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Hi-Line Athlete Profile: Nicole Axtman, Fort Benton Track

Nicole Axtman looks to keep Fort Benton's track and field machine rolling

 

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Fort Benton's Nicole Axtman leaps toward the pit during the Cal Wearley Invitational back in March in Havre. Axtman is part of a loaded Fort Benton girls squad that looks to repeat as District 9C champions today in Havre.

When it comes to local track teams, few have more experience than the Fort Benton girls and one of the Longhorns, most experienced and decorated athletes is junior Nicole Axtman.

Axtman has been a key contributor for the Longhorns the past two years as Fort Benton has racked up team trophies, winning the District 9C title twice, the Northern C Divisional title twice and the Class C state championship back in 2017, before finishing as the runner-up in 2018.

While the Longhorns haven't dominated track meets in 2019 as they have in the past, they have a lot of talented athletes who are ready for another postseason run. Much like in Class C basketball, there are three stages to the postseason in Class C track and for the District 9C, the first leg of that starts today with the 9C track meet, held at the Havre Middle School track.

The objective for Axtman and the Longhorns is first to win a third consecutive team championship, however, it's also important to send as many competitors to the Northern C meet next week, which requires placing in the top five at districts.

"As a team, I think we are super excited," Axtman said of the 9C track meet. "I think with the weather, some of us had some really rough meets and so I think we are excited to go into a meet that really matters."

Dealing with difficult weather conditions is part of being a spring athlete in Montana. But according to Axtman, it had an adverse effect on the Longhorns, who are hoping to peak in the next few weeks with districts, divisionals and state all on the horizon.

Axtman, who is no stranger to postseason accomplishments, will take part in five different events today, hoping to advance to Great Falls for divisionals in each. As an individual, she will run the 100-meter dash, while also competing in the long jump, triple jump and high jump in addition to running the anchor in the 400-meter relay.

Axtman was also the anchor last season at state, when the Longhorns captured the state championship in the 400-relay. She also finished fourth in the triple jump in 2018, after placing fifth in the high long and triple jump as a freshman at state. As well as being a state champion, Axtman is also a three-time divisional champion, claiming the Northern C championship in the triple jump in both 2017 and 2018, as well as winning the high jump last season.

Axtman also enters the 9C track meet as the defending champion in the triple and high jumps and before she and the Longhorns hit the track to defend their titles, the Havre Daily News caught up with her for five questions.

HDN: How do you think your team's past experience and success will help you guys this year?

Axtman: "I think it makes a mental difference. My freshman year when we won state, we didn't really expect to win state. It was like 'Oh my gosh that just happened.' Then getting close and not winning it was really fun. Winning as part of the relay team meant a lot and I think it just made it really easy for us to want to work for it."

HDN: What was it like being part of a state championship relay team?

Axtman: "It definitely makes that relay my favorite event. I run the 100 and I like it but it just makes you have so much more to run for when you are running with three other people. It helps you to realize that you are doing this for everyone else on your team and it was a lot of fun to share winning it with those other people."

HDN: You are the anchor, do you like that role?

Axtman: "Yes I do. I have never had a different leg. Sometimes it's kind of scary because we look at other teams and try to figure out how close they are going to be. A lot can happen in 100 meters. Hopefully, we are ahead and I won't have to pass anybody, but being in the lead and knowing that no one is going to pass me, it's a great feeling. I really do like it."

What was it like crossing the finish line at state last year?

Axtman: "We were really worried about Charlo. We just wanted to try to do our best and when I got the baton, it was kind of close but then I was able to pull away and I remember getting a smile and I was thinking don't smile yet, it's not over. It was a really good feeling."

HDN: What is your goal for this postseason?

Axtman: "This year hasn't been worrying about placing as much as worrying about trying to get a PR (personal record). And I would like to get a really good mark in the triple jump. And then hopefully go into divisionals and state with strong marks and get them even stronger. I would also like to see our relay team PR, and if we could do that, it would be really nice."

 

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