2024 Spring Sports Preview

High school action returns to the track, tennis courts and dugouts around the Flathead Valley

By Micah Drew
High school athletes compete in the Kalispell Time Trials track and field meet at Legends Stadium on April 11, 2023. Micah Drew | Flathead Beacon

The tracks are shoveled, the dugouts (mostly) dry, and across the Flathead Valley athletes are dusting off their cleats and preparing for the final months of high school competition.

Last year local athletes in all sports succeeded in making headlines for their performances and brought home state trophies in baseball (Whitefish, 2nd), softball (Glacier, 1st; Columbia Falls, 1st), tennis (Glacier boys, 2nd), and track and field (Whitefish girls, 2nd; Glacier boys, 3rd).

Here are some storylines to pay attention to this spring, including, for the last time, Bigfork’s inaugural appearance at the Class A level.

Whitefish High School Brooke Zetooney sprinter on June 8, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono and Sarah Mosquera | Flathead Beacon

Track and Field

The Class A girls state championship came down to the final event last year. Whitefish won the 4×400 relay by a full seven seconds over Corvallis. The Blue Devils won the title by one point.

Both teams are returning stacked squads and the team battle could easily come down to a single event once again, but the Bulldogs have an advantage on paper — no one who scored points last year graduated.   

Senior Brooke Zetooney scored 32 points by herself last year, plus anchored both winning relay teams. She’s looking to claim four straight victories in the 100m and a third straight title over 200m.  

Senior Hailey Ells (nine individual points, plus two relay titles) will be a force in the hurdles and high jump while senior Norah Schmidt is committed to continuing the team’s relay dominance.

Maeve Ingelfinger, another senior more known for her cross country skiing exploits, is the returning state 800m champion, and took third in the 1600m.  

On the boys side, the top returning Bulldog is senior Carson Krack, who scored points in the long jump, triple jump and 300m hurdles.

Across the valley the Wildcats will be looking to improve on 10th and fifth-place finishes for the girls and boys teams, respectively. 

Columbia Falls seniors Malaki Simpson and Ally Sempf return as top-tier sprinters — Sempf placed third in both short sprints, while Simpson placed second in both events and anchored the state champion 4x100m relay team. Junior Lane Voermans is expected to add points in the field events after winning the discus last year and placing in the shot put.  

For Bigfork’s first romp through Class A, the Valkyries and Vikings will look to make the same splash they did during the football and basketball seasons. Senior distance runner Jack Jensen won both the 800m and 1600m last year and will look to repeat, while Wyatt Johnson was runner-up in the 110m hurdles and is the fastest returner in that event.

High school athletes compete in the Kalispell Time Trials track and field meet at Legends Stadium on April 11, 2023. Micah Drew | Flathead Beacon

In Class AA a handful of athletes from Flathead and Glacier will make some noise this year, with the Wolfpack having high hopes for the boys team after two straight podium finishes.

In the hurdles, junior Ethan Anderson is defending a 110m title, and will try to improve on his second-place finish in the 300m. Senior Aiden Krause won the discus last year and just missed scoring points in the shot put.

On the women’s side, Glacier has a top prospect in the distance events in freshman Lauren Bissen, who was runner-up at the state cross country championships last fall. Senior Kai Johnson will defend her title in the shot put.

Meanwhile, Flathead High School returns strength to the sprints with junior Alivia Rinehart, who made the final in the 100m and took third in the 200, as well as in the field events with top-10 state performers Afton Wride (triple jump), Kennedy Moore (high jump) and Taliana Miller (javelin).

The Braves will be helped by jumper and sprinter Brody Thornsberry, pole vaulter Trevin Olivier, and javelin thrower Dominick Mitten.

Columbia Falls’ Dayne Tu is safe at home after sliding in for the score against Corvallis Thursday. The Wildcats defeated the hosting Blue Devils, 12-9 to remain undefeated. Sarah Bloom | 406mtsports.com


It’s the second spin around the bases for Montana’s high school baseball teams and the local teams are ready for another round. This year the Montana High School Association came to a four-region divisional setup, with the Northwestern Division comprising Bigfork, Browning, Columbia Falls, Eureka, Troy and Whitefish.

In the inaugural season, Polson won the team title over Whitefish, but so far Columbia Falls has come out swinging, downing the Pirates in an early-season game. Wildcat senior multi-sport star Cody Schweikert will finish his high school swan song on the diamond backed by a senior-laden team.

Under the eye of head coach Kyler Blades, the Bulldogs are aiming to return to the title game, but will have to make up for the graduation of several all-state players.

Kalispell Glacier junior Ella Farrell pitches against Helena High on May 8. Gary Marshall | BMGphotos.com & 406mtsports.com


Both Glacier and Columbia Falls are coming off five straight appearances at state softball tournaments, and both teams are defending state championships from last spring.

The Wolfpack was the top seed coming out of the Western Conference last year and finally broke a three-year streak of falling out in the first round. Instead, the Wolfpack had a direct, three-day, five-game journey to the team’s first championship since 2015. Senior pitcher Ella Farrell, the Western AA Defensive Player of the Year, is back this year, along with senior Emma Cook, who smashed two home runs in last year’s championship game.

Last season the Wildkats had the run of a lifetime going 24-3 on the season, culminating in the program’s first championship. Columbia Falls graduated four seniors from last year’s team but return all-state pitcher Maddie Moultray and Haden Peters at 3rd.

Mason Kelch of Whitefish High School, Best of Preps athlete on June 8, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon


The Glacier boys tied for second place with C.M. Russell in Great Falls last year and will be anchored by state returnees Will Rudback and Sam Engellant. On the girls side doubles team, Sarah Downs and Haven Speer has made the state tournament in back-to-back years.

Up north, Whitefish is fielding some veterans of the court led by Mason Kelch and Dane Hunt, last year’s third-place doubles team.   

[email protected]