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Morgan Sulser

Billings Senior Morgan Sulser leads the field in hurdles race at State AA track and field meet in Bozeman.

During the first day of the State AA and B track meet in Bozeman – a day reserved mostly for preliminary heats on the track – Billings Senior sprinter Nolan Saraceni ran the 100-meter dash in 10.74 seconds. The time marked a then personal-best for Saraceni in the event and set the school record.

Saraceni summed up the qualifying race simply: “It was a fast day.”

And the second day was even faster.

Saraceni clocked a 10.71 in the finals of the 100 on Saturday, winning the sprint and setting the new Senior High record. The time was four-hundredths of a second off the all-class state record of 10.67 set by Chris Wilson of Great Falls CMR in 2009.

Five athletes, though, did break all-class state records – records which can only be bested at a state meet – on Saturday.

Adam Peterman of Missoula Hellgate (3200-meter run), Matthew Tokarz of Kalispell Flathead (triple jump), Chiara Warner of Townsend (1600-meter run), Morgan Sulser of Senior (100-meter hurdles), and Liz Harper of Missoula Sentinel (300-meter hurdles) each etched their names into the Montana High School Association record books.

Warner’s record-setting performance should go down as the most impressive. Her time of 4:48.24 in the mile was almost seven seconds faster than the previous record set by CMR’s Heidi Lane in 2002. Lane clocked a 4:55.18.

Warner’s time was a 2.4 percent improvement on the old record, compared to a 1.6 percent improvement for Sulser in the 100 hurdles and a 1.3 percent improvement for Tokarz in the triple jump.

Speaking of Tokarz, what a way for him to conclude the triple jump. With his three jumps in the finals, Tokarz broke the Class AA record (47 feet, 6 inches), broke the 30-year-old all-class record (48-2 set by Cascade’s Harry Clark in 1983), and then improved his state-record leap in consecutive jumps. His final jump of 48-9½ wowed the spectators in attendance and those following along on social media.

But as impressive as Warner and Tokarz were, Sulser stole the show.

The diminutive speedster set the bar at last year’s state meet when she just missed the record of 14.34 seconds in the 100 hurdles. Eclipsing that mark was on Sulser’s mind all season long, and she was probably the only athlete expected to get a record last weekend.

“It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind all year, since this race last year,” Sulser said after the race. “It’s just such an honor to be able to run with these people and have an opportunity like this.”

The record was so much at the forefront of Sulser’s mind that winning the race was a secondary goal, as Sulser said she “probably would have rather lost and ran a time that would have beaten that record” than won with a slower time.

That scenario played out in the 300 hurdles, where Sulser did run a time good enough to set the all-class record. Her 43.20 was .14 seconds faster than the old record, but Harper ran a blistering 42.87 to pull away from Sulser and the pack.

Add in Peterman’s 9:12.38 two-mile run – which broke Gordon Ruttenbur’s 9:13.30 set in 1982, making it the longest-standing record to fall last weekend – and Saturday goes down as one of the best days for Montana high school track athletes in the sport’s history.

Five all-class state records fell. No other year has seen more than three all-class records fall.

So, yeah, it was a fast day.


Online sports editor for The Billings Gazette.