By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ email@example.com
MISSOULA - In the final meet of his illustrious track and field career, even Havre High sprinter Steve Heberly could not prevent the juggernaut that was the Whitefish Bulldogs from cruising to the Class A boys track and field state championship here Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs racked up 117 team points en route to the championship. Havre finished a distant but solid second, with 72.5 points. Glendive came in third with 42 points. Despite Whitefish's overall dominance on Saturday afternoon, Havre High head coach John Ita was very happy with his teams finish at the state meet, as well as its overall performance.
"I couldn't be happier with the performance of our team," Ita said. "Havre has not brought a track and field trophy home from the state meet in quite some time so we are very excited about where we finished."
While it seemed that Whitefish was just that much better than the Ponies this weekend, Ita says that some bad luck prevented the Ponies from making the team race much closer.
"Our long relay team had some bad luck in the trials dropping the baton and that cost us some points," Ita said. "And we had chances to get some more points out of the high jump, long jump, and triple jump and that never materialized.
"If some of those things would have gone our way, I think that the team race would have been a lot more interesting," Ita added. "But you have to give credit to Whitefish because they were a phenomenal team this season."
While everyone knows about Steve Heberly's triple performance, winning the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter dashes, the Ponies also had an outstanding individual performance from fellow senior Steven Harman.
Harman captured the long jump title on Friday afternoon with a winning leap of 21-6. On Saturday, Harman started his day off by running a leg of the Ponies second-place 400 relay team, which also included Heberly, Joey Howland and Scott Robinson. Harman then capped off the final meet of his career by finishing sixth in an ultra competitive 100-meter field.
"I was really happy for Steven Harman," Ita said. "The day didn't start off well because our short relay team fell behind in that race, but Harman stepped up and won the long jump and performed really well in the 100."
Senior Curt Leeds also had a big day for the Ponies in the triple jump. Leeds finished second behind Kyle Rosenbaum of Columbia Falls. Leeds' final leap of 43-1 was nearly a personal best, but still a full foot behind the final leap of the Columbia Falls star.
Scott Robinson also garnered a second place for the Ponies in the 800 meters. Robinson came from the back of the pack in the final lap to log a final time of 1:57.09 to finish second behind Whitefish distance star Matt Helgath. The Ponies also got a third-place finish from Mark Benjamin in the pole vault and a sixth-place finish from Eric Vosen in the high jump.
"Things could have gone differently for us, but I am still really pleased with everybody's performance," Ita said. "Another positive is that we had some young kids like Scott Robinson gain a lot of valuable experience this weekend. Hopefully that will lead to more good things in the future for this team."
While the boys team enjoyed a multitude of success on Saturday afternoon in Missoula, the Havre High girls team found itself simply outgunned by several strong teams as well as the awesome feats of Belgrade superstar Kalindra McFadden.
The Ponies were in third place after seven total events in the meet, but by the day's end they had slipped to seventh place with 32 total points. Polson ran away with the girls team title with 80 points while Belgrade finished second with 62 and Miles City was third at 54.
"Our girls competed really well this weekend, and we were in good position for a while," Ita said, "But as the day went on, we just ran out of competitors and we ended up falling back.
"But one thing that I see is that we have some very talented young girls on this team," Ita added.
One of the high points on Saturday for the Pony girls team came in the 400 relay. The Havre team of Rylee O'Connell, Alicia Overcast, Brooke Schwan and anchor Kelsey Smith captured the short relay title with a blazing time of 49:94, which was nearly a full second faster than second-place Whitefish.
O'Connell also had a good day in the sprints for the Ponies. She fought her way to a fourth-place finish in the 100 meters and a sixth place in the 200, while battling McFadden and Autumn Dovativich of Anaconda.
"Rylee really showcased what she is capable of this weekend," Ita said. "She was a front runner in both races and I think once she refines her style a little, she will really come into her own in the sprints."
Meanwhile, junior Alicia Overcast also had an excellent meet for the Ponies. Overcast finished third in the 800 meters, fourth in the 300 hurdles and fifth in the 400 meters. Senior Brooke Schwan capped off her outstanding track career by placing fifth in the 100 hurdles, which came as some what of a surprise because of the enormous amount of competition in the field.
"I was really happy for Brooke after she placed in the hurdles Ita said. "I know she didn't perform like she wanted to in the high jump, so it was really exciting to see her come back and do so well in the hurdles."
While Schwan missed out on the medals in the high jump competition, Casea Pollington did not. Pollington, captured fifth place honors with a final leap of 5-0 even to round out the scoring for the Ponies.
"Our girls team did not do as well as they might have done at state," Ita said. "But they all competed hard and we did have some outstanding performances. I definitely think with all of the young talent on this team, they are going to be really good in the future."