George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org
There seems to never be a dull moment when it comes to sports in Havre and up and down the Hi-Line. And while some might think that 2007 wasn’t the most exciting year in sports around the area, those people couldn’t be more wrong. Havre High School athletics were once again among the top Class A schools in the running for the allsports trophy this year, meaning that Blue Pony sports are still among the Class A's elite. And at Montana State University- Northern, the Lights and Skylights sport's teams were as competitive as ever in what has become a jampacked and talented Frontier Conference. Highlights at Northern this year included the MSU-N men’s basketball team being the highestfinishing Montana team in the Frontier in 2007 and the MSU-N football team finishing third in the Frontier Conference, giving the Lights a third-place or better finish for the third straight season under head coach Marc Samson. There was also plenty to cheer about in hockey. The Havre Ice Hawks High School hockey team not only played host to the state tournament in March, but the Ice Hawks came agonizingly close to winning the state championship, narrowly losing to the Great Falls Americans in the state championship game at the Havre Ice Dome. In American Legion baseball, the Havre North Stars enjoyed another stellar regular season, and came within one win of qualifying for the state tournament. Havre Babe Ruth and youth teams also enjoyed plenty of success on the diamond this summer. But when taking a closer look at the sporting year around the area, there were several individual and team achievements that stood above the rest in 2007, and here’s a look at the top sports moments of the past year. No. 5 Havre High girls beat Anaconda Never mind the fact that the Havre High girls basketball team hadn’t been to the Class A state tournament since 2001, or the fact that the Blue Ponies had to face one of the best teams in the state in the first round, because on the first day of March at the 2007 Class A state tournament, none of that mattered. The Blue Ponies squared off against 19-1 Anaconda and star center Ali Hurley in the first round of HHS’s first state tourney in six years, and behind 27 points from Katie Mariani, as well as 20 points from Tricia Samson, the Ponies stunned the Copperheads 65-60. HHS used a suffocating defense to shut down Hurley, and Mariani drilled four 3-pointers, giving head coach Dustin Kraske his first state tournament victory. The win vaulted the Ponies into the Class A semifinals where they were beaten by Miles City. However, the win by HHS will go down as a signature win for the program. No. 4 Big Sandy track star Kourtney Danreuther As a freshman, Big Sandy’s Kourtney Danreuther took the Class C track world by storm. But as a sophomore, nobody was surprised by what Danreuther accomplished at the Class C state meet in May in Missoula. Danreuther captured four gold medals at the meet, helping the Pioneers to their second straight Class C state championship. She won the 200 meters, she set a Class C record in the 400 meters, and also captured the 100 and 300-meter hurdles state titles. Danreuther’s four wins at the 2007 state meet gave her an astonishing eight individual state championships with two years of high school yet to come. No. 3 Havre High swimming When it comes to Class A swimming, the Havre High girls are the standard. And the Blue Ponies didn’t disappoint this past February at the state meet in Great Falls. HHS captured its eighth straight Class A state championship in swimming, tying the record for most consecutive state titles won by any Montana sports program. But the Ponies decided to share the spotlight this year in Great Falls, as the HHS boys, also under the guidance of veteran head coach Chris Inman, took home its first state championship since 2003, making it a clean sweep for the highly-decorated HHS swimming program. No. 2 Hays-Lodge Pole state championship In 2007, no basketball rivalry was more intense than that of 9C foes Hays-Lodge Pole and Big Sandy. The two teams split their regular-season series and both of them were ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in Class C boy’s basketball for most of the season. But when it came to the postseason, HLP stepped and showed that it was the best team in Class C hands down. Start ing at the District 9C tournament in Havre in late February, HLP beat Big Sandy in three straight title games, including the 2007 Class C state championship game in Great Falls in March. Led by all-state performers A.J. Long Soldier and Lance Brockie, the Thunderbirds helped former MSU-N player Charlie Ereaux to his first state title as a head coach, and HLP’s second state championship in the last six years. And while the T-Birds run to the state championship was nothing short of special, it was their rivalry with fellow 9C member Big Sandy that made it one of the most prolific sports moments of this past year. No. 1 Havre High wrestling on top It had been a painstaking six years, but in February at the Billings Metra, the wait was finally over. The Havre High wrestling team finally took its rightful place as Class A’s best team, capturing the 2007 state championship with relative ease. HHS had finished second to Sidney in 2005 and in 2006, and it hadn’t won a state title since 2001. But after scoring a whopping 239 points, crowning four individual state champions and placing 11 wrestlers overall, the Blue Ponies were playing second fiddle no longer, as veteran head coach Scott Filius earned his fourth Class A state title. The Ponies, who had dominated the competition all season, got memorable state championships from Chris Recio and fan-favorite Beau LaSalle to help lead the charge to victory. And seniors Evan Hinebauch and Matt Schnittgen made history by each capturing their third straight individual state championships. But this HHS state championship team will be remembered for that, a team. The Ponies had more wrestlers competing in the meet than any other team, and they were as dominant from start to finish as any team in recent Class A history, and because of the long wai t , thei r 2007s tate championship was the most memorable moment of what was another great sports year on the Hi-Line.