By Kent Dolezal
MISSOULA Coming off of two consecutive second-place finishes, Blue Pony senior triple jumper Matt Kegel knew what he wanted to accomplish at this years Class A state track and field championships last weekend at Dornblaser Stadium on the campus of the University of Montana.
I knew my goal, and I got it, Kegel said after the triple jump finals Saturday. Kegel began the competition with a statement. He sailed in his first attempt with a jump almost to the 47 foot flag, only to have scratched by less than two inches. Kegels next attempt, a respectable 44-10, set the early mark to beat.
On his third jump in the preliminaries, everything clicked for Kegel. He hit the toe board almost perfectly, leaping 46-0. Kegel entered the final round with the top mark, but he and everyone in the crowd knew that Polsons Trevor Gunlock had also came close to that same mark.
It was nerve racking, Kegel said on waiting to see if his 46-0 was enough for the state championship. I was praying to God that the wind would come and blow in our face, so we couldnt get it.
The wind did change, causing Kegel to pass on his first jump in the finals. His second jump was a run-through scratch Gunlock, who qualified second for the finals, had his longest jump of the day on his final attempt 44-2. Kegel had at long last locked the title.
It didnt bother me, said Havre jumps coach John Ita, watching Gunlocks last attempts to catch Kegel. If someone else wants to jump 46-0, Kegel is going to jump 46-2. Hes just real competitive today, and it was his all the way.
Kegel wasnt the only Blue Pony to leave his or her mark on this years state tournament. Havre High saw several personal bests for its athletes and plenty of gutsy performances.
Laura Watson, a senior, captured second in the 200-meter dash and third in the 800-meter run. Watson qualified third in the 200 Friday with a time of 26.60 seconds. With the late day heat on Saturday, Watson completed her final with a :26.91.
In the 800 final run Friday, Watson was in second place when the racers were allowed to break to the rail at three quarters of a lap. She held that position until the final scratch, where she was edged by Whitney Lange of Columbia Falls from the second spot. Watson and Lange were given the same finishing time of 2:21.70, but Lange was awarded the silver medal by the meet officials.
Distance coach Noel Henderson, who was handling all the runners with the absence of sprint coach Carla Beattie due to a wedding, stated that Watson got a great start in the 200. It wasnt surprising to me, but she may may have surprised some people.
She had a great closing to a great career, Henderson said. She waited a long time for this. She worked hard in the weight room and the track.
LaShae Michels went five inches farther than she ever had before in the triple jump to capture third at 34-8. In the boys long jump, Kegel and Ryan Evans fourth and fifth, respectively, had jumps of 21-1 and 20-10.
Ita said it was privilege to coach athletes like Michels, Kegel and Evans along with his other state-qualifying jumpers Jake Dusek and Erin Patera. They just came out and performed, Ita said. Not every coach gets to coach athletes like that.
Havres 400-meter relay of Adam Langraf, Jarrod Wirt, Brent Finneman and Kegel turned in a bronze-medal performance at :44.20, eclipsing their seasons best in the process.
Our time was really good, Wirt said. We could have had better handoffs, but that is the way it goes.
It definitely plays a big part for me, Finneman said of the team event in an otherwise individual competition. I like working with my other teammates and being associated with them. A really good aspect of track is the individuality, but this is definitely a plus.
Without Miss Beattie, we wouldnt have been able to do what we did, Landgraf said of the teams coach who unfortunately could not be at the meet. She believed in us and she really helped us. She had great plans for us, and it all came true today.
Havres contingent of throwers was well represented. Jessie Suek finished fourth in the discus with a toss of 150-4.
Jeramie Robinson ended the year fifth in the shot put with a 48-2. Jeramie really had to fight to come back, said weight coach Jim Gabriel. I think his last throw was 48-2. If he would have had a couple more throws, he would have been right up there. He was kind of working into his form.
Shaylee OConnell had a personal best throw of 35-7. She entered the finals qualified in seventh and was unable to improve on her placing.
Another hard-luck seventh-place finisher was distance specialist Jennie Peterson. Peterson ended one spot from a medal in both the 1600 and 3200. Henderson said Petersons 5:28 in the 1600 is third in the Blue Pony track Hall of Fame. A couple years ago, that time would have been third in state.
Havre also saw Chris Springer and Erin Lynch run the distances for the Ponies in the 3200 and 800, respectively.
Landgraf, Wirt, Finneman and Kegel also teamed up for the 1600-meter relay, racing to a team best, three seconds better than ever before, but finshed out of the top six.
The girls 400 relay of Patera, Lynch, Michels and Jami Brandon were unable to find a medal in their final. Patera, Lynch, Watson and Michels ran the 1600 relay, but were unable to qualify for the final.
Jeri Matter and Amy Ranes, both freshmen, represented the Ponies in the high jump. I called them over and they were just shaking. They were so nervous, Ita said. Just to come here and experience it. It will get a little easier each year.
Matter and Ranes each cleared the opening height of 4-8, the highest opening jump they had faced all year, but were unable to find a way to make 5-0.
Havre was beset by injuries to some of its top athletes, Finneman, Watson, Kegel and hurdler Steve Wilson. With the injuries and Havres relay teams in contention, Watson and Kegel were scratched the 400 and Finneman from the 100.
We want to exemplify the fact that they run when they are hurt, said head coach Bob Lanning. I really appreciated that, it tells you what kind of people they are.
Wilson ran in the 300-hurdles. He looked strong over the first two barriers, but his tendinitis struck, slowing him considerable. I feel bad for him, Henderson said. Here is a kid that worked hard for four years. At the beginning of the year, he ran some competitive times. He exemplifies what being an athlete is about by his work ethic.
Colstrip ran away with the girls title scoring 110 points, almost doubling second-place Sidneys total. Havre finished with 20 points.
In the boys contest, Butte Central out- sprinted Polson to the title 78 to 72. Havre tallied 28 team points.
Elsewhere in the tournament, Polsons Bree Fupua broke the all-class state record in the discus with a throw 154-10, shattering the old mark of 149-8 set by Meg Jones of Helena Capital in 1983.
Fuqua was not finished with her record setting, eclipsing the nine-year-old shot put record of 41-1set by Cindy Floyd of Livingston, with a throw of 43-7.
Butte Central set a new boys Class A 1600-meter relay record with blazing time of 3:21.60. The old mark was set in 1993 by Glendive with a 3:22.40.
Leila Ben-Youseff of Sidney broke her year old pole vault record of 11-0 when she cleared 12-3 in front of a standing room only Dornblaser Stadium.