By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
After an unusual start to the 2004 season, where the Havre High track team has seemed to of spent more time off the track than on it, the Ponies will now split up this weekend and head to separate and very prestigious meets in Butte and Great Falls.
Saturday morning the HHS girls team will travel to Great Falls for the Optimist Invitational while the boys team will be in Butte for the Dahlberg Invitational.
While Blue Pony head coach Mark West said that his early schedule hasn't been conducive to preparing his team for a big weekend like this, the weekend is here nevertheless, and he isn't complaining.
"We're finally at the point in our season where we get into some very competitive meets," West said. "It is going to be tough for us because I think we're still a little behind other teams, but we're excited about Saturday and the kids are really looking forward to going up another level of competition."
The Havre High girls team has been a big surprise so far this season. The Ponies have a wealth of young talent in several different events and they are just now getting back their star, senior Alicia Overcast. But this weekend in Great Falls will be the Ponies' toughest test to date and West says that Saturday should be very interesting for a number of reasons.
"Well, we're coming off of a dual in Great Falls on Tuesday, so some of the kids may have to fight through some tired legs," West said. "And a lot of our younger girls are going to see some very stiff competition in every event. But the way we have performed so far I think that we should have a chance to do pretty well."
The Optimist meet is a girls-only invitational and it features all the Class AA teams except for the Billings schools. Havre and Lewistown are the only Class A teams scheduled to appear.
"I think that, even though the competition will be very good this weekend, I expect Alicia to have a big day," West said. "I also think that Lena Suek is someone from our team that has a chance to do some good things as well."
While West is optimistic about his team's chances this weekend, Havre may have to compete without a key part of their team. Alexa Lipp is still suffering from the effects of a sprained ankle and West said she is questionable for Saturday's action. Lipp suffered the injury during last weekend's Lions Invitational in Havre.
While the girls team is competing in Great Falls, the HHS boys team will be in Butte for the ultra-competitive Dahlberg Invitational. The Butte
meet is a boys-only invite that will feature all Class AA competition except for the Ponies and Butte Central.
"The Dahlberg meet is a very tough meet," West said. "The best kids in Class AA will be there and it is going to be tough for our kids. But, I expect them to compete well and it will be great experience for our younger kids."
West believes that veterans like junior Scott Robinson and Kasey Barsotti should be in line to do very well in Butte on Saturday. But because of the stiff competition, he is more interested in how his kids compete than where they finish.
"We're looking for our kids to qualify for the finals first," West said. "Then we want them to place. We are hoping to see some personal records set. Those are the type of things we want to see out of our team at a quality meet like this one."
The Optimist Invitational is scheduled to get under way with the running events at 10 a.m. at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls. The Dahlberg Invite in Butte will begin with running events at 10:30 a.m.