Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson
For the North Star girls and Chinook boys high school track teams, this weekend in Missoula is about chasing state championship dreams.
For many local athletes, it will also be about getting to the top of that medal stand.
Missoula is the site of the Class C state track meet today and Saturday, and while many local athletes will be in attendance, it’s the Knights and Sugarbeeters who might have the most to gain.
The North Star girls have been building toward this season for quite some time, and after dominating the Northern C Divisional last week in Great Falls, the Knights are certainly being looked at as a favorite this weekend in Missoula.
North Star has star power and depth, two things that can easily earn a team a Class C state championship as points are generally spread around and meets are usually low-scoring.
The Knights should get big points in the sprints, jumps, hurdles, throws and pole vault if all things go well. Leading the way is sprinter Haylee Anderson. Not only is Anderson gunning for wins in the 100 and 200 meters, but she anchors North Star’s short relay team, which could be the best in the state by week’s end. But Anderson is far from alone in the quest to bring a state title back to the Hi-Line. Jordan Spicher is a threat to score points in both hurdle races, as well as the pole vault, while Lisa and Bettie Carlon should compete well in the long jump and triple jump. Junior Shelby Lipp will also have a chance to contribute in the shot put and discus for head coach Brian Campbell’s team.
But as tough as the Knights are, several other area teams might have a say in what happens this weekend. Chinook has Kayla Hanson, the heavy favorite to win state titles in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. Big Sandy brings a talented group led by Molly Herron. The freshman has had an outstanding season and will race the 400 and perhaps is the favorite in the 800. Herron is also part of an outstanding 1,600-meter relay team for the Pioneers. The Chester/Joplin-Inverness Hawks’ best chance to score points will come from Kate Graff in the pole vault, but also from Brittnee Theel in the hurdles.
In the girls team race, North Star does have a strong chance to earn a state title, but the Knights will be competing with strong squads from Shields Valley, Charlo, Ennis, Harlowtown-Ryegate, Belt and others.
On the boys side, Chinook might not have won the Northern C Divisional over Fort Benton, but the Beeters certainly have the firepower to earn a trophy at state.
The Beeters will definitely be looked upon as the team to watch in the sprints, with Tyler Molyneaux in the 100, Taylor Erskine in the 200 and Dylan Surber in the 400. Surber will also be a favorite in the 800 meters, and the trio, along with Brandon Riphenburg, will compete for state titles in both the 400 and 1,600-meter relays. On the track, the Beeters also have an excellent distance runner in Kaylan Johnson, while both Tyler Molyneaux and Zach Molyneaux could score points in the discus.
Also coming to the state meet from the Hi-Line is standouts like North Star’s Connor Kline. Kline qualified in three events, including the pole vault, but his best chance at state glory is in both hurdle events. Turner’s Travis Hofer is entered in the long jump and triple jump, while Chester/J-I has Brandon Graff in the pole vault and high jump and Erik Kelly in the hurdles.
In the boys race, Chinook will need to dominate the sprints in order to keep pace with Fort Benton and Power, two Northern C rivals. The Charlo Vikings are also a strong contender as is Scobey.
The 2011 Class C state track meet began this morning at Missoula County Stadium and will run through Saturday afternoon.