Showdown looms in boys 100 and 200 between Heberly and Colstrips Harris
By Jason Shoot
All the practices, all the meets, all the bumps and bruises will culminate this weekend as the Class A state track meet opens Friday at MetraPark in Billings.
Havre has an outside chance to win boys or girls team titles or at least place high in the team standings, but coach John Ita believes his athletes must achieve personal bests in order to do either.
The Central A Divisionals last weekend in Butte gave a preview of what to look forward to from the Ponies at state. Havre's girls demonstrated a great deal of team-wide depth and the boys once again flexed their muscles in running events.
In the girls' meet, "They know they have to turn in the same kind of performance (as at divisionals)," Ita said of his team that claimed the team championship by a convincing 14 points. "We have to have other teams help us and give us a break. The girls just have to step up.
"At this point our goal is to go down and pr (set a new personal record). If they pr then they'll probably place, and we can come home with a medal."
Divisionals did provide a few disappointments for the Havre girls in a few events, slightly impairing the team at this event.
"Lashae (Michels) false-started in the 200, and we didn't get Mellisa Haymaker in the discus," Ita said. "(The high jump) caught us all off-guard. We could have had four girls going to state or we could have had none.
"We almost had none because the 300 hurdles happens at the same time. Brooke (Schwan) had to come back and jump 4-foot-10 to qualify."
Michels will get a chance to defend her state title in the triple jump, but she also has a great opportunity to get a second victory if she can sneak out a victory in the long jump.
Michels finished second at divisionals in the long jump after Dillon's Julie Lenegar set the meet record with a jump of a half-inch better than 18 feet. Michels's top jump was 16-9 3/4, and her personal best is 17-5.
"But state is an all-new ballgame," Ita said. "(Lenegar's) first jump was just a wonderful jump, and she pr'd by almost a foot. If you look at the girl's jumps after that, they were like 16-4, 16-5. She just nailed a really good one.
"Lashae's been at state for four years; she knows what can happen. She's ready to break out a long one. If she pr's, that should do her."
Havre's 400 relay team set a meet record at divisionals with a time of 50.6, and those four girls are seeking a first-place trophy in that event this weekend. The Ponies finished two-tenths of a second ahead of Anaconda for the win.
"They do a nice job," Ita said. "We got a good start out of Schwan, and Lashae runs a nice corner. Rylee (O'Connell) runs a nice straightaway, and Alyssa (Matter) did a great job finishing against the Anaconda girl. Alyssa relaxed and just battled. It was an awesome race."
Jen Peterson is the defending champ in the 3,200, but Ita said this year's times "are about 30 seconds behind last year's." Ita still has no doubts she'll be in the hunt for a first-place finish.
"(Assistant coach) Noel Henderson is disappointed in the girls' distance times, but I've got a lot of trust in Noel, and he has a lot of trust in the athletes," Ita said. "He'll get (Peterson) through it. She may run the race of a lifetime."
In the boys' meet, if the cards fall right, a classic battle could ensue in the 100 and 200, where Havre's defending state champ, Steve Heberly, will be pitted against Colstrip's Tuff Harris.
Harris showcased blazing speed in the 100 and 200 at the Eastern A Divisionals, shattering meet records in both events.
Harris finished the 100 in a staggering 10.68 seconds and the 200 in 21.62 seconds at divisionals. His 100 time is 34-hundredths of a second ahead of Heberly's time at divisionals, and the 200 time is 73-hundredths of a second ahead of the Blue Pony standout's divisional time.
"They're putting their fast horse against our fast horse," Ita said. "The young man from Colstrip has impressive times. But so many things can happen we don't know what the conditions are going to be."
Ita said he plans on making a change in the 400 relay, placing Brent Finneman in the event in favor of Jared Gabriel. Finneman has been struggling through injuries most of this season but is finally ready to compete.
"Jared Gabriel got us all the way to state, and he's going as an alternate," Ita said. "What a great attitude on this kid, who knew he was getting us to state and was then going to have to take a backseat. That's what being a track athlete is all about."