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Twenty years ago, seems like just yesterday

From the Fringe...


Remember when you were a kid, or if you’re a youngster now, and you counted down to Christmas or to your birthday? And because you wanted that day to come so badly, it seemed like the countdown went on forever.

Well, I actually still count down to Christmas because it’s my favorite holiday, but as an adult, time sure doesn’t seem to stand still like it used to. In fact, the years seem to go by faster and faster.

This weekend marks the 20-year reunion for the Havre High Class of 1993. And why am I interested in that? Because I was a member of the Class of ’93. And man, the years sure have gone by fast.

Now, you might want to know what the heck this has to do with sports. So I’ll tell you.

The Class of ’93, like so many other years at Havre High, produced some great sports at HHS. I’m pretty proud to say I was at least a small part of that, and in all honesty, the Class of ’93 was a pretty great class athletically, and there were a lot of great athletic moments from my final year of high school.

Two of the biggest moments from my senior year, which really stand out to me, came in major sports.

In the fall of my senior year, the Havre High football team made the trek to Sidney for a Class A quarterfinal showdown with the Eagles, who at the time, were in the midst of a lengthy unbeaten streak and state title dynasty.

The Ponies didn’t win on that frigid, foggy day, but they gave it one hell of a run. In fact, that was a great football season, and my class was loaded with football talent. We had three Shrine Game players in Shawn Keeley, Jeremy May and Anthony Alvarado, three guys who were absolute beasts on the football field, and a host of all-state level talent, including Shawn Mariani, Nick Compton, Scott Hellman, the late Donny Kuka and so many more.

Oh yeah, and our quarterback, Jason Wirt, he wasn’t too shabby either. He could sling the rock. But it was when football season turned to the hardwood season when Wirt really became a star.

During the 1993 season, Wirt shattered Havre High’s single-game scoring record against Great Falls High, had the highest scoring average for a single season in then Blue Pony history, and became a two-time Class A All-State selection, while also playing in the Montana-Wyoming All-Star Series, before going to college at Montana Tech, then finishing his career at MSU-Northern.

That basketball season turned out to be a lot of fun, too. My class was just two years removed from the infamous 1991 season, a season no one in Havre will ever forget. But our team, loaded with seniors, rolled all the way to an exciting third-place finish at state, including a thrilling last-minute win over Whitefish in the consolation game, a game in which everybody originally thought would decide the state championship that year.

We had a great basketball team that year, led by Wirt and fellow guard Dave Quick, who went on to play some college baseball. We were strong in the post with Alvarado, who wound up playing football on the inaugural MSU-N football team, as well as Chad Wojtowick. And no one from our class should ever forget Scott Larson, who arguably hit one of the biggest shots of the season, a fall-away 3-pointer to keep Havre alive during that state tournament in Butte. I would also be remise not to mention that our ’93 boys basketball team had a strong contingent of juniors, many of whom are my good friends, and they went on to win the state title the following year. But that 1993 basketball season was a classic and one I can remember vividly from the first game of the year, to the final buzzer at the Butte Civic Center when we knocked off Whitefish.

Oh, and our girls were pretty great, too, that year. A state tournament appearance in basketball followed a wild Central A divisional finish in which Havre stunned top-ranked Lewistown and beat Butte Central to make it to state. And we hosted the Central A volleyball tournament for, I believe, the first time that year, and I will never forget getting out of class to go to the gym to cheer the girls, like Rachel Robertson, Jennifer Keller and Christie Fultz in that tournament. We were pretty rowdy volleyball fans back then.

In fact, we were pretty good in a lot of areas. Sheri Payne was a star on the track, and Keeley was known as one of the best sprinters in the state for years. We were good on the golf course, we had some really good distance runners in our class, and we were starting to build a pretty strong wrestling program, even back then. In fact, another very good friend of mine, Bill Bender, reached the 140-pound state title match at the Billings Metra that winter, losing a heartbreaker to arguably one the best Class A wrestlers in the state that year, Josh Perrigo from Laurel. Another friend, Michael Curtis, won multiple gold medals in the swimming pool for the Blue Ponies too.

And if I didn’t mention myself already, by the time I was a senior, I was committed to only playing tennis, and though my state tournament didn’t unfold the way I was hoping, I have no regrets about that part of my high school experience. Speaking of me, 1993 was also the year I realized I wanted to become a sports writer, and that’s another reason it was so special. I actually worked at the very same Havre Daily News I work for now, and got to cover all of my friends playing football and basketball during my senior year.

Talk about things coming full circle.

I should also point out that, even though it’s not a Havre High sport, my class produced some pretty good American Legion baseball players, too. Quick was a standout pitcher, as was Eric Knudson, while Eddie Holgate had a monster summer for the North Stars.

And some guy named Ryan Divish, who wound up being the sports editor at this esteemed newspaper, and is now known for following the Seattle Mariners around the country — I guess he wasn’t too bad of a baseball player either. I mean, not too many kids smash their only career homerun in the last bat of their last regular season home game. But he did, and like Knudson and a few others, he went on to have a strong career at Dickinson State University, before becoming the great journalist he is today.

And giving him all those baseball and journalistic accolades I just did, that should make up for the fact I didn’t mention him among the great football players in our senior class earlier in this column.

Now, that’s a ton of sports memories and athletes I just mentioned. And I know I didn’t mention everybody from my class who probably should have been. But, hey, it’s been 20 years, and when all of us who will gather for our reunion this weekend were in high school, there was no internet, there were no iPads or even digital cameras, so everything I just mentioned is logged in only one place right now, and that’s my brain. And though it went by quickly, I am feeling old and a little more forgetful these days.

Yes, there have been a lot of great years when it comes to sports at Havre High. Many of you will pick your own senior year as your most memorable, and that’s cool, because I’m picking mine too. I have lived through some great times in regards to sports at HHS. I’ll never forget the 1991 sports season, or the 1994 state basketball championship or the 2004 state title in football, and on and on. Those were great moments for me too.

But 1993 was special in so many ways. So many good games, so many great athletes, and most importantly, so many good friends. And while 20 years sounds like a long time, when I stop and take time to reflect on that magical year, it still seems like just yesterday.


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