Spring Storylines 2016

What to watch in the new high school sports season

By Dillon Tabish
Ali Williams delivers a pitch during Glacier High School softball practice on April 28, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Glacier Begins Championship Defense on Softball Field

The Glacier Wolfpack is hoping for an encore after enjoying the best season in program history a year ago, when the team went 22-3 and won its first state championship.

Head coach Andy Fors has a few holes to fill after graduating five seniors, but he’s got a solid group of returning starters.

Senior ace Ali Williams is back as one of the best players in Montana, along with standout catcher Christine Connolly. Glacier also brings back Erin McHugh, Alivia Atlee and Christina DuFour, who all contributed heavily during last year’s championship season.

But front and center will be Williams, who has committed to play at Carroll College next year along with Connolly. During her junior campaign, Williams struck out 272 batters in 154 innings and notched a 1.36 ERA. She helped herself out from the batter’s box all season, batting .459 with 11 homeruns and 31 RBI.

Glacier’s top competition looks to be a familiar foe — Missoula Big Sky brings back all nine starters from a year ago, including all-state pitcher Macey Newbary. Glacier edged Big Sky 6-3 in last year’s title game.

Flathead is also bringing back most of its starters from a year ago, including Abbie O’Brien, Kylee Meredith and Kaitlin Torgerson.

Kalispell is hosting the AA state tournament.

In the Class A ranks, the Columbia Falls Wildkats bring back all-conference players Peyton Kehr and Lottie Ellis while Whitefish has Michaela McDowell as an experienced leader.

Track Squads On Pace for Stellar Spring

If there is one guarantee to be made in spring, it’s that the Flathead Valley will produce state-championship-caliber track athletes. Year after year, it’s proven true as another crop of talented runners, throwers, jumpers or hurdlers emerge to claim gold. This year should be no different.

In Bigfork, the Morley siblings — senior Logan and sophomore Bryn — will renew their pursuit of several state medals. Logan is the defending 1,600 and 3,200 champ and Bryn is the defending 800 and 1,600 champ. Gabby Eaton is the defending champ in the pole vault and Haile Norred is a returning all-state runner in the sprints and relays.

In Kalispell, Glacier sophomore Annie Hill will continue to make a name for herself as one the best distance runners in America. After training all offseason, she looks like she’s even faster than last year, when she took on Billings phenom Christina Aragon. Watch for young Hill to chase Zoe Nelson’s all-class state record in the 3,200 (10:26.18), among other historic marks.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 11.19.53 AMThe Flathead boys, who claimed a share of last year’s AA state championship, welcome back Jake Perrin for a senior season that should be especially noteworthy. The reigning champ in the 1,600 is poised for a memorable finale.

The Glacier boys bring back a well-rounded lineup of runners and throwers, including senior Aaron Robinson, who ran a leg on the state champion short relay team a year ago with Scout Willcut.

In Whitefish, future Griz football player Jed Nagler is back to defend his Class A state titles in the 100 and high jump. Fellow senior and University of Minnesota recruit Luke May has his sights on a third consecutive javelin championship.

Mark your calendars for a few can’t-miss local meets — the A.R.M. meet in Whitefish is April 30, Archie Roe at Legends Stadium is May 7 and the Polson ABC meet is May 14.

Flathead Lacrosse Retools for Title Pursuit

Lacrosse is quickly making inroads in the Flathead Valley. Last season the U15 Flathead Lacrosse team won the state championship and the U13 squad placed second. The high school team was bumped from the state tournament but has a solid group of young players joining the ranks this spring. There are now two programs for various age groups — Flathead Lacrosse and the Northwest Lacrosse Sharpshooters.

Black and Blue Rugby Looks to Keep Up Winning Tradition

The U19 male team, the Black and Blue, has developed into one of the best youth rugby programs in Montana with a 45-6 record over the last four seasons and a state championship. This year there is a JV and varsity team with home games played at Evergreen Middle School. The team opened the season last weekend with a dominating 25-7 win over the Bitterroot Warriors. Established over six years ago, the program is made up of boys and girls from across the valley, some of whom have advanced to compete at the college ranks.

Lakers, Twins Back on the Diamond in Pursuit of the Postseason

A year ago, the Kalispell Lakers AA club advanced to the state tournament after finishing fifth in the Western AA standings. The Lakers have a few holes to fill throughout the roster but the group should contend for another postseason berth. Billings and Missoula will have the teams to beat once again. Last year the Billings Scarlets defeated the Billings Royals 7-1 to win the title. In the Class A ranks, the Glacier Twins and Mission Valley Mariners should be back near the top of the standings as top teams in Montana.

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