2015 Spring Storylines

What to watch in the new high school sports season

By Dillon Tabish

 State Track Meet Returns to Kalispell  

For only the second time in history, Kalispell will host state track. The Class AA and Class B state championship meets will take place at Legends Stadium, May 22-23. The only other time that Kalispell held the ultimate event was in 2009. Kalispell is a fitting host, considering its rich history of standout track and field athletes. The sport’s history in this town dates all the way back to the turn of the 20th century. In 1907, the Flathead County team won its first state title in just the fourth year that a boys-only prep competition had been held. Nearly 110 years later, Kalispell is home to 25 state championship teams and many more individual champions. No doubt, a few more will be crowned in front of their home crowd. The Morley sisters will battle in the Class B distance races while their brother Logan paces the boys races. Glacier freshman Annie Hill will also pursue her own long-distance glory in the Class AA ranks. Other local champs who will try to defend their titles include Flathead senior Jess Beaman in the triple jump, Glacier senior Keyawna Larson in the javelin, Bigfork senior Josh Sandry in the high jump and the Bigfork girls long relay team. In the Class A ranks, Columbia Falls senior Samantha Mundel is the reigning champ in the 3,200.

Luke May. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon
Luke May. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

 Whitefish’s Luke  May  Lets It Fly 

Luke’s got a cannon, whether it’s throwing a football down field or heaving a javelin through the air. The strong junior is back as the Class A defending champ in the javelin. A year ago, only three throwers in Montana surpassed the 200-foot mark and Luke was one of them. In the first meet of this season, last week’s dual with Flathead, May landed 162-7, far from his championship toss of 206-7 but still strong enough to win the event handily. He will face stiff competition from Corvallis’ Tyler Olson, who placed second at state a year ago and Fergus’ Collin Hartford.

Makena Morley and her sister Bryn, left, lead runners during the start of the Class B cross country championships. Beacon File Photo
Makena Morley and her sister Bryn, left, lead runners during the start of the Class B cross country championships. Beacon File Photo

Morley Sisters Hit the Track 

Likely the fastest sister-duo in America, Makena Morley and Bryn Morley are poised for a memorable season of competition, the last featuring both highly touted distance runners from Bigfork. Makena, a senior and future University of Montana runner, will write the final chapter of her amazing prep career by trying to defend her three titles in the distance events and etch her name in the record books. Makena has come close to breaking records in all three distance races, particularly the 800 and 1,600. If the cross country season and her victory at an elite international race in Scotland in January are any indication, she is in prime shape to do exactly that. But she’ll face stiff competition from none other than Bryn. The fleet-footed freshman sibling has already bested her older sister once this spring. Bryn placed third in the 1,600 at the 75th Nike Chandler Rotary Invitational track meet in Arizona on March 21. Bryn clocked 4:51.10, which is two seconds faster than Makena’s winning time at last year’s Class B state meet and barely three seconds off Chiara Warner’s all-class state record. Bryn has the foot-speed of a sprinter and the endurance of an all-state cross country runner. In other words, she’s Makena’s heir apparent as the next great Montana runner. Add the fact that Glacier freshman Annie Hill is already on both girls’ heels, and it’s further evidence that we’re in the midst of an unprecedented moment and one of those rare, exciting seasons that only comes around so often.

Glacier freshman Annie Hill. Beacon File Photo
Glacier freshman Annie Hill. Beacon File Photo

 Fleet-Footed Freshman Annie Hill Hits Stride

By the third lap of the Nike Chandler Rotary Invitational track meet in Arizona, two freshmen from Montana were leading the pack of elite runners from across the U.S. Bryn Morley and Annie Hill strode out front, more than holding their own in their first high school track meet. Morley finished third and Hill came in fourth, 4:51. Hill has been a highly touted runner since she was in middle school but she formally emerged last fall during cross country, when she captured the Class AA championship and clocked some of the fastest 3-mile times on record. Now in track, Hill will be running an assortment of events, from the 200 to the 3,200, to build up her strength and endurance. No doubt, she will challenge the top runners in Class AA, including Christina Aragon, a junior at Billings Senior who won both the 800 (2:11) and 1,600 (4:56). The reigning 3,200 champ — Caroline Hardin of Bozeman (10:51) — has graduated, meaning that title is up for grabs.

Logan Morley. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon
Logan Morley. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

 Logan Morley Makes a  Name for Himself 

Everybody knows the Morley sisters. But they should also keep the name Logan Morley in mind. The junior runner is one of the best in Montana and the reigning Class B champ in the 1,600. He’s coming off a milestone cross country season that included a state championship and a strong winter of training. He relishes competition, and he’ll definitely have some opponents to push him in his pursuit of titles. Kenny Wilbur of Broadus edged Logan in the 800 at last year’s state meet and Colstrip’s Tyus Mendoza won the 3,200 ahead of Logan. Don’t think the Bigfork junior doesn’t remember that and isn’t using it as motivation this spring.

