What I’ll be watching: Divisional track and field meets

Missoula Sentinel’s Rylan Ortt finished runner-up in the javelin at the 2018 State AA meet. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)

High school divisional track and field meets kicked off on Thursday and continue throughout the weekend.

These meets represent the last chances for athletes to qualify for state – whether it be by hitting qualifying standards or by placing high enough at their respective divisional meet to earn a berth at state.

Some phenomenal head-to-head battles should take place across the state this weekend. Kalispell Glacier’s Evan Todd and Missoula Sentinel’s Rylan Ortt have been the two best javelin throwers in Montana this season and both are in the top 10 nationally.

Huntley Project’s Bradley Graves has been atop the 110-meter hurdles throughout the season, but he’ll meet another one of Class B’s best hurdlers at the Southern B divisional meet in Townsend’s Kameron Rauser. How fast can these two push each other?

The Eastern AA divisional meet will feature several of Class AA’s best female distance runners. Billings Senior’s Tiahna Vladic and Bozeman’s Terra Trom will headline a crowded field.

Baker’s Wrenzi Wrzesinski looks like she’ll finally get the head-to-head matchup against Huntley Project freshman Macee Murphy. Wrzesinski and Murphy are the only two Class B girls to run the 100-meter hurdles in less than 16 seconds and are also 1-2 in Class B in the long jump.

With state track and field meets right around the corner, here are the athletes and matchups I’ll be watching on divisional meet weekend.

Eastern AA

  • Four of Class AA’s top five 110-meter hurdlers will potentially meet at the Eastern AA divisional meet in Bozeman on Friday and Saturday. Billings Skyview’s Caden Olsen leads the pack with a time of 14.95 seconds, but can Billings West’s Jaromey Coomes and Peter Demars and Bozeman’s Joe Olson join Skyview’s Olsen as Class AA’s only sprinters to run the 110 hurdles in less than 15 seconds?
  • Some tremendous distance runners will take to the track at the Eastern AA divisional meet in Bozeman on Friday and Saturday. Leading that field will be Billings Senior’s Tiahna Vladic and Bozeman’s Terra Trom. Vladic has the advantage over Trom in the 1,600-meter run this season, but Trom holds the edge in the 800-meter run. Vladic and Trom will likely run a pair of thrilling races.

Western AA

  • Kalispell Glacier’s Evan Todd and Missoula Sentinel’s Rylan Ortt are not only the two best javelin throwers in Montana, they’re among the best in the entire nation as they each rank inside the top 10. Todd and Ortt finished 1-2 at the State AA meet last year and look destined for the same positions this year. Ortt had the lead over Todd this season until Todd’s throw on May 9. Can Ortt overtake Todd again at the Western AA divisional meet in Helena on Friday and Saturday with just a week remaining in the season?
  • Missoula Sentinel’s Ashley McElmurry and Lauren Heggen are also among the best in the country. The triple jumpers are likely going to save their best for the State AA meet in Kalispell next weekend, but they’ve both already hit the 40-foot mark this season. Athletes like these two don’t come around often, so don’t miss them perform if you have the chance.

Eastern A

  • Laurel’s Levi Taylor has been shattering school records once held by former Laurel great Patrick Casey. Taylor holds the top times in Montana in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs and will be a heavy favorite in all three at the Eastern A divisional meet in Belgrade Friday and Saturday. In the 800, though, Taylor will likely face Lewistown’s Tanner Trafton. Last time these two went head to head was the John Polich Invitational in Miles City on May 4, where Taylor set a new state best in the 800 and Trafton finished just 1.6 seconds behind. Another thrilling race will likely be on tap.
  • Lewistown’s Zimmer sisters have led Class A in the shot put all season long. Sophomore Kylie even broke the Midland Roundtable Top 10 meet record in the event earlier in May, while senior Anna is No. 2 in Class A. Kylie and Anna are the only two Class A girls to throw farther than 40 feet in the shot put this season. They’ll both have their sights set on the State A record, but an Eastern A divisional title will likely be earned by one of the sisters at the divisional meet in Belgrade on Friday and Saturday.

Western A

  • Class A’s top five boys long jumpers will all potentially face off at the Western A divisional meet in Butte on Friday and Saturday. Dillon has three representatives in the top five – Alfred Peterson, Zach Ingram and Zane Johnson. Frenchtown sophomore Jace Klucewich, though, is one that I’ll have my eye on. Klucewich has the classification’s second-longest mark, but he has the fastest times in the 100- and 200-meter dashes in Class A. His speed and explosiveness could translate to a monster long jump mark this weekend against some of Class A’s best.
  • Polson senior Bea Frissell is the defending State A champion in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, but Hamilton sophomore Brynnli Poulsen could keep Frissell from repeating. Frissell currently owns Class A’s best times in the 1,600 and 3,200, while Poulsen is No. 2. Poulsen has the better time in the 800-meter run, though it’s by just .54 seconds. Frissell and Poulsen will likely battle at the Western A divisional meet in Butte on Friday and Saturday, but that will just be a preview of their showdown at the State A meet in Laurel next week.

Southern B

  • Huntley Project’s Bradley Graves has been the best 110-meter hurdler in Montana throughout the season and holds the state’s top time at 14.64 seconds. Graves, though, will face another tremendous talent at the Southern B divisional meet in Laurel on Thursday, as Townsend senior Kameron Rauser will likely be in the field. Rauser has Class B’s No. 2 time in the 110 hurdles this season, but can he join Graves as the only Class B boys to run it faster than 15 seconds?
  • Baker’s Wrenzi Wrzesinski has completely dominated both hurdles races in Class B the past few seasons, but she’ll likely get her toughest test at Thursday’s Southern B divisional meet in Laurel, as Huntley Project’s Macee Murphy should run with Wrzesinski. Murphy is the only Class B girl other than Wrzesinski to run the 100-meter hurdles in less than 16 seconds. Murphy and Wrzesinski are also 1-2 in the Class B long jump. If you’re in Laurel on Thursday, don’t miss these two phenomenal athletes going at it.

