Spring Storylines: What to Watch This Sports Season

By Beacon Staff

With a new season underway, several exciting plotlines are resuming for local teams and athletes. Here’s a glimpse at a few storylines worth following this spring.

Columbia Falls Softball Swings for the Fences
With a strong returning lineup from last year’s third-place squad, the Wildkats could prove to be one of the best softball teams in Montana yet again. All-state ace Ashley Trueblood will be a strong presence on the mound and in the batter’s box. As a sophomore last season she fanned 156 batters in 150 innings while knocking in 27 runs and hitting .375. The lineup also features all-conference junior outfielder Carlee Brown, all-conference senior utility Tiffany Hummer and junior Winter Kemppainen. The Wildkats play in the toughest division in the state, and to be the best they’ll have to beat the best. No team besides fellow Northwestern A foes Polson or Frenchtown has won the Class A state title in six years. Columbia Falls came close last year, losing to the Broncs by one run in the bottom of the seventh inning in the state semifinals and then dropping another nailbiter to Polson to miss out on the championship game. The Lady Pirates have five returning starters from last year’s state runner-up squad, while defending state champ Frenchtown also brings back a bulk of talent.

Morley Renews Fast-Paced Pursuit
A few weeks ago at the New Balance Nationals Indoor in New York, Makena Morley placed fifth in the two-mile race, clocking 10:21 and finishing 13 seconds out of first place. It was the latest in a long line of amazing achievements by the Bigfork runner, who in barely three years of high school has nearly rewritten Montana’s record books when it comes to distance running. The fast-paced junior is coming off a milestone cross country season in the fall when she broke the all-class state record, earned her third consecutive Class B title and won the Foot Locker Western Regional Championships. This spring Morley will try to sweep the distance races a year after earning three runner-ups to Chiara Warner, who graduated. Morley will also renew her pursuit of Zoe Nelson’s all-class state record in the 3,200-meter race (10:26.18) and Chiara Warner’s 1,600 record (4:48.24).

Talented Bravettes Seek Track Hardware
The Flathead Bravettes have a storied history in track, and this year’s squad features a large group of returning all-state athletes. Last season’s squad finished fourth, but only four points separated second through fourth place. Flathead would like to bring home some hardware, and leading the way will be senior Emma Andrews, who placed second in the long jump last year and sixth in the high jump, Megan Russell, who was sixth in the high jump, Lizzie Sherwood, a sophomore who earned third in the javelin a year ago, junior Janae Wood, who was sixth in the triple jump, and Rhiannon Sturgess, who finished sixth in the 300 hurdles.

Glacier Returns Talented Sluggers
Head coach Andy Fors has a wealth of talent returning from last year’s third-place team, which earned the first state trophy in school history. Ali Williams earned all-state as a freshman after batting .590 with 30 RBI and striking out 51 batters in 62 innings from the mound. Also back from last season are all-state second baseman Kayleena Ikeda, who belted five homers and hit .492, all-conference utility player Hannah Atlee, who hit .436 with 16 RBI, and Kayla Russell and Taylor Riggles, both all-conference honorable mention players.

Title Defense
The Whitefish Bulldogs won their first boys state track title since 2008 last spring. The Bulldogs are without Logan Harwood, who graduated after scoring 38 of the team’s 78 points at state, but there is still lots of talent on the track and in the field for head coach Derek Schulz. The returning leaders are junior Keaton Grove, who won the 110 hurdles title and placed sixth in the 300 hurdles, senior Sean Foley, who placed second in pole vault and fifth in the long jump, senior Gage Smith, fifth place in the shot put and sophomore Luke May, who earned fourth in the javelin.

Ogden Aims for Four
In his final season, Todd Ogden will try to make history. Only one other male athlete has won four state titles in the javelin, according to the Montana High School Association. Craig Stiles of Malta won the championship each year between 1968-71. The Glacier senior will also try to claim the all-class state record of 213-04, held by Nate Bache of Thompson Falls and set in 2005. Ogden set the Class AA record last year, throwing 210-8 in Bozeman.

Larson Ready to Let it Fly
Keyawna Larson is no longer an unknown. The Glacier junior is the Class AA reigning state champion in the javelin after surprising many last spring when she heaved the javelin 140-feet and eight inches at the state meet, almost 20 feet further than her divisional mark from a week earlier and 13 feet better than the state runner-up. It ranked as one of the top 10 greatest throws in Montana since the new javelin was introduced in 2002. Keyawna is now focused on a new goal: the state record, 143-7.

Nicosia Looks to Build on Strong Track Record
Carla Nicosia, now a junior at Columbia Falls, will have already achieved a new personal best in the triple jump before ever taking flight in Montana this spring. Nicosia competed in several out-of-state indoor meets in the offseason and improved on last season’s marks, which earned her third place at the Class A state meet. On the boys side for Columbia Falls, Ty Morgan has his sights set on the javelin title a season after placing second. Nakia Alexander earned third in the triple jump a year ago at state.

Schulz Strides into Final Season of Standout Career
Just how dominant has Marlow Schulz been on the track? In the past three seasons, the Whitefish sprinter has collected 14 top-five medals from the state meet, including nine golds. She only lost one race last year, to the eventual Class AA state runner-up in the 200. This spring the senior will attempt to sweep the sprint events one final time before moving on to St. John’s University, where she signed a letter of intent to compete next year.

Top Spring Events
April 8: Columbia Falls-Polson (softball) at Columbia Falls
April 10: Whitefish-Columbia Falls (tennis)
April 12: Columbia Falls Iceberg Invite (track)
April 17: Flathead-Glacier crosstown (tennis)
April 24: Glacier-Flathead crosstown (softball) at Conrad Complex
April 26: Libby Invitational (track)
April 29: Glacier-Flathead crosstown (track)
May 1: Whitefish-Columbia Falls (tennis)
May 3: Whitefish A.R.M. Meet (track)
May 5: Lincoln County Meet (track)
May 5: Kalispell Invite (tennis)
May 6: Ken Good Invitational (track) in Whitefish
May 6: Lake County Meet (track) in Polson
May 10: Archie Roe Invitational (track)
May 13: Class B Divisional (golf) in Bigfork
May 13-16: Western AA Divisional (tennis) in Great Falls
May 15: Glacier-Flathead crosstown (softball) at Kidsports Complex
May 15-17: Northwestern A Divisional (tennis) in Kalispell
May 17: District 7B Meet (track) in Bigfork
May 17: Polson ABC Meet (track)
May 19-21: Class B State (golf) in Anaconda
May 23: Columbia Falls-Frenchtown (softball) at Columbia Falls
May 23-24: Western B Divisional (track) in Missoula
May 23-24: Northwestern A Divisional (track) in Frenchtown
May 23-24: Western AA Divisional (track) at Legends Stadium in Kalispell
May 22-24: Class A State (tennis) in Billings
May 22-24: Class B/C State (tennis) in Missoula
May 23-24: Class AA State (tennis) in Bozeman
May 29-31: Class AA & B/C State (softball) in Great Falls
May 29-31: Class A State (softball) in Polson
May 30-31: Class A/B State (track) in Butte
May 30-31: Class AA/C State (track) in Great Falls

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