Spring sports just wouldn’t be the same around here, if it didn’t start out with at least one cancelation.
That is the case for the Havre High boys and girls track teams as their first meet of the season has been cancelled. The Central A Blue Ponies were scheduled to face a tough field this weekend at the Cut Bank Invitational, but instead the Ponies will remain home. The meet will still take place in Cut Bank, but Monday’s snowstorm put a damper on the Ponies' practice plans, forcing them to cancel and resulting in not enough practices for the entire squad.
The Ponies started practicing as soon as the MHSA rules would allow, but it is also a MHSA’s 10 practice rule that is keeping them home this weekend.
But heading into a new season, with a trimmed down roster, HHS is still filled with competitors and is looking forward to an exciting season.
There are about 50 total athletes making up the roster this season. And while the total is down from last years’ 75 athletes, the Ponies are still confident they have the components necessary to compete with the biggest squads such as the
league leading Belgrade Panthers and Lewistown Golden Eagles. The Panthers and Eagles were the No. 1 and No. 2 teams respectively on the girls and boys side last season. Both HHS squads finished as the No. 3 team a season ago.
“Our numbers are down a little from last year,” Havre High head coach Trever VanCampen said. “But we don’t have the kids who were there to just be there either. As far as competitive kids go, we are about where we were last year. We have a nice team, and the team aspect is present at all of our practices so far.
“We also have quite a few new faces this year,” VanCampen added. “Both for the boys and girls teams. A lot of them were successful in junior high, and some of them are new to the sport and trying out for the first time. But they are all quality athletes and we look for them to compete and help out the team wherever they can.”
Six of the returning Ponies who earned a trip to the state meet last season lead the way. For the girls, Peyton Filius (800-meter and 1,600-meter) and Sammy Evans (200-meter, triple jump and 400-meter) qualified. Thurman Holdsclaw (pole vault), Zach Plum (pole vault) and Mason Case (100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter) headline the returning boys.
Joe DeVries (throwing events), Trent Nystrom, Marc Klimas (distance), Garrett Agiuillard (distance), Kade Rismon (throwing events), Michael Richards, Thomas Gruber (pole vault) and Tyson Kultgen (sprints) also return as leaders for the Ponies. And for the girls, Kaylie Gillman, Lacey Waid, Hailey Ohm, Jennifer Nordgulen, Ashlynn VanVoast (middle distance/relays), Neya Bischoff (throwing events) and Karly Klimas (thowing events) also return as HHS key athletes.
The team has already come together and grown a lot this season according to VanCampen, and if they want to be successful, that is going to be key. Individual goals are always important, but if the team wants to succeed as a whole, those individuals need to build towards the team goal. And with the team goal being to qualify as many kids for the state meet as possible, and to compete for a team trophy this season, so far so good.
Competing in several different events week in and week out is crucial.
The Ponies have solid talent on the roster, and they are looking to utilize all of it, all the time. VanCampen has already talked a lot in practice about kids stepping up and making the extra effort, needing them to compete in as many events possible in every meet, not just their specialty.
“We really want to compete as a team and score points where we can,” VanCampen said. “That means trying new events so that maybe we can score in areas that we may not score in otherwise. And the kids have already been willing to go the extra mile, and the team has really grown and matured from last year. The kids we have are willing to step up for the team, they are all willing to step up and be leaders, especially our older kids.
“We want to get as many kids qualified for the state meet this year,” VanCampen added. “We now go by the qualifying standards, so we can try to get kids qualified for state even before the divisional meet. But we want to compete at state as a team, individual goals are still important and the kids will work hard for them, but we really want to bring home some hardware and trophies this year.”
The Ponies have a long and tough schedule ahead of them, but that means plenty of chances to qualify for state. And now, instead of just the top five divisional placers moving ahead to state, the Class A is following the Class AA and using the qualifying standards set prior to the start of the season, and accepted by the MHSA. The top five placers at divisionals will still advance to state as well.
This season the Ponies will compete in Lewistown, Belgrade, Malta, Whitefish and in Glasgow for the Top 10 meet. But the Ponies will also host meets on April 14, April 17 and May 5. North Star will also host a meet in Havre on April 3. This gives the Ponies plenty of time to utilize the qualifying standards and place kids into the state meet all season long.
The qualifying standards are set times and marks figured out for each event by averaging times and marks from the last seven state meets. All sixth place times and marks were averaged over the seven years and will now be used this season as qualifying standards. Complete details on the changes can be found on the MHSA website.
With not going to Cut Bank on Saturday, the Ponies' season will begin March 31, when they travel to Lewistown.