Havre Daily News Sports
With the long-anticipated arrival of spring upon us, the Havre High boys and girls track teams are set to open their season on Saturday afternoon. The Ponies will travel to Glasgow for a time trial meet, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Glasgow High School track.
Both HHS teams come into the season trying to put disappointing finishes in 2004 behind them. But for the HHS girls, veteran head coach Mark West believes that things look very promising this season, especially since the Ponies are the two-time defending Central A divisional champions.
"We have a lot of hard work to do and we still are trying to find out where some kids will fit in," West said. "But we are feeling very confident about the girls team that we have this season.
"We have some solid kids in each area and some exciting young girls that should give us some depth," he added.
While West does have to cope with the loss of two standout athletes in departed seniors Kelsey Smith and Alicia Overcast, he does return a myriad of gifted athletes in several key areas.
Leading the way for the HHS girls this season will be Carmen Neuens, who is coming off a breakout season in 2004. Neuens is expected to be one of Havre's leading team point earners. She will compete in the jumps and the sprints as well as Havre's always-strong relay teams.
Sophomore Lena Suek is also expected to shine for the Ponies this season in the throws and junior Mandi Nystrom should pace the Ponies in the 200 and 400 meters as well as the relays.
"I think we have several girls that could have a really big year," West said. "I think that both Carmen Neuens and Lena Suek will have tremendous seasons and we also have a couple of strong seniors like Rebecca Hilliard that should provide us with some leadership."
West returns divisional high jump champion Casea Pollington as well as a host of quality distance runners like Darci Briere, Kim Jestrab and Kelsey Malsam. He will also look to his own twin daughters, Kelsey and Cammie to step up and score for the Ponies this season. West is also excited about the potential of freshman thrower Rosa Horne and freshman jumper Amy Marshall.
"I think we will be really good in the jumps and the throws and we will still be really strong in the distance races like we have been in the past," West said. "But the exciting thing about this season is that our girls team is talented in every area, as opposed to just the jumps or the distance races. I think this should be a really exciting year for this team."
If Havre is to have success at not only the divisional level but at the Class A state meet, they will have to compete with the likes of Western A powerhouses Polson and Whitefish as well as Anaconda, Glendive and Lewistown.
While the HHS girls did find moderate success last season, the same could not be said for the HHS boys in 2004. Havre finished fifth at the Central A divisional meet and the young Blue Ponies finished with just two points at the Class A state meet. It was Havre's worst finish at the state meet in a long time and West believes that those results should be a distant memory by the end of this season.
"I think the thing that will make our boys team instantly better is our seniors and our experience," West said. "We have a great group of seniors who have worked really hard to improve. I think they are ready to have a big season.
"But we will still have our work cut out for us," West added. "We definitely have some holes to fill in some areas. We have the best team in Class A in our own division in Butte Central so we still have a long way to go."
One of the holes that West will have to fill is in the distance races. He lost star runners Kasey Barsotti and Jeff Sprinkle to graduation, leaving the distances and the throws will be the main area of concern this season.
The Ponies return a host of talented seniors led by do-everything star Scott Robinson, who has been a staple of the HHS track team for two seasons. If healthy, he should be a major force in Class A this season. Robinson will run the 100, 200 and 400 meters this season and anchor both relays.
"I think Scott will have a really big year," West said. "He already looks really good. He is a tremendous athlete and this should definitely be his year."
West is also looking forward to the return of Tom Knudson in the hurdles as well as Marcus Campbell in the distances. He is also excited about senior transfer Ted Wells who should bolster the Ponies sprinting corps as well as in the jumps. Senior Jeff Tibbals has also joined the HHS sprinters. Senior Rick Hoium is out for track this season and should do well with sophomore Matt Schnittgen in the throws.
But as excited as West is about finally having another veteran boys team this season, he said that it could be the rise of several young athletes that could help his team return to track and field prominence.
"We have some very exciting young kids out led by a pair of freshman in Seth Handy and Kyle Finneman," West said. "We also have kids like Derek Verploegen and Nathan Harada back this year and they should really help us out a lot.
"Right now, it is just a matter of finding where a lot of these kids can help us the most," he added. "One area where we have to have kids step up is in the distances. But I am really excited about the potential of this team. Right now, their goal is to get back into the top three at the divisional meet."
The Central A divisional meet is scheduled for May 20-21 in Butte and the Class A state meet will be in Great Falls the following weekend.