Nathan Connell will have a fond memory of his final lap in his hometown.
With runners on his heels and the wind in his face, the senior distance runner from Glacier High School buckled down in the last stretch of the 1,600 race at the Western AA Divisional track meet at Legends Stadium last weekend.
“With the home crowd, you want to go out of your final home meet with a win. That last lap I was thinking, “I have to keep pushing so I could win,” Connell said. “The promise of a win really kept me pushing.”
The Wolfpack runner crossed the finish line all alone, achieving his fastest time all season — 4:27.72 — and achieving the divisional victory in front of family and friends.
It was a memorable day for Kalispell’s fastest and most talented track and field athletes, and a fitting — albeit, rare — conclusion. When it was all said and done, Glacier and Flathead were tied for first place in the boys team standings, both tallying 93 points apiece. Helena Capital narrowly missed out in third, with 92.
That’s never happened before, at least not involving Kalispell’s two schools since they split in 2007.
“I think they’ve been very competitive yesterday and today. That’s what you always want: to do your best at the last two meets, divisionals and state,” longtime Flathead boys coach Dan Hodge said of his team.
The Glacier girls picked up second place at the divisional meet, tallying 95 points, while Flathead earned fifth, with 61. Missoula Big Sky won after loading up with 132 points.
The track season will come to a climactic finish this weekend at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls, where both Glacier and Flathead will vie for team titles and a bevy of individual medals at the Class AA state meet, May 30-31.
There’s plenty of momentum coming off the divisional performances.
Glacier senior Todd Ogden broke his own divisional record in the javelin, throwing 215-0 to easily win the title and set himself up for a fourth consecutive state title. The all-class state record for the new javelin is 213-4, set by Nate Bache of Thompson Falls in 2005.
Glacier senior Lonnie Sherman won the pole vault with a clear of 15-0, and almost made 15-6 — a divisional record — but barely missed. Teammate Evan Epperly grabbed victories in the 100 (11.38) and 200 (23.06).
For the Braves, senior Matt Quist won the high jump with a clear of 6-9, Jess Beaman won the triple jump with 43-6.75 and Caleb McCracken was tops in the discus (166-7).
On the girls side, Glacier’s Zoee Boschee won the triple jump (35-4.75) and defending state champ Keyawna Larson won the javelin (133-5).
“We’re poised to make a run for the state title this year and we’re really excited about that,” Connell said.
“Hopefully we can go to state, have some good competition, a few surprises and come out with a gold.”
The Whitefish boys and girls both brought home well-deserved first-place team trophies from the Northwestern A Divisional track meet in Frenchtown. The defending state champion boys piled up 216 points to easily top runner-up Polson, 115.
The Bulldog girls, led by speedy Marlow Schulz, edged Columbia Falls 176-157. Polson was third, 103.
Schulz has one final weekend left in her brilliant track career. At the divisional meet, she completed yet another sweep in the sprint events, winning the 400 (57.06) on Friday and then capturing the 100 (12.51), 200 (25.86) and 800 (2:21.32) on Saturday. Schulz will try to add to her medal collection — 14 top-five finishes, including nine golds — at the state meet in Butte this weekend. She will face a talented foe in Corvallis’ Sadi Henderson, who ranks near the top of the sprint events along with Schulz.
Also picking up divisional victories for the Whitefish girls were Phoebe Guercio in the 300 hurdles (47.28) and long jump (17-1/2) and Kate Doorn in the high jump (5-0). For Columbia Falls, Carla Nicosia won both the triple jump (35-4.75) and the 100 hurdles (15.66), Samantha Mundel won both the 1,600 (5:24.24) and the 3,200 (12:10), Haley Belgarde won the shot put (33-10), and Andrea Getts was victorious in the discus (115-10). Claudia Hewston of Polson won the pole vault with a leap of 9-0.
On the boys side, the defending champs reloaded with a ton of placers at the divisional. Jed Nagler won both the 100 (11.31) and the high jump (6-2), Sean Foley won the pole vault (13-0), Keaton Grove won the 110 hurdles (15.03), Luke Cardon was tops in the 800 (2:02.6), Thomas Henson won the 3,200 (10:49), Gage Smith had the best shot put (48-6) and Luke May was first in the javelin (190-2). The Bulldogs’ 400 relay team, with Foley, Grove, Cardon and Koler Kanistanaux, won in 44.47.
James Ratzlaff of Columbia Falls won the 1,600 (4:45), Nakia Alexander won the triple jump (43-5.25) and the Wildcats’ 1,600 relay team — Ratzlaff, Mike Sandefer, Ty Morgan and Josiah Osborne — won in 3:33.86.
Polson’s Jacob Clairmont won both the long jump (20-4.25) and 300 hurdles (40.93) and teammate Austin Corrigan was tops in the discus (141-2).
Makena Morley broke three distance records at the Western B Divisional meet in Missoula, setting herself up for another momentous state meet in Butte this weekend. The Bigfork junior shattered her previous mark in the 1,600 by nine seconds, running 4:50.19. It was one of the fastest times in state history and barely behind the all-class state record of 4:48, set by Chiara Warner at the state meet in Bozeman last spring. Morley also blew past the divisional records in the 800 and 3,200. She clocked 2:12.86 in the 800, breaking the 2010 mark of 2:16.38 set by Kayla Carlson, another standout Bigfork runner. In the 3,200, Morley clocked 10:27.74, surpassing her own record of 10:42.29 set a year ago. All three of Morley’s divisional times rank as the best in Montana for all classes, and this weekend she will try to regain gold a year after falling short to Warner.
Morley also ran on the Valkyries’ winning 1,600 relay team, along with Mattison McAnally, Emily Cheroske and Marissa Hiza.
The Bigfork girls placed second with 93 points. Plains won with 158.
The Bigfork boys picked up the top team trophy after racking up 103 points to edge Missoula Loyola, 89. Logan Morley swept the distance events, winning the 800 (2:06.44), the 1,600 (4:35.03) and 3,200 (10:30). Josh Sandry was tops in the high jump (6-4) and Tyler Iverson won the discus (157-8).
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