WHITEFISH – Scot Ferda, the hurdles coach for Whitefish High School’s track team, said his daughter Ashley called from the University of Montana and asked how the Wiley twins were doing.
“Well, they’re not killing each other in the locker room,” he said.
The truth is, Sam and Seth are so equal they long ago figured out that picking fights with each other is a futile effort. Nobody wins. Even playful wrestling inevitably leads to an exhausting, gasping-for-air stalemate.
They bicker, of course, but even that has slowed over the years. They prefer to focus their efforts on beating opponents on the track. It seems to be working out pretty well for them – they’re close friends and they’re awesome hurdlers.
Last year, Seth took first place at Northwestern A divisionals in the 300 hurdles and Sam was right behind him in second until he tripped on the last hurdle. In the 110 hurdles, they both qualified for state. This year, Seth’s goal is to break the school record in the 300 hurdles and Sam, yet again, plans to be right there, nipping at his heels. This is their senior year.
Ferda, who has coached the Wileys throughout high school, said the twins are genuine track devotees. Most athletes in high school, Ferda said, choose track as a secondary sport to aid their other pursuits: football, basketball, volleyball or whatever it may be. But not the Wileys. While they both play football, the gridiron takes a backseat to hurdles.
The twins don’t look exactly the same. Sam has more hair and Seth has more bulk. Seth has always had about five or 10 pounds on Sam, they both agree. But to the untrained eye, they could pass for each other. Their gestures and facial expressions are similar and, on occasion, they say the same thing at the exact same time.
Since they could walk, Sam and Seth have found a common bond in sports. Seth said: “I think our first word was touchdown.” They used to race each other home from the bus stop in elementary school. Then in middle school, when they were in the same P.E. class, the teacher made sure they were on opposite teams during any game. Otherwise it wasn’t fair for the rest of the kids.
It was also in middle school when they found hurdles, or at least Ferda found them. Recognizing their athleticism and work ethic, Ferda introduced hurdling to the boys, who eagerly embraced it. By the time they were freshmen in high school, they had big goals in mind. Fast forward four years later and their goals are much bigger, yet their work ethic is still just as focused, or even more so.
Ferda said “they’re so easy to coach because they’re like sponges,” absorbing every directive and piece of advice lobbed their way. The Wileys have also assumed leadership roles, helping out with younger hurdlers and constantly giving up their time to make others better in practice.
“They’re just great kids,” Ferda said. “I’m going to really miss them.”
Whitefish is the defending Class A boys track champion. The Wileys understand that defending a state title in track is a multi-faceted endeavor that requires contributions from all areas. Having both of them earn points in hurdles at the state meet would go a long way. Sam is also a pole vaulter, while both of them are on relay teams.
The Whitefish boys only lost three athletes from last year’s team. They return two state champions – Colt Idol in the high jump and Aaron Tkachyk in the long jump. In addition they return two second-place finishers. Kaleb Prestegaard was second in the pole vault and Drew Coco finished second in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
Coco, the state champion in cross country in the fall and the Gatorade Montana Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, is the favorite to clean up both of his events this spring. Idol, along with football star Derek Crittenden, are both going to try hurdles this year.
Idol will be gunning for the Class A record in the high jump. Last year he cleared 6 feet 8 ¼ inches at state. Nobody came close to him. The next five finishers all had jumps of 6 feet 2 inches. The Class A record, set by Livingston’s Kral Ferch in 1983, is 6 feet 10.
For the girls, if the cross country season this past fall was any indication, Whitefish should have the best long-distance crew in the state. The Whitefish Lady Bulldogs are the two-time defending champions in cross country. This fall they placed five runners in the top 15 at the state meet: Jackie Cassidy, Loni Hanson, Stella Holt, Jessica Sagen and Bailey Eaton.
So as the boys set out to defend their state title, the Wileys will be there every step of the way. When the season ends, they’ll finish their senior year and look ahead to college: physical therapy at UM for Seth and engineering at Montana Tech for Sam, though these are tentative decisions at the moment. And, scholarship or no scholarship, they’ll both try to make the track teams wherever they end up.
The gap in geography might be tough at first, as the twins have been together almost every day for 18 years. But they’re ready for the challenge and they’ll keep in touch often.
“It’s nice because if our friends don’t want to hang out, we’re always here for each other,” Sam said.
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