Havre Daily News
All high school track athletes train and compete so they can become a state champion and compete in a state track meet.
After a long season, the Havre High track teams will finally get that opportunity this weekend when the Ponies head to Butte for the Class A state track meet which gets under way today.
The Ponies are coming off the Central A divisional track meet last weekend in Belgrade where the HHS boys team finished in second place and the Blue Pony girls team took home a fourth-place finish.
Now, the Ponies will get the chance to show what they can do against the best athletes and track teams Class A has to offer.
“It's kind of difficult to know how well we are going to do this weekend at the state meet,” HHS head coach Mark West said. “We are taking a fairly decent number of athletes, but we don't have a lot of kids that are going to place extremely high and we have a lot of young kids and it is difficult to predict how they will do.”
The Ponies best hopeful to come away with an individual state title is thrower Lena Suek. Suek had a record-breaking performance last weekend in Belgrade at the divisional track meet setting the Central A meet record in the discus.
Suek also has the top discus throw in the entire state of Montana, regardless of class, with a throw of 139'04. So she will enter the meet as the odds on favorite to take home the state title in the discus, but she also has a very good chance to place highly in the javelin and may also be able to place in the shot put.
“Lena has done really well for us all season long,” West said. “She has been very consistent and she has worked on improving the distance of her throw all season long and it seems that she has been improving all season long. She is definitely the favorite to win the discus throw, she has the best throw in the entire state, and so it is going to be tough to beat her in the discus. She also has one the best throws in the javelin, so I think she has a very good chance to place fairly high in that event as well. And if she can find a way to place in the shot put that would be a really nice achievement for her and it would give our team some important points.”
The HHS girls teams also sports Carmen Neuens, who is the reigning state champion in the long jump. Unfortunately, Neuens has been hampered by nagging injuries all season long and has never quite been able to reach top form. So she was unable to qualify for state in the long jump and therefore she will not have the chance to defend her title.
But, that doesn't mean she won't have the chance to make an impact on the meet because she will still be competing in both the high jump and the triple jump and she is also a member of the girls 400-meter relay team, so she shouldn't be counted out just yet.
“It must have been very difficult for Carmen not to qualify for the long jump because she won it last year, but she has just had to deal with so many injuries this season and that certainly played a part,” West said. “Hopefully, she can find a way to do something in either the high jump or the triple jump. She is a great athlete and a great competitor and she is capable of doing some great things when she is healthy.”
One of Neuens' main competitors in the high jump will be Casea Pollington, who West is hopeful can place in the high jump along with Neuens.
Other hopefuls to place for the girls team are Meredith Hanson in the two-mile or the mile and the 400-meter relay team.
“Hopefully Meredith can place and our short relay team can do well,” West said. “We are a young team and we have a lot of good young athletes but asking them to place in their first state meet is asking a lot. Hopefully a lot of them like Hannah Wells and Tricia Samson can make the finals in their events because to me that would be a pretty good achievement. And, hopefully we can score a few more points this year than we have the past couple of seasons.”
Favorites in the girls meet include Sidney, Whitefish and Polson.
The Havre High boys team also doesn't have high expectations of a high finish at the state meet, but they do have some athletes that should be able to place and West thinks that just because his team may not place in the top three, that doesn't mean they won't have a solid performance.
“The boys field is fairly wide open but we just don't have the depth to get into the top three,” West said. “But you know I think that we have a chance to score a good amount of points and possibly the most points that we have scored since Steve Heberly graduated.”
Cody McLean is the Ponies' best chance for a state champion. McLean won the pole vault last weekend at the Central A divisional, but he will have to beat out some tough competition if he wants to walk away a state champion.
The Ponies are also hopeful sprinters Kyle Finneman, Kyle Rummel and Derek Verploegen place. West also hopes that Robert Brooks can conclude his solid sophomore season by placing in both the mile and the two mile.
“Hopefully Cody McLean can finish highly in the pole vault and if he can win that would be really neat,” West said. “Robert Brooks has also done a great job all season long for us, he has been really consistent and he has come a long way this year and it would be nice to see him do well.”
The boys team also has a number of young athletes such as Jack Teske, Paul Jensen and Ryan Horne among others, who will receive some good experience by competing against the top athletes in each of their respective events.
“I think it will be really good for our young athletes,” West said. “Especially if they can find a way to make it to the finals for their event because that will provide them with some great experience for next season.”
The favorites to win the team title on the boys side are Belgrade, Livingston and Whitefish. Belgrade took first at the Central A divisional track meet by a wide margin and they will look to do the unthinkable by sweeping the team titles at the State meet because the hands on favorite to win the girls team title is Belgrade.
“I would be absolutely shocked if the Belgrade girls didn't win the state team title,” West said. “They are far and away the best team and I don't see any other team that can defeat them. The boys side of things is pretty wide open and I think that a number of teams could come away with the title.”
The 2006 Class A state track meet will get under way this morning at Bulldog Memorial Stadium in Butte and run through Saturday afternoon.