Havre Daily News sports editor
The end of the Montana High School track and field season is here and that means that for Class C schools like Big Sandy, Chester/J-I and others, things are going to get very interesting and very serious.
The Class C state track meet begins on Friday in Helena and both Hi-Line schools are in line for Class C state championships.
The Big Sandy boys come into the state meet as one of several teams from around the state that could very easily walk away with a state championship. That is due in large part to the Pioneers' premier sprinting corps, which has dominated the competition all season long.
Despite not winning the District 9C championship in Havre on May 10, the Pioneers literally ran away with the Northern C Divisional track meet in Great Falls on May 19. Big Sandy scored a whopping 104 points to second-place Augusta's 55 points. That total makes the Pioneers a strong favorite this weekend in Helena.
The other reason the Pioneers will be heavily favored is because of their sprinters. Ryan Pokorny has won the 100 meters seven times this season, including running an 11.2 at the divisional meet. Teammates Karl Osterman and Lawrence Jappe also qualified for the Class C state 100 meters. Osterman will also run in the 200 meters and he and teammate Kyle Danreuther are prohibitive favorites in the 400-meter race. The foursome also make up Big Sandy's heavily favored 400-meter relay team. Justin Willis also qualified for the meet in the 400 meters.
Danreuther could also be the wildcard for Big Sandy this weekend. Aside from his sprinting duties, Danreuther is a top-notch hurdler, who captured both the 110- and 300-meter hurdle championships at the Northern C meet. He and North Star's Cody Donoven are both expected to contend for the medal stand in both events this weekend.
“We have some very good kids who have a chance to do really well this weekend,” Big Sandy head coach Roy Lackner said. “We could win medals in all of the sprints and maybe the distance races. I think because of kids like Ryan Pokorny and Karl Osterman, we have a really good shot at scoring a lot of points.”
The Pioneers will also rely heavily upon distance runner Darin Ray to score points this weekend. Ray is a standout in the 3200 meters and is also very capable in the 1600-meter race. Jappe could also do well in the long jump, and he also qualified in the javelin.
“The boys team title is pretty wide open and we have a good chance at it,” Lackner said. “We have quite a few kids who have a chance to place very high this weekend, especially in the sprints. I really like our chances this weekend, but nothing is a given and we still have to go out there and compete to win.”
Meanwhile, North Star and Chester/J-I will also bring several quality athletes to the Class C boys meet, but neither team has the depth to realistically keep pace with Big Sandy.
The Knights will rely heavily on Donoven, who is widely considered the favorite to win a state championship in the javelin. North Star will also bring pole vaulter Adam Chvilicek to the state meet.
Chester/J-I, which has been very strong in past state meets, isn't as deep as the Hawks have been in the past. But the Hawks do have a standout distance runner in Caleb Brown, who qualified for the state meet in 800 and 1600 meters. Brown won the divisional championship in the 800 meters.
The 2006 Class C state girls meet won't just be about team titles this weekend. That is because no one since Geraldine's Toni Qunell, who lit up the Montana track scene for the last four years, has made as much of an immediate impact on Class C track than Big Sandy's Kourtney Danreuther.
Danreuther has not lost a race she has competed in during her freshman campaign. She broke five District 9C records at the district meet on May 10, and she broke three Northern C records last week in Great Falls. Danreuther set meet records in the 200 meters, the 400 meters and the 300-meter hurdle events. She also easily captured Northern C titles in the 100 meters and the 100-meter hurdles.
And despite the fact that the Class C state meet is a much bigger stage, Lackner sees no reason why Danreuther's magical season can't continue.
“She has the chance to do some great things this weekend, but our athletes don't run to break records, they run to win,” Lackner said. “But she does have the chance to set three or four state records this weekend. She could definitely break the record in the 400 meters and probably both hurdle events.”
Big Sandy also qualified Desirae O'Neil in the high jump, Laci Keller in discus and Shersteen Cline in the javelin.
In the team race, Lackner said the Northern C divisional champion Chester/J-I and his Pioneers are the two teams to beat this weekend. The Hawks beat the Pioneers at divisionals and the Hawks have several outstanding athletes leading the way. Chester/J-I has won this meet before, while the Pioneers are in search of their first-ever Class C state championship.
Brianne Wolfe is favored to capture state championships in the 800- and 1600-meter races and athletes Daina and Britanny Kolstad are both capable sprinters and hurdlers. Chester/J-I also has a highly-touted 1600-meter relay team that should do well at the state meet. Keyla Briese and Hannah Pimley should also help the Hawks in the team race this weekend.
“The meet is definitely going to come down to us and Chester/J-I,” Lackner said. “They beat us at divisionals but the points are more spread out at state and we have the best athlete and the best runner who is going to get us 50 points by herself. And that is something that no other team has.”
Other Hi-Line athletes that should have an impact on the Class C state meet include Chinook's Crystal Rosberry and North Star's Courtney Wendland and Natasha Dyrland.
Roseberry has placed at the state meet in both the long jump and triple jump and is poised to do so again this weekend. Wendland has captured both the 9C and Northern C javelin championships and could be a favorite to win that event in Helena. Dyrland is also strong in the shot put.
The 2006 Class C state meet will get under way on Friday afternoon at Vigilante Stadium in Helena. The meet will run through Saturday afternoon.