Havre Daily News Sports
Every season the Havre High track teams reach a point where their performances seem rise up a notch or two.
For the past two seasons, that point in the season has come at the Bulldog Invitational in Whitefish. And HHS head coach Mark West is hoping the same thing happens again as Havre prepares to make the long trek west down U.S. Highway 2 for the 2005 version of the Bulldog invite.
"This is a meet we have always done well at in the past," West said. "And the kids all know how good the competition there always is, so they are really excited about going down there again on Saturday and performing very well."
Havre High is coming off of a Tuesday in which it was swept in dual action by Class AA powerhouse CMR in Great Falls. But at that meet, every Blue Pony who competed turned in personal or season best performances, which has West enthused about the direction his teams are heading.
"This is the time of year we always seem to get going," West said. "We have been pushing it pretty hard the last two weeks, but I think the kids are really starting to hit their stride right now. We will have to have another really good day if we want to be competitive in Whitefish."
Indeed, both the HHS girls and boys teams will be up against stiff competition on Saturday. Whitefish will be strong on both sides, but its girls team is especially deep. The Bulldogs have standout sprinter Courtney Ferda as well as sister Ashley, who is a standout in the hurdles and jumps.
The Bulldog relay teams have both turned in some of the fastest times in the state.
Joining Whitefish will be the Bigfork Vikings. Both Bigfork teams are especially strong in the distance races. Valkyrie star Brooke Andrus has registered top 10 times in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters this season.
Columbia Falls is another Western A school that could do well on Saturday, thanks in large part to star thrower Bekah Stoltz. Stoltz has the third best javelin throw in Montana this season as well as the fourth best discus toss. But Stoltz' specialty is the shot put, where she is ranked No. 1 in the state. That will mean that Havre's Lena Suek will be up against the best thrower she has seen all season. Suek has also registered top 10 throws in all three events this year.
Polson will also be strong in the sprints and jumps as well as the distance races. The Cut Bank girls, with star jumper and hurdler Amber Aikens, could also make noise in the girls meet on Saturday.
"The girls meet will be pretty loaded as far as good individuals and deep teams," West said. "Whitefish has probably the best overall team in Class A this season, but there will be a lot of good teams at this meet and we will have to do very well to stay at the top of the pack in the team race."
Of course, the Ponies aren't just the Lena Suek show. Carmen Neuens is ranked in the top 10 in Montana in the high jump, triple jump and long jump this season. Havre's relay teams are also very strong with the West twins, Cammie and Kelsey, competing.
The Ponies will also present challengers in the distance races as well, led by Darci Briere, Emily Kostelecky and Becca Hilliard.
On the boys side, a Class B school might just be the favorite this weekend. Thompson Falls has a very balanced team and it is especially strong in the distance races. Polson also has a strong distance team, and Libby is outstanding in the throws with Kyle and Blaine Baker. Kyle Baker also has the third best long jump in Montana this season.
Columbia Falls might have the best sprinting corps in the field this weekend with the likes of Lucas Schmidt and Kyle Rosenbaum. And Class B Eureka has a pair of top-ranked hurdlers.
"This will be another tough meet for our boys team," West said. "Even though Whitefish is a little down this season, there are some very good teams there."
That means that the Ponies will have to rely on their strengths like sprinters Scott Robinson, Ted Wells and Jeff Tibbals. They will also look to hurdler Tom Knudson and jumper Ryan Horne for points this weekend, as well as senior Rick Hoium in the shot put and Cody McLean in the pole vault.
"We have a boys team that could do pretty well if they all raise up their performances to another level," West said. "All of our boys did that in Great Falls on Tuesday, and I think you'll see them do it again on Saturday. Because this is the time of the year that we need to turn that corner and start really performing at a high level every time we step out on the track."
The Bulldog Invitational will get under way at 9:30 a.m. at Whitefish High School. The meet will feature all of the Western A schools as well as several local Class B schools along with Havre and Cut Bank.