By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Seventeen events, two days, one town - the last three months come down to that scenario this weekend when the Havre High track and field team heads to Missoula for the 2003 Class A State meet, which gets underway Friday morning.
A lot will be riding on this weekend's meet for both the Blue Pony boys and girls teams because both have been extremely dominant over the course of this season. But Havre High coach John Ita said that because of the unpredictable nature of the state meet all he is hoping for is a good performance from both his teams and some favorable weather.
"The state meet is so different from any other meet because you just can't predict how the points are going to fall," Ita said. "It will be guaranteed that you will see some big name kids falter and you will also have some athletes that no one knows about come out and win events.
"So as a coach you just go there and support the kids and hope that they can relax and perform well."
The Havre High boys team has had one of the most outstanding seasons that the school has seen in quite some time. The Ponies have won every team title this season except at a AA meet in Butte and a meet in Whitefish. For that reason many are considering Havre and the Bulldogs the two favorites in Missoula this weekend. However, Ita admits that at a meet of this type, anything can happen, and usually does.
"Going in, I would say that Whitefish and us are heavy favorites," Ita said. "But there are going to be teams out there that will steal points from both of us, and that will end up making things very interesting on Saturday."
In all, the Ponies qualified 13 boys for the state meet, and all but four will compete in multiple events. Of course, all eyes will be on Steve Heberly this weekend as he attempts to defend his 100 and 200 meter state titles. Heberly will also go after the 400-meter crown as well as anchoring both Havre relay teams.
Scott Robinson also will have a lot of chances at gold in Missoula this weekend. The sensational sophomore will compete in the 200, 400 and 800 meters as well as a surprise qualifier in the discus, which is a relatively new event for him.
Steven Harman won the Central A title in the long jump and he will run the 100 meters and the 400 meter relay. Joining Harman in the 100 is Joey Howland, who also qualified in the pole vault and the 400 meter relay. Havre will also have Mark Benjamin in the pole vault competition as well.
"I think that Scott Robinson and Steven Harman have great chances to win some events," Ita said. "Harman should be the favorite in the long jump and Robinson will be on the minds of all the coaches there after this meet, because he is so talented and he is just a sophomore."
Kasey Barsotti leads the Havre distance runners into the state meet by way of a Central A title in the 3,200 meter race. Barsotti and Jeff Sprinkle both qualified for the 1,600 meters and Sprinkle also will run the 1,600 meter relay for the Ponies. Evan Olson will also be part of the 1,600 meter team as well as compete in the 800 meter race.
The Ponies will also have a host of jumpers led by Curt Leeds, who won the divisional crown in the triple jump and also qualified in the long jump as well as the long relay. Anthony Bonavita will compete in the high jump-along with teammate Eric Vosen. Bonavita also qualified in the 110 hurdles and the 400 meter relay. Rounding out the Havre roster will be Justin Kegel in the triple and Levi Briese in the javelin.
"I think you are going to see Curt Leeds and Justin Kegel have personal best days in the triple," Ita said. "And Anthony Bonavita, as well as our pole vaulters will also be contenders this weekend."
While the boys team has been dominant all season, the same also could be said for the Blue Pony girls. The Ponies edged out a very good Belgrade team to win the Central A title last weekend in Havre, qualifying 10 girls for the state meet. Even though the Ponies beat Belgrade and star sprinter Kalindra McFadden in Havre last weekend, Ita is listing the Panthers, along with Western A power Polson, as the teams to beat this weekend.
"Our girls team is going to have to really perform well to get in the trophies this weekend," Ita said. "We are going to have to steal points in areas where we usually only get one scorer. The girls are really going to have to compete hard because I think the girls meet is loaded with talented teams."
Leading the way for the Ponies will be multiple qualifiers Alicia Overcast, Brooke Schwan, Kelsey Smith and Rylee O'Connell.
Overcast won both the 400 meters and 300 meter hurdles last weekend and also qualified second in the 800 meters. She will anchor of both Havre's relay teams.
Schwan qualified for the state meet in the 100 hurdles, high jump, long jump and the 400 meter relay. Smith will go in the pole vault, short relay and 100 meters. O'Connell will go in both the 100 and 200 meters as well as the 400 meter relay.
"Those four girls are going to have to get a lot of points for us," Ita said. "They are all capable of having a great weekend, but they are going to have to compete really hard."
Havre's distance runners will also be key to the Ponies' success. Mandy Nystrom will run the 1,600, 3,200 and long relay, while McKayla Patterson and Kelsey Malsam will compete in the both the 1,600 and 3,200.
"It will be tough for our distance runners to place this weekend," Ita said. "Class A is loaded with some talented distance girls so our girls are going to have to PR (personal record) if they want to get on the medal stand. The good thing is they are all capable of it."
Rounding out the girls team will be Sherry Winchell, who will compete in the pole vault and long relay. Alexa Lipp will compete in the triple jump and long relay, and Casea Pollington will compete in the high jump.
"There is going to be a lot of exciting things happen from our team this weekend," Ita said. "I'm not sure where will end up in the team standings on either side, but if our kids go out and do what their capable of doing, I like our chances to get on the medal stand."
The Class A state track and field championships get underway Friday morning with qualifying rounds in all events. The finals are scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. All the action will take place at Missoula Big Sky High School Track.