Heberly, Pony jumpers pace boys to team title
The Havre High boys track and field jumped out to a commanding 71-point lead in the first six events Friday at the Central A Divisional Track and Field meet. The Pony boys kept jumping Saturday to claim the Central A Divisional title with 192 points, 107 more than runner-up Belgrade High at the Havre Middle School track.
Running and jumping were the operative words for the Ponies over the two-day meet, as they put together a quality team performance by dominating the sprints and jumps while capturing first in 11 of the 17 events. The Ponies qualified 13 boys for the two-day Class A state track and field championships slated to begin Friday morning in Missoula.
"A lot of our kids had a two week rest, and we worked a lot on technique and form, and they were ready to peak at that time," said Pony head coach John Ita. "The Central A Division was down a little bit this year, as far as the competition. We went up against a lot of kids who were younger, sophomores and such.
"When you compare us with the kids in the East and West, our kids compare very well. When we go down to state this weekend, the kids will be able to compete well and have fun."
Senior Steve Heberly performed as expected, capturing the 400 meter title on Friday and the 100-and 200-meter titles Saturday afternoon. Heberly also anchored the 400-meter relay team to first place to get the boys meet going Saturday morning. In that race, he showed why he is considered the top sprinter in the state when he blew by three other runners in the final leg of the race. Heberly capped off the day by anchoring the 1,600-meter relay team to a first-place finish to end the meet.
But Heberly wasn't alone, as Havre runners finished on his heels in each of the sprints and six other Ponies grabbed individual titles in the meet. In the 100-meter finals Saturday afternoon, Havre's Steve Harman nabbed third and Joey Howland grabbed fifth.
Matching Heberly's effort in the 100 Friday was Kasey Barsotti, who claimed the 3,200-meter title.
Havre High kicked the jumping portion of the meet early with first- and second-place finishes in the high jump Friday. Eric Vosen took the title with a leap of 5-11, followed by Anthony Bonavita, who tied with Jeremy Skates of Belgrade for second at 5-10.
"I was very happy for Eric Vosen to win that high jump like that," Ita said. "He just competes so hard. Bonvita will be ready for state. He has the potential to go 6-4. Vosen has the potential to go 6 feet or 6-2, too, if he can pop one."
Havre's long jumpers did just as well with Steve Harman taking the title with an outstanding leap of 21 feet 10 inches. Curt Leeds captured third for the Ponies with a jump of 20-9.
Scott Robinson provided a pleasant surprise to Havre track fans Friday. Robinson did what he was expected to do on the track in leading Jeff Sprinkle and Evan Olson to a first-through-third sweep of the 800-meter run and jockeying for third in the 400. But it was his performance in a field event that had some diehard fans raising a few eyebrows. Robinson, who only began throwing discus and javelin in the last few weeks, uncorked a throw of 142-9 to take second in the discus Friday.
"I was surprised by the 142-9 because my best throw (before) was 120," said Robinson, whose older brother Jeramie threw discus for the Ponies in the late '90s. "I picked up on the form. It was just another event to do for the team. It looked like fun so I decided to try them out."
Robinson's throw of 153-7 in the javelin two weeks ago at Lewistown would have taken second place Saturday. Instead, he failed to make the finals.
"I think the wind had a lot to do with it," Robinson said. "I'm not used to the wind and I didn't have great form."
Havre, which had been shut out most the year in the weight events, got a surprise boost Saturday from Robinson's teammate, Levi Briese.
Briese, who was forced to forgo running track this season because he broke his ankle while celebrating on the ice after the Havre Ice Hawks won the state championship, took up the shot, discus and javelin about three weeks ago. He came through with a throw of 132-6, good for fifth in the javelin.
"The kid I was really pleased for was Levi Briese," Ita said. "First off, he made the finals in the shot put and then he qualified for state in the javelin. He has worked so hard and I was just really pleased for him."
But it was the jumpers and runners who continued to please the hometown fans and score the majority of points.
Robinson was among his teammates' biggest fans. "Did you see Curt Leeds' triple jump?" he asked just moments after scoring six more points with a third in the 200. "We've had a lot of first places."
Leeds outdistanced the field by 2 feet, sailing 43-10 . His teammate Justin Kegel finished fifth with a distance of 39-10 despite scratching six times.
The Ponies also got a solid effort from the pole vaulting tandem of Mark Benjamin and Joey Howland. They were the only two jumpers left after 12 feet. Howland had just one close attempt at the height, while Benjamin cleared it on his second attempt to take first place. Benjamin then had the bar raised to 13 feet, but missed on all three attempts, missing by the narrowest of margins on his second attempt.
Barsotti came back Saturday to take third in the 1,600 meters behind a pair Browning runners. Fellow Pony Jeff Sprinkle was right behind finishing fourth. Bonavita also picked up four points for the Ponies and qualifed for state in the 110-meter hurdles by finishing fourth.
The only two events in which the Ponies were shut out were the shot put and the 300-meter hurdles.
With points at a premium at the state meet, Ita said he'll have the fastest kids running in the relays when it comes down to crunch time in Missoula.
"We'll do what we have to do to qualify in the relays, do what we have to do to get into the finals," Ita said, "But in the finals, we'll have the fastest kid doing the running."
A perfect example would be Robinson, who didn't participate in any of the relays in this meet, but had most of the season.
"You can only do five events at divisional, so I didn't run the relays, but I can run them at state," Robinson said, who credited the Pony coaching staff for his and the team's performance. "I have (Noel) Henderson for the 800, (Jim) Gabriel for the discus, (Mark) West for the sprints, (Troy) Purcell for the javelin and head coach Ita. The coaching is terrific; we have great coaches."