By Kim Staudinger
Saturday marked the first track meet for many area schools, but the KG KouGars looked like seasoned veterans. The KouGars easily won the boys' title with 50 more points than their second-place opponent.
KG had 147 points, Havre came in second with 97 points, and Fort Benton was third with 59 points.
The KouGars, along with nearly every other team at the Chinook Invitational Track Meet at Havre Middle School, have had limited practices outside. But packed with numerous upperclassmen, including eight seniors, the KouGars let their veterans take charge.
"We're bringing a lot of juniors and seniors back from the last couple of years, so we're pretty old, pretty well experienced," KG coach Butch Marshall said.
That, coupled with a pure passion for the sport, may have made the difference for the KouGars, who have won three consecutive state titles.
" these kids just love track and field," Marshall said.
Senior Aaron Smith raced to two first-place finishes for KG. Smith edged out Havre's Garrett Watson and Jeff Sprinkle for first in the 1600-meter run and coasted to a win in the 3200-meter run. Smith's time in the 1600 was 4 minutes 41.79 seconds, with Watson at 4:44.19 and Sprinkle at 4:45.26. Havre's Kasey Barsotti finished in fourth in the 1600 with a time of 4:59.14. Smith finished the 3200 in 10:18.60.
Both of KG's relay teams also sprinted to first-place finishes in the 100-meter relay in a time of 46.35 and the 400-meter relay in 3:42.71.
Thomas Marshall, Robbie Gomke, Roger Larson and Casey Crites also earned first-place finishes for the KouGars. Marshall finished first in the 110-meter hurdles in 15.80 seconds, Gomke placed first in the shot put with a throw of 45 feet, Larson finished first in the 400 in 54.19, and Crites took first in the high jump with a jump of 6 feet. Larson added a second-place finish in the 200 in 23.93 behind Fort Benton's Loren Utterback. Crites also finished second in the 100-meter dash in 11.20 behind Havre's Steve Heberly (10.90) and fourth in the 200 in 24.10.
On the girls' side, the Wolves dominated both the Cut Bank and Wolf Point Wolves. Havre finished third and Chester was fourth.
Junior javelin phenom Kim Berg of KG provided excitement with a throw of 136-5. Berg, who was ranked in the top five nationally last year, is coming off knee surgery from the basketball season. Marshall said the state is switching to a heavier javelin the same weight the colleges use. Last year Berg had a throw of 149, which placed her in the top five nationally. This year, Marshall said, he expects Berg's throw of 136 to be one of the top also.
KG hosts its invitational meet Wednesday at Havre Middle School. Nearly 20 Class C teams will be at the meet, which starts at 10:30 a.m.. The Havre JV team also will be at the meet.
Havre's next varsity meet is Tuesday in Great Falls, followed by Saturday in Havre. Chinook will also be at the Havre Invitational at Havre Middle School. The invite is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.