By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Like any other high school sport, the entire regular season in track and field becomes virtually meaningless once you get to the postseason.
Such is the case for the Havre High track teams as they prepare for the Class A State Track Meet which gets under way in Butte on Friday afternoon.
The Havre High girls team enters the state meet fresh off of its second consecutive Central A divisional championship. The Ponies, who finished fifth at the 2003 state meet, will be strong contenders for a state trophy come Friday afternoon.
However, the only thing that might be more talked about than the possible bad weather in Butte this weekend might be Polson star Kasey Harwood.
Harwood, who has the state's best times and distances in five different events, may be the only human standing between Havre and a state championship, according to West.
"Kasey Harwood is a tremendous track athlete and she is going to obviously get her team at least 48 points," said HHS head coach. "But Polson isn't the only really strong team in this meet. Columbia Falls, Anaconda and Sidney all have areas where they are very strong and they could steal a lot of points away from Polson, which would be good for us.
"I really think that if we perform to the best of our abilities we will be right in the mix for a trophy," West added. "And if we can get some help from other teams, we could potentially sneak in there for the state championship."
While the favored Pirates are a strong overall team, they still rely very heavily on their star Harwood. The Ponies are the complete opposite.
Havre has emerged as one of the deepest teams in the state field. The senior trio of Alicia Overcast, Kelsey Smith and Rylee O'Connell are all big point contributors. Overcast should be favored to win the 800 meters this weekend, while Smith and O'Connell will be strong contenders in the sprints. West also believes that Smith could be a surprise champion in the pole vault if she performs well.
And while the seniors lead the way for the Ponies, if they are to contend for a trophy late on Saturday afternoon, it will be because of their depth.
"We won't have a lot of athletes who will probably go out and absolutely dominate events," West said. "But we have a lot of kids who will score for us in a lot of different areas, and those points are huge in a state meet, especially when teams are stealing points from each other left and right."
One of those areas in which West hopes his team will make up ground on the favorites is in the jumps. Casea Pollington is coming off of a divisional championship in the high jump and Carmen Neuens and Alexa Lipp will also be strong contenders in the jump events as well.
Both of Havre's relay teams will also be expected to carry the load. Particularly the 400-meter relay where West siad his team should be one of the favorites to win that event.
Havre's distance runners, who have shined all season, may be a little outgunned this weekend. Class A typically has some of the strongest distance girls teams in Montana with Browning's Wasewi Shawl and Bigfork's Lauren Daulton and Kaci Calaway. But West expects the likes of Darci Briere, Kelsey Malsam and McKayla Patterson to also contend for those all-important place points. Havre also qualified freshman Lena Suek in the javeling
"The distance are like a lot of other events," West said. "We don't have the top athlete in the meet but we might have as much depth as anybody out there."
"Anaconda has a great sprinter in Autumn Domitrovich, Polson has Kasey Harwood and some great throwers and Columbia Falls has great distance runners," West added. "But we have solid athletes in almost every event in the meet and that might be our biggest advantage. If things go right for us, I think we will definitely score 80 or 90 points which should put us right in the thick of things at the end of the meet."
While most of this season's hype has belonged to the Blue Pony girls team, the Havre boys team has experienced the growing pains that come with being a young and inexperienced team that suffered heavy losses to the graduating Class of 2003.
The Ponies are just a year removed from a second-place finish at the Class A state meet in Missoula. But this year Havre has had to rebuild their lineup and the state meet will be a time for experience and learning for most of the HHS boys team.
Still, junior standout Scott Robinson will come into Butte as the odds-on favorite to capture the 800-meter crown. Robinson finished second by the narrowest of margins at the state meet as a sophomore. Robinson will also contend in the 400 meters and is part of both of the HHS relay teams.
"I am expecting Scott to have a very good state meet," West said. "He is certainly one of the favorites in the 800 and I think he will score some good points for us."
Another athlete that West is hoping will have a tremendous state meet is senior Kasey Barsotti. Barsotti only finished third in both the 1600-and 3200-meter races at the divisional meet, but West knows he did not have his best day.
"I am really hoping Kasey runs well this weekend because if anyone deserves it he does," West said. "Kasey has worked very hard all year building up to his senior year and I think he has a chance to finish his career very strong."
Eric Vosen could be another Blue Pony to watch this weekend. Vosen has had a solid season and could be one of the favorites in the high jump. Havre also has Patch Wirtzberger, Tyson Parman and Tom Knudson competing in the hurdles and both relay teams will also run in Butte this weekend.
"This is a situation where we want our boys to go down there and hopefully they will perform really well and you never know what can happen," West said. "But it will be very good experience for all of our younger kids to get a taste of what the state meet is all about and this will really benefit us in the long run."
The Class A state track meet will get underway with preliminary events on Friday afternoon. The finals will begin Saturday morning and all of the action will take place in Butte.