State AA track: Opportunity knocking for ‘Dogs

At this weekend’s Class AA-C State Track and Field Meet at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls, Butte High head coach Arie Grey says it’s all about opportunities.

“We’re not going up with a bunch of kids who barely got in,” Grey said Wednesday, hours before he and his teams readied to board the buses. “Everyone we’re bringing has an opportunity to place.”

Field events are slated to begin Friday at 9 a.m. with the boys’ shot put, while the opening track event is slated for a 10:40 a.m. when the first heat of the sprint relay trials gets the starting gun. Meet schedule

“The girls’ 4 x 1 team did a great job getting in and they will get a lot of good experience this weekend,” Grey said. “Our boys have a good opportunity to get in there too.”

The Butte High girls are led by senior sensation Erika McLeod, who will compete in the 100 hurdles, the 300 hurdles, the 200, the triple jump and the long jump, where she is the defending state champion. McLeod had also qualified for state in the 400, where she held one of the top three times in the AA, but had to drop an individual event, as she may only compete in five.

Luckily, McLeod anchors the Butte High mile relay team, where she gets to compete in the 400 with three teammates – Mariah Richardson, Bailee Hanson and Caitlin Carmody.

“I’m excited to see what they can do,” Grey said of the foursome. “I think they might surprise some people.”

McLeod had a huge weekend at the Eastern AA Divisional meet, where she won four of the five individual events in which she competed. She came up just short of future Grizzly teammate Megan Sulser in the 100 hurdles, as the Bronc speedster set a new meet record in the event. McLeod also broke a 34-year-old meet record in the 30 hurdles in only her third time running the race in a meet.

“Erika is track smart,” Grey observed. “She does a phenomenal job focusing on what she’s doing, and when that’s over she’s able to immediately shift to the next thing.”

Friday will be a relatively easy day for McLeod, who will run in the 100 hurdles trials, the 200 trials and the long jump. Saturday will have more in store, though, Grey said he was pleased with how the schedule works with McLeod’s events.

“She’s so mentally focused on the moment and ready to go,” he said. “She’s coming off one of the best weekends I’ve ever seen and now she has the opportunity to do even better.”

Butte High is also looking for a big weekend on the boys’ side from sprinter Dalton Daum. The fleet-footed junior comes into the final meet of the season as the favorite in the 100 and 200, and also as a dangerous element in both of Butte High’s relay teams.

“Dalton knows what he needs to do this weekend,” Grey said. “He’s got to race and stay smooth. Get to the finish and have some fun.”

Daum clocked one of the fastest 100 times in Montana prep history early in the season with a 10.66, and hopes to find that range again this weekend in Great Falls. The state record, which can only be set at a state meet, was set in 2009 by Chris Wilson, who clocked in at 10.67 at Legends Stadium in Kalispell. Earlier that season, Wilson set the Memorial Stadium record at 10.48.

As talented as McLeod and Daum are, Butte High isn’t just a two-person team.

Butte’s boys have gotten a great season from junior hurdler Clay Dean, who will compete in both the 110 high and 300 intermediate hurdles this weekend. He’s also come on strong in the 400, as he set a solid personal best mark last weekend and has plenty of confidence coming into the final weekend.

Peter Granger is also gaining distance in both the long and triple jumps, and will strive for a high spot on the podium in both events this weekend. Mitchell Harper “has his work cut out for him,” Grey said, but he qualified in the high jump and has a chance to do something. Shannon Tempel has also come on strong in the 800, and will compete for a top position in that race as well.

In the discus ring, both Connor Lee and Keiffer Hepola earned a spot at state last weekend, and will spin for awards there.

“It’s awesome to see what they’ve done,” Grey said of the weight-men. “We’d like to see them pushing into the mid-140s this weekend.”

Butte’s mile relay team of Paul Campbell, Daum, Tempel and Dean ran together for the first time last Saturday, and turned heads when they won the Eastern AA Divisional race. They’ll have plenty more competition this weekend, but have had all week to work on baton passes and technique.

Butte’s girls have a strong scoring chance in Bailee Hanson, who will vie for a top spot in the 800, while Jessica Buckley earned a spot in the shot put ring.

“Bailee has a good opportunity to get in under 2:20,” Grey said. “And Jessica needs to get out there and bust one out in the shot.”

McKenze O’Neill had her best throw of the season – thus far – last weekend in the Divisional meet at 117 feet, but can and has gone longer. She’ll look to unlock a big one this weekend, as will Kassidy Caprara in the long jump.

“We’re busy all day,” Grey said of his teams. “We’re just missing a few events, and that’s a credit to our coaches. The kids are competitors, and it’ll be great to see what they do this weekend.”

The Bulldogs also have the opportunity to have a little fun along the way.

“They’re all fun,” Grey said of the track meets that have peppered the last couple of months. “But all the work pays off here. This should be a great weekend.”

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