Havre Daily News Sports
Saturday morning over 25 teams and 300 athletes will invade the Havre Middle School track as the Havre Blue Ponies host the 2005 Lions Invitational track meet. This weekend would have been the third straight meet held in Havre, but poor weather forced the cancellation of last Saturday's Chinook Invitational.
However, good weather appears to be on the way, which should aid in an exciting day of track and field, according to Havre high head coach Mark West.
"This should be a very competitive meet because we have so many athletes coming," West said. "Right now we have over 25 teams confirmed so we are expecting a very competitive day."
Not only will the Havre Invitational be large in numbers, but the meet will also feature several standout teams and plenty of quality individual athletes. Joining HHS this weekend will be fellow Central A teams Lewistown and Browning.
Class B will be well represented with Chinook, Malta, Glasgow, Poplar, Fort Benton, Choteau, Shelby, Cut Bank and Conrad in attendance. The Class C ranks will be represented this weekend with most of the District 9C schools in attendance as well as teams like Geraldine and Chester.
The girls meet will feature standout schools from each class with Conrad as one of the top Class B schools and both Geraldine and Chester representing two of the premier Class C schools this season. Still, no one should count out the two-time defending Central A champion Havre Blue Ponies when it comes to the team title.
The Ponies are a young, but strong team led by sophomores Lena Suek and Carmen Neuens. Still, West did receive some bad news on Thursday. Junior Mandi Nystrom was forced out of action with a stress fracture in her leg, which thins out the HHS roster substantially.
"Losing Mandi is really tough because she does so much for us," West said. "She is on both of our relay teams and and she is a standout for us in the 400 meters. She was also working in the hurdles so we definitely lose a lot without her.
"Right now she is week-to-week," West added. "We're not going to push it at all. It just means that some of our other girls will have to really step it up and fill in in the areas where we need them to."
The girls meet should be very competitive, especially in the throws. While Suek is having an outstanding early season for the Ponies in the discus and javelin, she will be challenged this weekend by a host of talented throwers, including Chinook standout Brittany Williams.
Another exciting area on the girls side should be the sprints. Geraldine's do-everything star Toni Qunell could be the highlight of the meet. But she will have stiff competition from the likes of teammate Rachel Clark as well as Lewistown's Laura Anderson. Another exciting athlete to watch this weekend will be Malta's Roshon Nordlund in the hurdles.
Neuens, Larissa Hand and Casea Pollington should contend in the jumps, while distance runners Darci Briere and Rebecca Hilliard should figure into the mix.
"Our girls team has thinned out some because of numbers and injury," West said. "But if the kids step up and perform well this weekend I think we still have a chance to do pretty well."
"I think that Geraldine and Chester are two of the better teams in the meet," he added. "And Malta and Conrad are pretty strong as well so it should be a really competitive day."
The day should be no less competitive on the boys side. While Havre High's young boys team is still searching to find itself this early in the season, it does have the talent and potential to make things interesting on Saturday, despite such a strong field. Havre will rely heavily on senior Scott Robinson for a multitude of points, but West is also hoping to get some help in an area where he hasn't gotten much production in the past.
"Ricky Hoium is a kid who has been throwing the shot put really well for us," West said. "I think that he could do really well this weekend. And hopefully Chris Buskirk can get us some points in the discus, but he'll have some tough competition this weekend."
Another area where Havre could score big this weekend might be the hurdles. Tom Knudson is running well early this season and West is hoping that he may have a breakout day, which would certainly help the Ponies try to stay with the likes of such Class B powers as Fort Benton and Malta.
The Longhorns have a host of talented sprinters led by stars Brandon Utterback and Khalin Anderson. The duo also will probably be vying for top honors in the jumps as well. The Mustangs, on the other hand, should be very strong in the jumps and the distance race. West sees those two teams as the teams to beat in Havre.
"I think that Malta and Fort Benton have the most balance in the meet," West said. "Malta has 40 kids out for their team this year and Fort Benton just has several really outstanding athletes."
"But there will be a lot of good individuals and that should spread the points out some," West added. "It should make for a really competitive day."
One of the highlights of any track meet is always the distance races. While the Ponies have a standout distance runner in Marcus Campbell, the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races should be very exciting because of Browning, Shelby and Cut Bank. Those three teams all possess outstanding distance teams and that should make for very exciting races for fans of the long races. Chester's Isaac VanDyke will also be a contender in both races after getting off to a solid start this season.
"This should be a very good meet and hopefully we'll have really good weather," West said. "Right now our kids are just trying to get better and with all of the good competition that will be here on Saturday, we should certainly improve after the meet is all over with."