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Jimmy Stanton, Evan Wilson latest in long line of bronc shot put, discus standouts
JOHN WARNER/Gazette Staff Billings Senior's Jimmy Stanton, left, and Evan Wilson are part of Billings Senior's continuing tradition of standout shot put and discus throwers. Senior has produced five State AA boys champions in the shot put and five in the discus since 1993. The Senior girls have produced two State AA shot put champions and two discus champions since 1998. JOHN WARNER/Gazette Staff Senior High track coach Dennis Johnson.

When the medals are handed out for the shot put and discus at the State AA track and field meet, there is a very good possibility the winners will be wearing the orange and black uniform of Billings Senior.

That's been the story for most of the past decade and it's very likely to happen again at Helena next week.

The Broncs' Jimmy Stanton and Evan Wilson are defending state champions and will be highly favored to get repeat titles. Stanton will be the favorite in the discus and Wilson in the shot put.

Of course, for that to have a chance of happening, both Senior standouts will have to qualify in the Eastern AA divisional, which starts today at MetraPark. Barring something going completely wrong, Stanton and Wilson should add to the Senior legacy.

Senior has produced six state champions in the shot put and discus since Eli Workman won both titles in 1993. Since then, Travis Haynes (1994), Matt Drinkwalter ('97-98), Marcus Hanson ('99) and Wilson have claimed shot put titles. Discus winners were Haynes in '94, Drinkwalter in '97-98, Hanson in '99 and Stanton in '02.

The girls have done well, too. Carra Greyn won the shot in '01 and Whitney Gum took it last year. In the discus, Caitlin Coan ('94), Jen Allen ('98-99) and Gum ('02) brought home titles.

Wilson and Stanton said Senior's tradition wouldn't have been possible without coach Dennis Johnson.

"Jimmy and I believe he's the best in the state and probably in the top five, high school or college, in the Northwest," Wilson said.

Johnson's expertise and dedication are what stand out.

"He works with us at 6 a.m. all winter," Stanton said. "He's the master of technique."

Stanton said Johnson can "take one look at you" and know how to improve your distance.

"He's why I transferred from Shepherd," said Wilson.

Both believe Johnson's a big reason why they're headed to college on track scholarships. Wilson's going to the University of Washington and Stanton to the University of Montana.

Under Johnson's tutelage, Wilson became the ninth shot-putter in the state to break 60 feet. Wilson threw 60 feet, 3 inches in a triangular meet in April.

Stanton is a threat to break the school discus record of 185 feet, having gone a 182-6 in the Top 10 meet. That distance was a meet record and is the best throw in the state.

"I don't think that's as far as I can go," Stanton said.

Neither does Wilson. "I think he can go 185 to 190 if the weather is decent."

Stanton has also improved in the shot, throwing a career-best of 54-9 1/2 in a dual with Bozeman two weeks ago.

Wilson, who is the state leader in the shot, probably isn't going to get the school record of 63- 3/4 by Drinkwalter, but has no complaints.

"I think 63 is a little optimistic," conceded Wilson, who'd be happy to break 60 again and win another state championship.

Wilson should also finish among the discus leaders. He's got a season-best 160-2 which ranks him fourth best in the AA ranks and No. 7 overall in the state.

For his part, Johnson enjoys working with athletes like Wilson and Stanton and remembers how much has changed since his high schools days.

Johnson threw the shot and discus (along with running the 100 and 220-yard dashes and 880 relay) at Big Sandy in 1964 and recalls that "I taught myself. Scholastic Coach magazine was my coach.

"We had one coach," Johnson said. "It wasn't that my coach wasn't good, he just didn't have expertise in those areas."

Johnson later competed one year at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.

"School got out in early May and the track season went until the end of May and I didn't have enough money," Johnson recalled. "I had to go home and work."

But Johnson never lost his love for track, specifically the weight events, and continued learning about them during a stint a Shepherd in the early '70's.

"When I was at Shepherd, we had two guys, Jim Heidema and Robert McCartney, who both were over 50 feet, which was unusual for that time."

Johnson also began working with his cousin, Kent Flatness of Baker, who was attending Rocky Mountain College at the time.

"He'd come out to Shepherd and work out," Johnson said. "We'd film and critique that."

Johnson joined the Senior staff in 1981 and became the head coach in 1988. He's enjoyed working with athletes like Wilson and Stanton.

"They're eager to learn. They're willing to put in the time," Johnson said. "They've both worked really hard and are pretty good athletes."

Physically, it seems like the discus should be the best event for Wilson, who weighs about 210 and the shot for Stanton, who weighs in the 260 range.

"It's like there should be a role reversal," Johnson said. "It's kind of different how that has evolved."

What has also evolved at Senior is one of the best traditions in Montana high school track and field.

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