The 2014 track and field postseason has arrived. District track meets for Class B and C athletes are underway, divisional meets are next week and state the week after.
It seems like the track season always flies by, and this year was no different. The first eligible day of competition was less than a month and a half ago. At that time, we were able to peg the Billings Senior girls as the favorite to win the Class AA team title. That’s still looking like a safe bet.
Other teams and athletes, like the sprinters from Broadus, have outperformed preseason expectations — at least externally. Nobody really knew what to expect from the Hawks in their first year in Class C.
Here are some of the teams and athletes that “caught my eye” during the regular season.
• The Senior girls aren’t surprising anybody this season as they chase their fifth consecutive state team title. First-year head coach Jerry Weik inherited a team that included returning state champions Morgan Sulser, Christina Aragon and Taylor Mims. Those three are the torch-bearers for the Broncs, but throwers Jace Henderson, Hannah Nessan and Madison Cicierski are helping round out a complete squad.
• As it did in the preseason, the strength in the Class AA boys still appears to be in the west with teams like Kalispell Glacier, Helena, Missoula Hellgate and Missoula Big Sky looking like strong title contenders. The best bet from the Eastern AA might be the Bozeman Hawks, with Wyatt David and Hunter May leading the way. David can make noise in the sprints, while May is strong in the distance races.
• Laurel’s Ty Mogan narrowly won both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at last year’s State A meet. Mogan knew he would be challenged this season by strong runners from around Montana, and he’s been spot on with that prediction. Anthony Schmalz of Hamilton and Jonathan Eastwood of Belgrade, the 2-3 finishers at state last year, currently rank ahead of Mogan in the 1,600. In the 3,200, Mogan ranks seventh in Class A.
• The Plains girls look like a shoo-in to win the Class B team title, but it could be an interesting race for second place between multiple teams, including Red Lodge. Daniella Russell and Tiffany Poore have been especially impressive for the Rams, following up strong 2013 seasons in which they set the school records in the 200- and 400-meter races. Both girls are threatening those records this season, and Russell has already topped Red Lodge’s best mark in the long jump with a mark of 16 feet, 10 ½ inches.
• In their first year in Class C, the Broadus boys figure to contend for a spot on the podium, maybe even the top spot. It starts in the sprints, where Kris Noble, Seth Bayles and McQ Burley all rank in the top six in Class C for both the 100 and 200. Noble currently holds the class’ fastest time in each race, running the 100 in 11.03 seconds and the 200 in 22.35.
• Along with Broadus, the boys of Belt will be one of the top challengers to three-time team champion Charlo. The Huskies expect to get points from Park McCafferty in the sprints, Koltin Haugrose in the hurdles and Hunter Croff in the javelin. Croff is the most prolific thrower in Belt history, setting the program’s javelin record with a heave of 180 feet, 11 inches at the Cascade Top 8 meet.