Havre Daily News sports editor
It is no secret or great mystery that the Havre High boys and girls track teams are a little bit fatigued as the Ponies enter the stretch run of their 2006 season.
On Saturday at the Lewistown Invitational, the Ponies may be just rested enough to make a run at both the boys and girls team titles.
Last week, Havre completed a stretch of four full-scale track meets in a six-day span. Some of the Ponies were also scheduled to compete again at the Top Ten meet in Glasgow on Tuesday, which would have put even more pressure on some of the HHS athletes' physical condition. Inclement weather rolled across north-central Montana on Monday and Tuesday and the meet in Glasgow was cancelled, which was both disappointing to HHS athletes and a welcome reprieve at the same time.
“Historically we haven't done that well at the Lewistown meet because it is always right after the Top Ten meet,” Havre High head coach Mark West said. “But because the Top Ten was cancelled this year, our kids are coming into this weekend with pretty fresh legs. So hopefully we will be able to compete at a high level.”
Fatigued or not, both HHS teams shined at the always-difficult ARM Invitational in Whitefish last Saturday. The Havre High girls finished second, just 13 points behind team champion Whitefish. And the Blue Pony boys team also had a strong day, finishing third.
On the girls side, Lena Suek was her usual self on Saturday, winning all three throwing events. As it stands entering this weekend, Suek has the third best discus throw this season (133-1) and the seventh best javelin toss as well (124-06).
“Lena Suek has done a great job for us all year long,” West said. “She has just been so consistent for us in all of the throwing events. Carmen Neuens is also getting back to 100 percent and she will be jumping in all three jumps this weekend, which is something she hasn't done in a while.”
Despite missing some time due to injury this year, Neuens has sixth-best long jump in Montana this season with her leap of 16-11. She also has been battling back and forth with teammate Casea Pollington in the high jump. But right now, it is Pollington who has not only the best jump on the Havre High team, but her leap of 5-3 in the Havre Invitational is still the second-best mark in that event in girls track and field this season.
The Blue Ponies have also been getting strong contributions from sprinter Kelsey West and hurdlers Hannah Wells and Tricia Samson. And they will need points from a lot of different athletes on Saturday if they want to stay with meet favorite Lewistown.
“Kelsey West has done a great job for us this season and she has been our top sprinter all year,” West said. “And I have been really pleased with how Hannah Wells and Tricia Samson have come along in the hurdles. Both of them have just continued to get better. And hopefully they can continue to improve.”
One key element to Havre's success this weekend in both the boys and girls meet may be how the ponies fair without a couple of key runners. The HHS girls are missing Meridith Hanson and the boys will be without distance stalwart Robert Brooks.
Brooks has led a strong Havre distance contingent this season, winning five gold medals in the 3200 meters. In his absence, Havre will look to Marcus Campbell and Andy Keim to shoulder the load in Lewistown.
“Losing Robert Brooks is going to hurt our boys team because he is one of our top athletes,” West said. “But we have a lot of young guys like Paul Jensen and Jason Mudrow that we hope can step up and contribute for us. I would also like to think that some other younger guys like Jack Teske and Thomas Kline may be primed for a breakout performance this weekend.”
Unlike the HHS girls team, the Blue Pony boys team doesn't have a real superstar who dominates the medal stand each week. The Ponies have relied heavily on consistency to get the job done this season.
Havre has a strong sprinting contingent with Kyle Finneman, Derek Verploegen and Kyle Rummel; one of the best pole vaulters in Class A in Cody McLean; and their strong distance runners.
“This meet is going to give our boys a good chance to go out and compete against some really good competition before we get into our rest period for the divisional meet,” West said. “And it will also give our younger kids a chance to shine before the end of the season.
“We are going to have plenty of good competition just competing against Lewistown,” he added. “Both their boys and girls teams won at our invitational so our kids are excited for the chance to go head-to-head with them and see how we stack up. They are a very good team and it will be a good test for us.”
The Lewistown Invitational will get under way at 9:30 a.m. at the Fergus County Track in Lewistown.