Havre Daily News Sports
When you're the defending champion, no matter what the sport, it basically puts a target on your back. Such is the case for the Havre High girls track team as they begin competition at the 2005 Central A divisional track meet in Butte Friday this afternoon.
Not only are the Ponies the defending Central A champs, but they have captured the team title at the meet each of the last two seasons. Still, HHS head coach Mark West is going into this weekend looking at things from a different perspective.
"We have had a great couple of years at this meet, but things are a little different this season," West said. "We have a lot of talent on this team, but we are not nearly as deep as we have been in the past. Also, Belgrade and Livingston have very strong teams this season, so it makes things a little more difficult for us."
Belgrade and Livingston aside, West still isn't conceding that his team won't three-peat this weekend, especially with all of the talent spread out among Havre High's 14 girls in the field in Butte.
"We can definitely score a lot of points this weekend," West said. "We know what Lena Suek and Carmen Neuens are capable of doing for us, but we have other girls who can and will have to step up and score some points if we want to be in the hunt at the end of the meet."
Suek has dominated the throwing events for Havre High this season and she will be expected to again this weekend. The sophomore has top-ten Montana bests in the javelin (129-3) and discus (125-3) and she has only won several shot put meets this season.
Neuens is also on the top ten list for Havre High in the long jump, where she has a season best leap of 16-7 this year. But she will have some tough competition in the long jump with likes of Lewistown's Brianna Ackerman and Belgrade's Brittany Greany. If Havre is to have success this weekend, Suek and Neuens' potential first-place points are vital.
"Carmen could potentially win three events this weekend and end up placing in as many as five," West said. "And Lena is more than capable of winning all three of her events. If they do that we will be in pretty good shape."
Two other critical areas where Havre High will need lots of points is in the highly competitive sprints and the even-more competitive distance races.
The Ponies have Neuens in the 100 and 200 meters, but they are now guided by emerging star junior Kelsey West. Belgrade is also tough in the sprints and Havre will also have to contend with Browning's Sperry Derosier and Lewistown's Laura Anderson.
Belgrade is the team to beat in the distances, but Havre will have a solid corp of runners to challenge them. Kim Jestrab, Darci Briere and Kelsey Malsam will be looked upon to get the Ponies meet off to a good start this weekend.
"The distance races are very tough, as they are every year," West said. "If our distance kids can get going early, it should set the tone for the rest of the meet, because some of those finals are very early in the meet."
Havre will also have possible points coming from the likes of Amy Marshall in the hurdles, where once again Belgrade will be favored, as well as sophomore Jessica Nolan in the pole vault. The HHS relay teams are also both expected to contend for divisional crowns this weekend.
"I think going in Belgrade has to be favored because of their depth," West said. "But we should be right in the hunt. One thing you can count on is that teams will have surprises and that will take points away from the top teams. It should be a very interesting girls meet."
While the HHS girls are fighting to keep the Central A divisional championship in Havre, the HHS boys will be striving to recapture the old magic that the program once had. Havre finished a very disappointing fifth at the Central A meet a year ago. But things have been on the upward swing for the Blue Ponies this season, and West said that this weekend could be the culmination of a solid year.
"Our boys team has a chance of doing very well this weekend," West said. "I think that we have gotten better as the season has progressed and we have some good senior leadership on this team.
"Butte Central is still very tough and they are the defending state champions and they will be tough to knock off on their track," he added. "But if we have some kids PR this weekend and steal some points from other places we could be right in the mix for the team title."
One of the reasons Havre has once again crept back into the Class A fold is the coming out party of senior Rick Hoium. Hoium has been dominant in the shot put this season capturing several different meets. And he isn't alone in the throws either. Chris Buskirk has also had a solid campaign for the Blue Ponies and West said the emergence of sophomore Matt Schnittgen might also help the Ponies' cause this weekend.
"We haven't had a lot of talent in the weights the past few years," West said. "But that is one area where we could make up a lot of ground this weekend. Rick Hoium and Chris Buskirk have been outstanding all year and our young kids that we're bring could also help us out a lot."
Havre will also look to another senior for a lot points this weekend in hurdler Tom Knudson, who will be expected to carry the load for the Ponies this weekend in both the 110 and 300 meter hurdles. But Belgrade has star hurdler Bryan Beery and Butte Central will counter with Brett Kamrud.
Knudson will also step in and run the 4x100 relay because of the loss of sprinter Ted Wells, who has decided to forgo the rest of the season for personal reasons. Wells' presence in the sprints will sorely be missed.
Still, the Ponies will have do-everything star Scott Robinson who will run the 100, 200 and 400 meters as well as both relays and the long jump. Kyle Finneman has also emerged as a star in the sprints for the Ponies as has the steady Derek Verploegen.
"The sprints are an area we could do very well this weekend," West said. "In our division, they are certainly wide open. Scott, Derek and Kyle Finneman could all score a lot of points for us in those races and that would help us out tremendously."
Like the girls' team, the HHS boys are also hoping that the Havre High distance runners get the meet off on the right foot. Both Marcus Campbell and Robert Brooks will be running the 800, 1600 and 3200 meters this weekend and they will have to contend with strong distance contingents from Belgrade and Browning. The Ponies also have a good shot at getting points from defending high jump champion Ryan Horne as well as pole vaulter Cody McLean.
"There is probably a lot of pressure on our boys because they know that they have to go out and try to get personal best times," West said. "But we have a lot of leadership on this team and they are capable of having a lot of success at this meet."
The 2005 Central A divisional track meet will begin this afternoon with several preliminary rounds. The meet will continue all day Saturday and all of the action will take place at Memorial Stadium in Butte.