Track and Field

Whitefish’s Erin Wilde Breaks 30-year-old High Jump Record for Montana Track & Field Team

Wilde's jump marks the fourth Griz school record broken this season as the team heads to the Big Sky Conference Championships in Bozeman

By UM sports information and 406 MT Sports
Sophomore Erin Wilde competes in the high jump for Montana in this file photo. Courtesy Montana Athletics

MISSOULA — Sophomore Erin Wilde, who grew up in Whitefish, jumped 5 feet, 10 1/2 inches to win the high jump and set a school record for the Montana women’s track & field team Saturday in the Tom Gage Classic at Dornblaser Field.

A two-time Big Sky Conference champion with titles outdoors in 2023 and indoors this year, Wilde came into the meet on a roll. She had cleared at least 5-7 in every meet and led the Big Sky coming into Saturday’s competition.

But the 5-8.75 mark still had her on the bubble for regionals. Head coach Doug Fraley and vertical jumps assistant Erica Fraley decided to jump Wilde this week with the hopes of locking up a place at the regional meet.

“We decided to go ahead and jump her today to see if we could get from 1.75 meters to 1.76,” Fraley said. “When she did that easily, we told her that she could take one attempt at the school record before we shut her down. She went right in there and popped over it on the first jump, which is just fantastic.”

Wilde cleared four bars on the day, never missing more than one attempt at any of the heights. She knew she would have just one attempt at the record and made the most of it, soaring up and barely grazing the bar. Her performance was even more special because it came in front of friends and family.

“It was super cool,” she said. “I was a little nervous because Erica told me I only got one attempt at the bar, but I knew I just had to put my foot down and pop.

“It felt so good. I finally PR’d, it was killing me on the inside. I’m so happy and happy that my family was here to see it. It felt really good.”

The jump broke Cathy Schwend’s 1994 record of 5-10 and is the highest jump by a Grizzly woman indoors or outdoors. Wilde joins Jaydon Green, Zane Johnson and Evan Todd as individual outdoor record breakers for UM this year. The men’s 4×100-meter relay team also broke a school record.

“School records at a place like Montana where there have been a lot of good athletes over the year are not easy to come by, and so for her to be able to go out and do that in preparation of next week is awesome,” Fraley said.

Erin Wilde of Whitefish High School, Best of Preps athlete on June 8, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono and Sarah Mosquera | Flathead Beacon

Wilde’s performance highlighted a solid day around the grounds for the Montana athletes competing. Some of the top athletes on the roster sat out in preparation for next week’s Big Sky Championships, but those athletes that did compete gave their all.

The Grizzlies had 28 personal best performances on the day, ending the regular season on a very good trajectory.

“It was a really good day out here,” Fraley said. “An excellent weather day, three for three this year at home, which is awesome compared to last year. The team performed real well, we had a lot of season bests and PRs. Some of the kids finished their seasons and careers today, others will be going to conference, but I thought all-in-all a very solid effort from our group.”

Montana had plenty of event wins in a bit of a smaller meet with mostly athletes from Montana State and Montana competing. Some of those wins came on the backs of PR performances, like Carter Petersen in the men’s pole vault. Petersen cleared 16-6, which moves him into a tie for fourth in the Big Sky.

Adam Maxwell also had a PR in the men’s high jump to claim the title on the day, clearing 6-5. He tied with Patrick Kremer, and the season-best for both athletes moves them into a tie for fourth in the conference.

Claire Hutchison won the women’s 400m by smashing her previous best time and running a 55.72. It’s the eighth-best time in the Big Sky this season, moving the freshman into a potential scoring spot next week.

There were other event wins, including Mikenna Ells in the women’s 100m (12.23) and Ariel Clark in the hammer (183-7). There were also some more impressive PRs. Emma Zimmerman cleared 12-10.5 in the pole vault to move into 8th in the league standings.

The men had some additional event wins from Henry Ballinger in the 400 (49.49), Maxwell Scott in the 5,000m (16:03.39), and Dylan Zink in the triple jump (43-3.25).

One of the most special moments of the day came in the men’s 200. Paul Johnstone, running for the first time in nearly a month, won the event with a time of 21.90.

What made it more special is that he was able to run with his twin brother Cade in the event. The duo have combined for two memorable careers at Montana, but ran as individuals together in an outdoor meet for the first time since the 2019 Big Sky Championships in Missoula.

The Johnstone brothers were two of 20 seniors that were honored prior to the meet. It’s a class that has combined for 12 school records and 10 Big Sky Championships.

“We have such a strong senior group this year, fourth, fifth, and sixth-years,” Fraley said. “To be able to honor them and have their parents and family and friends celebrate the successes that they’ve had and the quality that they’ve brought to our team both athletically and academically, it was an excellent thing to be able to see today.”

Montana has now finished the regular season and will have a quick turnaround for the Big Sky Championships in Bozeman next week. The multis will be on Wednesday and Thursday while the full meet opens on Friday.

“We’ve got a big challenge next week. The league is good, and we’ve got some good athletes that are performing at a high level, but we’ve got to go in there and do that on the day,” Fraley said. “We’ve got to be able to hold and improve seeds, turn prelims into finals, things like that.

“I feel like we’re well prepared. We’ve got some people getting healthy and now it’s time to go to Bozeman and throw our hat in the ring,” Fraley said. “We’re very excited about doing that next week.”

Watch the Big Sky Conference Championships on ESPN+ and see live results here.