Havre Daily News
On Saturday the Havre High track team will get their first big chance of the season to make a statement as the Ponies host nearly 25 teams and hundreds of athletes for the 2006 Lions Invitational track meet at the Havre Middle School track.
Last weekend the Ponies split their squads up for the Cal Wearley memorial track meet, so this weekend's meet will be the first time that the team will be completely in tact.
“It's nice to kind of get our full team together this weekend but because of injuries we are still going to be missing some people, which is a disappointment,” HHS head coach Mark West said. “But, the kids are really excited for the level of competition we will be facing. We have worked very hard all week during practice getting the kids into track shape, so hopefully we can make some improvements.”
Because of the amount of teams and athletes that will be competing in the event, the overall level of competition should be raised a little bit due to the strength of many of the teams and the individual ability of the athletes taking part in the meet.
“There is going to be a lot of good competition,” West said. “A lot of good teams will be participating in the events and there are also a number of gifted athletes competing. I think that the kids are excited and hopefully they will be up to the challenge.”
The girls meet will be loaded with talented teams and gifted athletes from Lewistown, Browning, Big Sandy, Chester/J-I, Malta, Fort Benton, among others.
Lewistown should be one of the top teams in Class A this season and both Big Sandy and Chester/J-I are coming off impressive performances last weekend at the Cal Wearley.
So, the team title could be a major dogfight.
The HHS girls are another team that should have a chance to contend for the top spot at the meet. But the Ponies quest will be made a little more difficult due to the loss of all-star Carmen Neuens. Neuens, who is one of the Ponies top jumpers and sprinters, will not compete in the Lions Invitational due to an injury. The Ponies may also be without Mandy Nystrom, who is doubtful to compete this weekend which further damages the Ponies ability to score points.
“It's unfortunate for us that we are probably going to be without both Carmen and Mandy,” West said. “But, we are just going to have to keep competing and hope that some of younger kids can step up.”
With the loss of Neuens and most likely Nystrom, the pressure falls squarely on the shoulders of junior Lena Suek to have a good meet for the Ponies if they want to have a chance at victory.
Suek won the shot put, discus and javelin last weekend and she will need to have a repeat performance on Saturday to make up for some of the points lost due to injury.
The Ponies will also look to youngsters such as Meredith Hanson, Tricia Samson and Tanya Westbrook to pick up the slack. If the Ponies can get a spark from their youth combined with solid performances by veterans such as Kelsey West, Cammie West and Casea Pollington among others, Havre may just have a chance to end up in first place when the meet is all said and done.
“We would love to win the meet if we can,” West said. “But, we are a little banged up right now so all we can really do is go out there and see what happens. Hopefully we will have enough depth to overcome the injuries and give ourselves a chance to do well.”
On the boys side of things, the meet should be fairly wide open. There are plenty of capable teams such as Browning, Lewistown, Big Sandy, Fort Benton, and Malta.
The Havre High boys are fairly young and are still trying to develop talent in certain areas to try and fill out the team. But, the Ponies also have some talented athletes of their own that should make a big impact this weekend.
One of those athletes is Robert Brooks. Brooks won the 1600-meter run last weekend and despite facing some stiffer competition, Brooks should once again register a solid performance for the Ponies.
“Robert Brooks has been really strong for us in the distance area,” West said. “But this weekend he will have to go up against some tough competition. It should be a good challenge for him and I think he will do well with it.”
Havre is also going to need a big day from sprinters Kyle Finneman and Derek Verploegen as well as Ryan Horne to give the team some depth up and down the roster.
“It would be nice to see some of our younger boys do well for us this weekend,” West said. “We still need to get into a little bit better shape, but I'm hoping this weekend that some of the younger kids can go off a little bit and give us a good boost.”
Individually, an athlete to keep an eye on this weekend is Big Sandy speedster Kourtney Danreuther. Danreuther made an astounding freshman debut last weekend winning five events, and she will look for a repeat of that performance this weekend. Other athletes to look out for this weekend include Brianne Wolfe of Chester/J-I, Crystal Roseberry of Chinook, Kyle Danreuther of Big Sandy and Cody Donoven of North Star.
“We would love to win the meet, there is no doubt about that,” West said. “But it's not life or death. It's still very early in the season for us. We are a little banged up right now and at this point we just want to focus on getting better and finding some more depth. “But, who knows how tough it will be for the girls without Carmen and Mandy,” he added. “However, the boy's side is a little more wide open so who knows what will happen, we have as good a chance as anyone right now.”
The Lions Invitational track meet hosted by the Havre High track team will get under way Saturday morning at the Havre Middle School track. Field events begin at 9 a.m. and running events start at 9:30.