The start of the spring sports season, as it often is, was spent mostly indoors as teams around the Flathead Valley dug out from record late-winter snowfall. With the official first day of competition, March 23, already in the rearview mirror, some programs are still looking to get outside for the first time, but rest assured the day will come eventually when the sun will shine down on softball, track and field, and tennis athletes around the state. The good news is there are still almost two months before state champions will be crowned, plenty of time for athletes around the state to round into form. As the meat of the spring sports schedule approaches, here’s a look at all the schools, athletes and storylines to watch this spring.
Track and Field
The state track and field championships in Class AA and B return to Legends Stadium in Kalispell in May, and when they do two Flathead Valley programs will be looking to defend their state titles.
In Class AA, the Glacier boys won a championship for the first time in program history in 2018, but in order to repeat it will be up to the next generation of Wolfpack sprinters, leapers and throwers. Glacier graduated three-quarters of their state champion 400-meter relay team, a trio that combined to earn nine all-state finishes in a number of different events, primarily sprints and jumps. The one returning piece of that relay team, junior Drew Deck, will be looking to build on a third-place finish in the 300 hurdles a year ago, and senior Evan Todd, a University of Montana commit, enters the season as the favorite in the javelin after winning the state title in dramatic fashion in 2018.
Across town at Flathead, the Braves also must replace a fair chunk of a team that finished second behind only Glacier a year ago. Flathead’s best bet to take home a title in 2019 is senior Ben Perrin, fresh off an undefeated cross-country season that ended with a state title for the future Montana State Bobcat. Perrin was a track champion in the 3,200 last season and finished fourth in the 1,600. All-state placer Seth Moon (triple jump) is also expected to return.
It’s a new era, in a different way, for Flathead and Glacier’s girls teams. Flathead alum Charlie Dotson is the new coach for the Bravettes and he inherits a roster that includes all-state high jumper Madde Boles, who was also part of an all-state relay team. The Wolfpack does not have a new coach but they are moving forward for the first time in four years without Annie Hill at the top of the lineup. The multiple-time state champion distance runner is now at the University of Colorado, but Glacier does have up-and-comers Katie Dixon and Mya McNeely (throws), and Faith Brennan (long jump) back for another season.
In Class B, Bigfork High School’s girls track dynasty will be tested this spring after back-to-back state titles, the second of which came in runaway fashion a year ago. The Valkyries, under the guidance of legendary coach Sue Loeffler, are without state champions Haile Norred (Montana State) and Bryn Morley (Northern Arizona) who combined to win five individual titles last season. The cupboard is not bare, however, with seniors Jordan Nelson and Anya Young both coming off all-state campaigns. The Vikings boys also have an all-state finisher back in sophomore high jumper Wyatt Duke.
The Class A state meet will be in Laurel, and a handful of standouts at Columbia Falls and Whitefish could make some noise there. The Bulldogs girls team could also be in contention for a team trophy with a bevy of all-state returners, including 400-meter state champion Lauren Schulz. Other standouts in Class A include state-record holder Angellica Street (Columbia Falls, javelin) and all-state basketball star Lee Walburn (Whitefish, hurdles and jumps).
Glacier and Columbia Falls both reached the state tournament but went 0-2 once they got there, and both programs are itching for a return and a chance to bring home some hardware.
The Wolfpack and head coach Abby Connolly ran into a little bad luck last year when star pitcher Sage Vanterpool was injured just before the state tournament began, but Vanterpool is back to full strength this year and aiming to pitch the Pack into the title picture despite a roster that does not include a single senior. Glacier’s young stars are plentiful, however, and include all-conference returnees Vanterpool, Kynzie Mohl, Allee Meyer, Addie Labrum and Sophie Smith. Across town at Flathead, third-year coach Jack Foster and the Bravettes are looking to rebuild without a trio of all-conference graduates.
The Wildcats boast a squad filled with stars from Columbia Falls’ successful volleyball, soccer and basketball programs, including Trista Cowan, Kaylee Ashe and Ryley Kehr, all of whom were named all-state in 2018. Whitefish, meanwhile, is breaking in a new coach this spring in Hannah Pomeroy and looking to improve after a two-win season.
Glacier’s young stars got a first taste of the state tournament last season, and with that experience behind them both Maria Frampton and Rory Smith are primed to contend for a state championship this time around.
Frampton, a senior who attended Whitefish Christian Academy before last season, lost to two-time defending state champion Heather Sikoski of Bozeman in the semifinals of the state tournament last year en route to a third-place finish. Frampton, the defending Northern AA divisional champion, figures to be neck-and-neck with Sikoski again this year in the race for the title.
On the boys side, Smith, just a sophomore, won three times at state a year ago and lost just shy of the third-place match. Also the Northern AA divisional champ, Smith lost just five times during the regular season as a freshman and ended the state tournament in fifth place, still an all-state showing.
Whitefish’s boys tied for the team championship in Class A last season behind state runner-up Brendan Buls, who will be back for his senior season this spring. The Bulldogs girls bring back the third-place doubles combination of Aubrey Hanks and Olivia Potthoff.
And in Class B, Colton and Clayton Reichenbach, fresh off a second straight state basketball championship, will be looking to defend their state doubles title. The Bigfork twins won a tight three-set final against Missoula Loyola’s Dan Ramsey and Dan Kaleva last year.