By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
For the second straight week the Havre Blue Ponies will be at the friendly confines of the Havre Middle School track, but on Saturday the Ponies will play the role of host rather than visitor as they host the prestigious Lions Club Track and Field Invitational Saturday in Havre.
The Ponies haven't left home in three weeks since competing at the Glasgow Scottie Invitational. Since that time they have had a cancellation in Great Falls, but competed in a pair of meets in Havre.
The Pony boys and girls teams swept first place honors last Saturday at the Chinook Invitational in Havre, and earlier this week several varsity athletes participated in the KG/Cal Wearley Invitational track meet that was hosted by the KG KouGars, also in Havre.
On Saturday morning as many as 23 teams will take to the track for what Havre High head coach John Ita figures to be a very competitive meet.
"I think this meet should be very strong," Ita said. "Unfortunately, some teams will be without a lot of their athletes because of the state music festival and we'll be missing a few as well, but I still expect the level of competition to be very good."
The meet will feature the same 15 teams that participated in the Chinook Invitational last Saturday as well as two other Class A schools in Browning and Lewistown. Cascade as well as several other area Class C schools will also join the mix to create the large field.
"Cascade usually brings an extremely strong team to our meet in both boys and girls," Ita said. "But they called to let us know that they will not even have a girls team and they are only bringing a few boys because of the musical festival. That is somewhat disappointing."
Despite some teams' troubles with missing athletes, Ita believes that the addition of Lewistown and Browning this weekend will create top level competition.
"On the boys side, I know that Lewistown is going to have a really strong team," Ita said. "And KG will be very tough and competitive. I think that those two along with our boys team will be considered the favorites on Saturday."
"On the girls side of things, I think that Lewistown will be tough there as well and Browning typically brings some very good distance runners and a few solid jumpers as well. Things will be very interesting there as well."
The Havre High girls team has come on very strong in the last week, capturing its first team title of the season last weekend at the Chinook meet. The Havre High junior varsity girls team was victorious on Wednesday at the KG meet. Those are encouraging signs to Ita as his team prepares for the tough middle stretch of the season.
"We have got some very big AA meets coming up," Ita said. "I think that the girls team is starting to take shape in the fact that we are seeing the girls really start to produce in their given events. Now we are just looking for them to keep improving.
"The boys team is still in the stage where we are still discovering athletes that can step in and really score for us. That is a tremendous advantage, because we are finding them all over the place," Ita added. "Now the key is to make sure we plug those athletes into the right events, because we have a very tough schedule ahead of us."
As for this weekend, Ita is looking forward to hopefully very good weather and another successful Lions Invitational.
"This weekend we are hoping to have good warm weather and light winds," Ita said. "That way we can have a very competitive meet, and we'll be able to really evaluate where we are as a team and what the kids are doing."
The Lions Invitational will get under way Saturday morning with the field events at 9:30 a.m. The running events are scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. and all the action will be at the Havre Middle School Track.