Northern B

  • Fairfield sprinters Dawson Allen and Ryder Meyer have consistently posted some of Class B’s fastest times in the 100-meter dash this season, with Allen ranking No. 4 and Meyer at No. 6. The two will likely be pushing each other at the Northern B divisional meet in Glasgow on Saturday. Can Allen and Meyer leapfrog into the top three of Class B sprinters and pose a real threat to Big Timber’s Casey Gunlikson?
  • Cut Bank’s Kamdyn Molenda and Malta’s Erica Smith have been among the best long and triple jumpers in Class B this season. They’ll likely be the favorites at the Northern B divisional meet in Glasgow on Saturday. Molenda and Smith are two of only six Class B girls with a long jump farther than 16 feet. They’ll look to be the first girls to jump 17 feet. Smith, whose best triple jump is 34 feet, 11.25 inches, will look to join Huntley Project freshman Macee Murphy as the only Class B girls to triple jump 35 feet this season.

Western B

  • Troy senior Hunter Leighty has been among the top Class B sprinters this season and will have a chance to prove he’s the best the Western B has to offer at the divisional meet in Missoula on Thursday and Friday. Leighty will need to best Missoula Loyola’s Hunter Mahan in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, though. Mahan has an edge over Leighty in the 200, but Leighty has better times in the 100 and 400. Leighty can push himself into the elite category of Class B sprinters with strong performances at the divisional meet this weekend.
  • The Bigfork girls have won back-to-back State B girls track titles, but the Valkyries have lost a lot of firepower from those teams. Senior Jordan Nelson, though, is coming on at the right time of the year. She recently qualified for the State B meet in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, joining Baker’s Wrenzi Wrzesinski as the only Class B girls qualified in all three events. Nelson will be relied upon heavily to anchor Bigfork’s team success at the State B meet in Kalispell.

Eastern C

  • Scobey has a handful of sprinters that will likely contribute toward the Spartans’ postseason success. Martin Farver leads Class C with a time of 11.11 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 22.68 seconds in the 200-meter dash. He’s also No. 2 in the 400-meter dash and No. 4 in the 110-meter hurdles. Teammate Max Cole is No. 6 in the 100 and No. 5 in the 110 hurdles, and Brandon Machart is No. 5 in the 400. Scobey also has the No. 4 400-meter relay team in Class C. The sprinters in Scobey can flat out fly and could lead the Spartans to the Eastern C divisional title Thursday in Lambert.
  • Plentywood freshman Liv Wangerin and Hinsdale sophomore Kaitlyn McColly have been among the best athletes in eastern Montana throughout the season. Wangerin and McColly will likely meet in both the long jump and triple jump at the Eastern C divisional meet in Lambert on Thursday. Both rank inside the top six in the long jump and top five in the triple jump.

Southern C

  • Melstone’s Brody Grebe has qualified for the State C meet in six individual events but will have to trim that to five. He’s the only Class C boy with a long jump of 22 feet this season, he has Class C’s No. 4 shot put throw and is in the top seven in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Grebe is one of the finest all-around athletes in Montana and will put his plethora of skills on display Thursday at the Southern C divisional meet in Laurel.
  • Bridger’s Jessica Adkins has been among the best Class C girls discus and javelin throwers this season. She ranks No. 4 in the discus and is just two and a half feet from the No. 2 spot. While only two athletes have qualified for the State C meet in the girls javelin, Adkins is on the cusp and could hit the qualifying standard with a good day at the Southern C divisional meet in Laurel on Thursday.

Northern C

  • Class C’s top two shot put throwers will go head to head at the Northern C divisional meet in Great Falls on Thursday, as Geraldine’s Mavrick McKinlay and Great Falls Central’s Noah Ambuehl will square off. Just half an inch separates McKinlay from Ambuehl on the Class C performance list. These two, along with Melstone’s Brody Grebe, will be favorites at the State C meet in Laurel next week.
  • Winnett-Grass Range junior Zoe Delaney is as good as they come. Delaney leads Class C this season in the 200- and 400-meter dashes, as well as the 800-meter run. Delaney has plenty of postseason success in her high school career, having won State C titles in the 100 and 400 last year and the 200 her freshman year. Delaney could post some tremendous times at the Northern C divisional meet in Great Falls on Thursday.

Western C

  • Seeley-Swan’s boys have been completely dominant on the track this season. Logan Robinson and Hunter Shelmerdine lead the pack of sprinters for the Blackhawks and will be stars to watch at the divisional and state meets. Seeley-Swan has also boasted the best 400-meter relay team in Class C this season, but it will have a tough test against Manhattan Christian at the Western C divisional meet in Missoula on Thursday and Friday. Manhattan Christian ranks No. 2 in the 400-meter relay and will have a shot at overtaking No. 1 Seeley-Swan.
  • Charlo and Seeley-Swan have two of the best girls teams in Class C and will likely both be competing for the State C team title in Laurel next week. Charlo is led by Carlee Fryberger and Caitlin Cox. Fryberger has been excellent in the sprints and the hurdles, while Cox has stood out in the long jump and triple jump. Keep an eye on those two, along with Seeley-Swan’s Terra Bertsch and Klaire Kovatch. Bertsch is among the best hurdlers and pole vaulters in Class C, while Kovatch is far and away Class C’s best discus thrower.
Alec Bofinger

Alec Bofinger

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