Havre Daily News
It's been a busy couple of weeks for the Havre High track team and things are only getting tougher for the Ponies as they finish up a challenging week of competition with two meets in the span of three days.
Havre High will head to Malta this afternoon for the Malta Invitational. Then the Ponies will travel to Whitefish on Saturday for the Whitefish Invitational.
The Ponies are coming off a solid performance against CMR in a dual Tuesday in Great Falls.
Both HHS teams fared better than expected against their Class AA rivals, and now they will look to build on that momentum for the season's stretch run.
“It's an exciting time for our kids,” HHS head coach Mark West said. “Our young kids especially like to go down and compete in Malta, because it gives them a chance to letter and compete against some solid varsity kids. It is also one of the last chances for the kids to get into the Top 10 meet next week, and that is something that is very important to them.”
The Malta Invitational gets under way at 3 p.m today. The Ponies will compete against Malta, Wolf Point, Glasgow and many other teams from along the Hi-Line.
One thing that differentiates the Malta Invitational from any other track meet the Ponies will participate in this season is the surface that they will run on.
Havre is used to a hard surface like the one the Ponies run on in Havre and at most other meets. But in Malta, the Ponies will be forced to run on a cinder track, which can be both good and bad.
“The older kids don't like going to Malta in part because of the surface they have to run on,” West said. “It's something that is a little different than what they are used to, but it is good because it gives their legs a little bit of a rest.
“The dirt surface is slower of course, but it is not as hard on their bodies as the hard surface,” he added. “So even though the kids don't really like running on it, I like the surface because it is easier on their bodies. It's also good because on a dirt track you really have to compete hard because of the slower surface.”
The Ponies' main competition on both the boys and girls side will most likely be the host Malta Mustangs and M-Ettes. Havre has had success at this meet in recent years, but the Ponies have always been challenged by Malta.
Havre will be led by standouts Lena Suek, who is one of the best in the state in the discus and javelin, and Carmen Neuens, who is coming off first-place finishes in the long jump, high jump and triple jump in the dual against CMR. Neuens will most likely compete in only one of the three jumping events because of concerns about fatigue.
“We have been working the kids very hard and they have been competing a lot lately, so we don't want to overdo it with anybody,” West said. “We are going to move some of our kids around and probably hold some of them out of events so they will be ready to go on Saturday and at the Top 10 on Tuesday.”
The HHS girls will also get contributions from pole vaulter and jumper Casea Pollington, sprinters Cammie and Kelsey West, distance runner Meredith Hanson, and hurdlers Tricia Samson and Mandi Nystrom, among others.
“Malta usually competes very well against us,” West said. “And I don't think that this year will be any different. Their kids compete very hard and it will be a good challenge for us.”
The Havre High boys team will be led by Robert Brooks, who is coming off of first-place finishes in both the 1600-meter run and the 3200-meter run in the dual against CMR. Brooks has been a very solid contributor all year and continues to be a model of consistency for the Ponies.
“Robert has done a really nice job for us all season long,” West said. “He has just been so consistent for us in both the mile and the two-mile. It's been really nice to see him doing well, because he works very hard and he is a very good competitor.”
Other top performers for the boys are sprinters Derek Verploegen, Kyle Rummel and Kyle Finneman, pole vaulter Cody McLean, hurdler Jason Mudrow and thrower Paul Jensen.
On Saturday, the HHS teams will face some stiff competition when the Ponies head to Whitefish for the Whitefish Invitational.
Among some of the top athletes competing for the Bulldogs will be Chris Hicks, who is the top triple jumper in the state of Montana and also competes in the long jump and the hurdles. The Bulldogs also boast pole vaulter Cort Rogers and thrower Mick McCraken.
The Whitefish girls team also has some very talented athletes, including Ashley Ferda, who competes in the hurdles, and Courtney Ferda, who competes as a sprinter. Carmel Johnston is also very strong in the pole vault for the Bulldogs.
“The kids really seem to enjoy competing in Whitefish,” West said. “The weather is great there, so the kids really do very well and the competition is very good. Chris Hicks is a great athlete and he is fun to watch in the triple jump. “They also have Ashley and Courtney Ferda, who are both outstanding athletes and are really exciting to watch,” he added. “It is always really tough competition, but the kids always seem to do very well there for one reason or another. I think that part of it has to do with the weather there, because it is so much nicer than what we usually see up in Havre. And it's a good chance for the kids to show what they can do and to see how they measure up.”
Havre will be in Malta today for the Malta Invitational, which starts at 3. The Whitefish Invitational will get under way at 10 a.m. Saturday.