by Ryan Divish
Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Sure a few teams competed in some smaller meets last weekend, but the official track season for area high school track teams will begin on Wednesday with KG's Cal Wearley Memorial track meet.
Long-time KG head coach Butch Marshall expects more than 20 teams from around the area competing at the Havre Middle School in what is forecasted to be clear skies and highs near 70 degrees.
"It sounds like might even be a little too hot," Marshall said. "At least for the distance runners, the sprinters and jumpers like the warm weather better. We can't complain. This meet hasn't been known for good weather."
Indeed, but it is known for solid competition, and Marshall believes that it will abound on Wednesday, despite unfavorable practice weather in recent weeks.
The meet will feature a large contingent of Havre High athletes competing. Normally, the HHS junior varsity competes in the event, but with the bad weather of late, several Ponies are in need of some extra work.
"I talked with Mark (West) and he is bringing quite a few varsity athletes," Marshall said. "Everybody's had to fight the weather for practice and some of his kids need the extra time on the track which is more than fine with me.
Also attending the meet will be the Chinook Sugarbeeters, who will be competing in their last year as a Class B school.
The Beeter girls are coming off a solid eighth place showing at last year's Class B State Meet, with several key members returning, including junior Crystal Roseberry, who finished third in the triple jump and fourth in the long jump. Also returning is senior Brittany Williams, who finished second in the discus.
Besides the bigger schools, the majority of the Northern C track teams will also be in Havre, led by defending Class C girls champion Geraldine and their do-everything star Toni Qunell.
The diminutive senior won state individual titles in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes and the 100 and 300 hurdles, while also helping the Tigers win both relays.
The Tigers dominated the Cal Wearley last year, scoring 126 team points as Qunell won five events.
"Geraldine has all their good girls back from last year," Marshall said. "I would think they're the favorite to win state again. They have the best athlete in Class C. I think she won seven gold medals at the state meet."
Other good girls teams competing are the Centerville Miners, the Belt Huskies along with local powers Chester and Blue Sky/J-I.
The Coyotes return solid athletes in Shawnee Norick, Jillien Johnson along with sophomores Brittany and Leisa Kolstad, Mikinzie Fraser and Chelsea Stokes.
The defending 9C champion Blue Sky/J-I girls should be the favorite to repeat again. The Eagles return versatile senior Kaila Warren, who competes in both hurdles and jumps events.
Also back is sophomore Hannah Pimley, who placed third at state in the high jump, along with senior Kile Patrick, who was the divisional champ in the 800 and 1,600.
The Eagles have perhaps the best depth in the 9C with other contributors like senior Maia Aageson, junior Megan Warren and talented freshman Desiree O'Neil.
"Blue Sky should have a very good girls team," Marshall said. "They have a little more depth than most teams in the conference. I really think they will win the 9C and should be in the top five in the division."
As for his own girls team, Marshall has just five athletes competing led by Kate Vosen, Jodi Norman and Natasha Dyrland.
On the boys side, the Chester Coyotes are back to defend their Cal Wearley team title. Chester finished third at last year's state track meet and return solid athletes in Patrick Wicks, Isaac VanDyke and Zach Ramberg.
Marshall's defending 9C KG boys, a perennial power in the Northern C, are down a little in numbers with 10 kids and just one senior, but there are some solid athletes.
Senior Drew Kapperud, junior Cody Donoven and junior Branden Melby are all expected to score points. Kapperud competes in the sprints, while Donoven is solid in both hurdles events and the javelin, while Melby competes in the jumps.
Marshall has also been pleased with the early performances of Shane Rice, who competes in the 400 and 800.
"Shane has gotten much stronger this past year," Marshall said. "I think he's really going to help us this year."
Despite the solid athletes, Marshall admits that his team's long run as District 9C champs could come to an end because of a talented Big Sandy squad.
"Our streak is definitely in jeopardy," Marshall said. "Big Sandy showed us a lot last week in Fort Benton. You can tell their kids have put in some work in the offseason."
The Pioneers placed second at last year's Northern C Divisional and return the bulk of that team this year. Big Sandy lost two solid point scorers in Mason Ophus and Adam Butler, but return Lawrence Jappe, Karl Osterman, Kyle Danreuther, Justin Willis, Matt Pokorny and Darin Ray.
Other solid boys squads that will be competing are Geraldine, Hobson and Augusta.
Marshall admits that Wednesday's meet will be looked at more as an opportunity to get out and get some early work than more of a competition.
"It really helps us set the tone for the rest of the year," Marshall said. "It tells us how kids compete in certain situations and give us some performances we can build off of. Most of the teams are still conditioning through these early meets. Unfortunately, track in Montana has such a short season that you won't see top performances this early. But it should still be a good meet."
The Cal Wearley Invitational gets under way at 9 a.m. with field events. The running events start at 9:30 a.m.