Glacier head coach Arron Deck thought a team score of 80 points would win the team title at the Class AA meet. With 16 of 17 events scored on Saturday afternoon, the Wolfpack had 79.
Unfortunately, Sentinel had 83.
It came down to the last event: the 4×400 relay. One of the most exciting events of a track meet, and certainly the one that gets teammates and fans yelling the loudest, the Class AA boys 4×400 was elevated by the knowledge that it could change the top of the podium.
The scenarios to bring about a Wolfpack win were few: the runners would have to score at least four points, as well as beat Sentinel by two places (four points) to tie for the top trophy.
The green and blue clad team finished in sixth, three spots behind Sentinel, but the one point they scored was still more than coaches had initially projected going into the meet.
“I really thought that 80 points would do it today,” Deck said. “But I mean, that’s athletics. Sometimes you get caught up in what you’re doing and can lose sight of the fact that you’re facing the best athletes in the state.”
This is Deck’s final year coaching after 17 years in Kalispell, and he’s proud of the effort his final team put forth to notch a trophy.
“You know these guys did everything they could out there, and it’s just been a blast coaching this year,” he said. “Glacier’s been good to me.”
The highlights for the Wolfpack included a second and third place performance in the 110m and 300m hurdles by Caleb Bernhardt and an individual title in the triple jump by Tate Kauffman.
Kauffman and Flathead’s Dylan Zink traded the top mark in the triple jump several times throughout Saturday’s competition, before Kauffman’s final jump pushed him ahead by three inches. Behind Zink’s second place, local athletes swept the podium with Flathead’s Carter Bullins in third and Glacier’s John Pyron and Ty Olsen in fourth and fifth.
Another individual highlight came from Glacier’s top scorer of the meet, senior distance runner Sam Ells, who added 26 points by running the 1600m, 800m and 3200m in succession.
In Friday’s 1600m, Ells’ favorite of the three events, he executed a near perfect race. Settling immediately a few meters off the leaders, Ells sat for just over a lap before moving up toward the front and taking over the lead at the halfway point. He cranked the pace down for a 60-second lap before pushing through the last lap to extend his lead to a whopping 3.5 seconds over the final circuit to win in 4:15.47.
“I wasn’t positive I had it until the last few meters, and then it was just relief,” Ells said. “I’m really happy to finally get a state championship, it feels like it’s been a long time coming.”
Ells was a favorite to win the state cross country title in the fall but a medical issue forced him out of the race, making his first title extra special this spring.
Returning on Saturday, Ells finished second in the 800m, but broke the Glacier school record in the process, 1:54.45, his second record of the season. Just two hours later he ran the 3200m, leading the last three laps before being outleaned at the line.
“I’m super happy with that 800 time, I really didn’t know what to expect going into that race, but I ran smart and closed fast,” Ells said. “For the two-mile, I think I ran as well as I could have. I really just gave it everything I had left.
When the Glacier boys ascended the podium to receive their second-place trophy, they put Ells on the very top.
Glacier’s runner-up finish is the fourth track and field trophy for the school in the last decade. The Wolfpack finished second in 2013 and 2015 and won the championship in 2018.
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