Glacier players celebrate the game-winning run in the first game of a doubleheader against Flathead last year. Beacon File Photo
Glacier players celebrate the game-winning run in the first game of a doubleheader against Flathead last year. Beacon File Photo

 Wolfpack  Sluggers Retool  

The Glacier Wolfpack softball team has a few key players back from last year’s state tournament squad. All-state pitcher Ali Williams will be back in the circle and all-state infielder Kayleena Ikeda is back at second base for head coach Andy Fors. Also back is Kayla Russell, an all-conference honorable mention player. All together the team has five seniors and three juniors leading the resurgent Pack, which placed fourth in the Western AA standings last year with a 7-5 record. The team finished 12-10-1 overall and lost out at the state tournament in two games. Billings West defeated Missoula Big Sky to claim the championship. This year’s AA state tournament is May 21-23 in Missoula.

Adam Jordt, left, and Isaac Martel. Beacon File Photo
Adam Jordt, left, and Isaac Martel. Beacon File Photo

Tennis Teams Quickly Prep for State

The high school tennis season is a short one in Montana, with players only given barely two months before postseason action. In the Class B ranks, Adam Jordt and Isaac Martel are back as the third-place doubles team in the state. In the AA ranks, Glacier’s Spencer Johnson, now a junior, is searching for a new partner after Greg Jones graduated from the fourth-place state doubles duo. In Class A, Emily Getts, a junior, is hoping to build on last season, when she placed fourth at state in singles. Whitefish’s Heather Luedke, a senior, is searching for a doubles partner after placing fifth at state in doubles alongside Caroline Carbo, who has graduated.

Ashley Trueblood. Beacon File Photo
Ashley Trueblood. Beacon File Photo

  Trueblood and The  Wildcat Softball Team Aiming for State

Senior ace Ashley Trueblood is back in the circle for the Columbia Falls softball team. Last season Trueblood earned first team all-conference as the Wildkats’ ace, notching 236 strikeouts in 17 games. The Wildkats narrowly missed out on the state tournament, going 8-12-1 overall and 2-6 in the highly competitive Northwestern A conference. With a solid core of players back, Columbia Falls has its eyes on the state tournament. Carlee Brown, an all-conference outfielder is back along with Winter Kemppainen, an all-conference infielder. As always, the Wildkats will have stiff competition in the conference schedule. Frenchtown won the Class A championship last season and finished 23-1 overall. Polson, another perennial state contender, finished 18-5. Libby picked up the third seed in the conference, going 19-7 with an impressive lineup. Every NWA game should be competitive this season and definitely worth watching. The Class A state tournament is May 21-23 in Anaconda.

Crosstown softball

Gates Takes Over  Bravettes Softball Program 

Tasia Gates is back at her alma mater hoping to rebuild her former team, the Flathead Bravettes. The former standout shortstop for the Bravettes who graduated in 2004 is the team’s new head coach, replacing Ashley Fusaro, who stepped down after three seasons. Gates is inspired to help Flathead regain its winning ways on the softball field and has Abbie O’Brien, an all-conference honorable mention selection a year ago, back leading Flathead, which finished 5-15 last season.

Flathead High School track coach Dan Hodge. Beacon File Photo
Flathead High School track coach Dan Hodge. Beacon File Photo

Flathead’s Hodge to Be  Inducted into National  Hall of Fame 

Longtime Flathead coach Dan Hodge will be inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame on June 19 in Minnesota. Hodge is entering his 39th season as head coach of the Braves track team and 43rd overall in Kalispell. Under Hodge, the Braves have won six state championships, tying him for fourth most in state history, and 16 divisional titles. His teams have also placed second at state seven times and second at divisionals 10 times.  He was named the National Coach of the Year in 2013. He was inducted into the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame in 1998. He will be the third Flathead coach inducted into the national hall of fame, joining cross country coach and long distance coach Paul Jorgensen, who was inducted in 2001, and former girls track and field coach Joe McKay, who was inducted in 2001.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 11.28.14 AM

Class B Qualifying   Standards  

Class B athletes can now qualify for the state meet during the season instead of waiting until the divisional meet. New qualifying standards have been established creating marks for each event. If an athlete surpasses a mark, they’re automatically entered into state. For example, if a male sprinter runs 11.50 in a regular-season meet with proper timing equipment, he earns a trip to Kalispell’s state meet. Individuals can still qualify at the divisional meet, too. Class B joined Class AA and Class A by adding the qualifying standards.

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