Brianna Eaton sprinted onto the state track scene as a sophomore in 2009.
Last spring, she and her Billings Senior teammates announced their arrival as state champions after years of near-miss, second-place finishes.
Now the goal is simple: Just keep it rolling.
“We definitely have the talent to do it again,” said Eaton, the defending State AA girls champion in the 200-meter dash. “We have to look at it like this is our time to shine, especially the seniors.”
Eaton finished second in the 200 as a sophomore, a result that came as a bit of a surprise at that time.
“Brianna really opened a lot of eyes in her two prelims and the finals (at the 2009 state meet) in Kalispell,” said Senior coach Dave Creger. “Everybody kind of went ‘Wow, she’s got more speed than I thought.’
“Last year she really came into her own as a consistent runner and as a team leader. She’s a great kid, a great student and a great worker. I’m really excited about what she can do for us this year.”
Eaton was also sixth in the 400 at last year’s state meet and anchored Senior’s second-place 1,600 relay and third-place 400 relay teams, contributing to the Broncs’ school-record total of 120 points.
She said 2010 senior leaders Alexa Aragon and AuraLea Fain set the foundation for this year’s seniors, which also include fellow sprinter Chloe Kanning and jump specialist Andrea Emmett.
“AuraLea and Alexa were amazing leaders for us last year,” Eaton said. “They didn’t let us do anything less than our best all the time, whether it was practice or a meet.
“They set a standard for all of us. I really looked up to them, and that’s the way I want to be as a senior this year.”
Individually, Eaton would like to defend her 200 title and beat the school-record time of 25.65 she set as a sophomore. She also wants to improve on her sixth-place finish in the 400 — though it’s an event she still isn’t in love with.
“I still get scared every time I run the 400,” she said, laughing. “I just started running it about halfway through the season last year. Coach Creger thought I was kind of good at it, so I started doing it full time.
“It’s painful. And it’s such a technical race. You have to run it smart. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I like the 400, but I am getting better at it.”
Creger said Eaton is already off to a good start as a team leader through her offseason workouts. He added that she has a little extra motivation to set an example this year with her younger sister, Rachael, on the team.
“I think that’s going to help both of them,” Creger said. “Brianna and Rachael have a great relationship and they’re both hard workers.
“I think having each other around is going to help both of them confidence-wise, and it’s going to make both of them push themselves a little harder, too.”