standards. Among them are Butte Central competitors Thatcher in the 400 and long jump, Cade Holter in the boys’ javelin, Richards in the discus and shot put, the boys’ 400-meter relay squad, and the McGree sisters — Lindsay in the 100 and long jump and Rileigh in the long and triple jumps.