Racing to Glory

Whitefish’s girls won their first state track title in 35 years and Flathead’s boys took home a trophy for the second straight year as the 2018-19 prep sports season came to a close

By Andy Viano
Runners take off in the 800-meter race during the Montana AA state track and field meet in Legends Stadium in Kalispell on May 24. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Chance Sheldon-Allen, with his team’s lucky fake turtle tucked neatly into his left arm, could not help but smile as he reveled in the end of his junior season and a decidedly un-turtle-like weekend.

The Flathead High School sprinter had already overcome a painful back injury that cost him five weeks of the season to even make it to this meet, and just an hour or so after he became a state champion for the first time in his career in the 100 meters, he nearly pulled the double in a blisteringly quick 200, part of a sensational weekend on the track for the Braves, who walked away with four individual titles and celebrated a third-place finish as a team to earn a state trophy for the second straight season.

Meanwhile, more than 400 miles away in Laurel, the Whitefish High School girls were ascending to the podium’s top spot and soaking in the team’s first state championship since 1984 thanks to their own spate of all-state stalwarts on the track.

The final weekend of the 2018-19 prep sports season saw plenty of highs for the Flathead Valley’s top athletes, and a bushel of memorable performances from students at all five local schools.

Kyle Calles of Flathead High School finishes first in the 800-meter race at the Montana AA state track and field meet in Legends Stadium in Kalispell on May 24. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Flathead Runs Wild at Home

Kyle Calles had been waiting for this race for a year.

The Flathead senior was passed with 50 meters to go in the 800 at last year’s state meet to fall into seventh place, one spot out of an all-state position, and for the last 12 months he has known at least one thing for certain: He wasn’t going to get passed this time around.

Calles led from the opening gun on his home track on the first day of the Class AA state meet, May 24 at Legends Stadium, when, with 200 meters to go, Bozeman’s Griffin May made a push. Calles felt the junior pounding toward him and felt echoes of his past.

“I couldn’t let him pass me; I knew I couldn’t let that happen,” Calles said breathlessly, minutes after he staved off the field down the stretch to win the 800-meter state championship.

The threat from May forced Calles to begin his final kick about 50 meters before he usually does, and the result was a career-best time of 1:58.76, one he celebrated by exhaustedly leaning over the fence beyond the finish line and sharing a tearful hug with his mom.

“My whole family’s basically here,” Calles said. “Everyone that I can really think of is supporting me in this. It’s great to show up and give everyone something to watch.”

Chance Sheldon-Allen of Flathead High school (401) runs a prelim in the 100-meter dash at the Montana AA state track and field meet in Legends Stadium in Kalispell on May 24. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The bleachers at Legends were jammed throughout the meet and roared down the stretch in every race of the weekend as both Class AA and B crowned champions in Kalispell. It was the kind of atmosphere Sheldon-Allen typically experienced here only on Friday nights in the fall as an all-state cornerback and returner for the Flathead football team. On Saturday afternoon, the cheers washed over the junior as he bolted to the second-fastest 100 in the state this year, 10.88 seconds, and became a state champion.

“It’s crazy how loud it is,” he said. “I wanted to win in front of the home crowd because everyone’s coming out and you’ve just got to show up for the home crowd, show them what Kali’s all about.”

Sheldon-Allen was the only runner in the field to break 11 seconds, something even he had never done before the state final. The next time he hit the track for the 200, he broke 22 seconds for the first time in his life and nearly overtook Missoula Sentinel’s Jaden Foster at the line, his career-best time of 21.72 just four hundredths of a second too slow. Sheldon-Allen did it all while “it still hurts to run” because of a lingering back injury.

Flathead scored 103 points as a team, finishing third behind Missoula Sentinel (164) and Billings West (123), and a fair bit of that scoring came from a third Flathead runner, albeit the least surprising state champion of the crew.

Ben Perrin pulled the double — just as his brothers Jake and Zach had done before him — and finished first in the 1,600 and 3,200, ending his prep career as a three-time state track champion and putting a bow on a near-decade run of Perrin boys on the podium. Ben could not match Jake’s state records at either distance this year, but his wins gave the Braves a top-two finisher in every race but the 400. Seth Moon had Flathead’s other standout performances, leaping 22 feet, 2 1/4 inches to finish second in the long jump — Sheldon-Allen was fourth at 21-11, another personal best — and adding a second in the triple jump at more than 44 feet.

For defending state champion Glacier, meanwhile, junior Drew Deck showcased his all-around prowess but even his effort was not enough to send the Wolfpack higher than fifth place as a team.

Faith Brennan, left, of Glacier High School, leaps in sync with Melissa Moreni of Helena Capital High in the 100-meter hurdles at the Montana AA state track and field meet in Legends Stadium in Kalispell on May 24. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Deck won a state title in the 300 hurdles in 38.98, a personal best, and snared all-state honors in the 400 (6th), 110 hurdles (6th), 4×100 relay (4th), 4×400 relay (4th) and long jump (5th). Defending state champion Evan Todd came up second in the javelin (188-7), falling short of longtime rival Rylan Ortt of Sentinel (208-8), and Dyllyn Stabler was fourth in both the 100 and 200.

In the girls competition, Bozeman ran away with the state title and Flathead and Glacier came in eighth and ninth, respectively. The Bravettes did have a state champion as Madde Boles won a jump-off in the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 5 inches to win after finishing fourth the last two years. Glacier’s Mya McNeely was second in the shot put (39-0) and teammate Faith Brennan was sixth in the 100 hurdles and fourth in the triple jump.

In Class B, Bigfork’s girls saw their two-year reign atop the class come to an end with a seventh-place finish. The Valkyries had one state champion in junior Ashton McAnally, who won the shot put with a career-best 38-5.75. Both Bigfork relay teams crossed in the top three and Jordan Nelson earned all-state in the 100 and 200. Wyatt Duke finished second in the high jump (6-6) to lead the Bigfork boys.

Whitefish Takes State Title

Lauren Schulz, Mikenna Ells, Ella Greenberg and Jessica Henson combined for seven all-state finishes on the track, Whitefish crossed first in both relays, and the Bulldogs won a state championship for the first time in 35 years at the Class A state meet in Laurel.

Schulz, a senior, was fourth in the 100, second in the 200 and second in the 400, while Ells won the 400 and was third in the 800. The Bulldogs also got all-state efforts from Natasha Abramchuk in the 100 hurdles and Kennedy Grove in the 300 hurdles. Whitefish finished with 82 points, well clear of Dillon (62), and also got a couple all-state performances from freshman Erin Wilde, who was second in the high jump and sixth in the long jump.

Columbia Falls finished seventh as a team in the girls event led, unsurprisingly, by javelin star Angellica Street. The junior set yet another record, breaking the all-class state meet mark by throwing 156 feet, 11 inches, a heave more than 37 feet beyond second place.

On the boys side, Street’s teammate Drew Morgan capped his stellar track career with four more individual all-state finishes. Morgan was second in the 100, fourth in the 200, sixth in the 400 and third in the javelin. Whitefish’s Lee Walburn, meanwhile, finished his senior season with a state title in the 300 hurdles to go along with a third in the 110 hurdles and a fourth in the 400.

[email protected]