Bringing home the hardware
Vikings ride two relay wins to second-place finish at state meet
The Charlo Vikings put an exclamation point on their most successful season in more than a decade with a second-place finish at the state tournament.
On a rain-soaked Memorial Field in Great Falls Friday and Saturday, the Vikings used two dominant wins in the relays and senior Cody Nitschke’s record-breaking win in the 110 hurdles and second-place finish in the 300s to end a 10-year absence from the podium at the season’s final meet.
The Vikings scored 56 points to finish eight points ahead of the third-place Ennis Mustangs. Joliet scored 89 points to become the 2010 state champions. The Vikings’ second-place plaque was their first trophy from the state meet since finishing third in 1999.
“It was just a good weekend. It was a good season,” Charlo coach Bret Thompson said, adding that this was the first time any of the Vikings had hoisted a divisional trophy, let alone a second-place trophy at the state championship. “I hope it’s contagious. That’s what I’m hoping for. Maybe it will help everything else down the way.”
Thompson and the returning Vikings had little time to savor their silver performance. After watching the 1,600-meter relay team put the finishing touch on the weekend with a more than four-second win in the final race, Thompson said his team was already talking about next year.
“We were sitting there talking about who’s replacing who next year. Who’s going to replace Firestone, who’s going to be willing to work as hard as he does,” Thompson said.
The Vikings entered the tournament with the quickest Class C time in both relays, and they won both races in authoritative fashion. Chance Firestone, Chico Stipe, Austin Bauer and Nitschke improved on the 400-meter relay school record they set earlier in the year by finishing in 44.44 seconds. Firestone, Chance Rosenbaum, Stipe and Nitschke finished the 1,600 relay in 3:32.11 more than two seconds quicker than their divisional-winning time and four seconds quicker than the second-place Chinook team.
Unlike the other teams that featured a star and three other runners, the Vikings ran even splits on their relays.
“It’s like Chico (Stipe) was saying. ‘We might not be able to put the fastest kid on the track, but we can put the fastest team on the track,’ and that’s what we did,” Thompson said.
Charlo was the quickest team on the track – all their points came on the track except for eight points for a third and fifth-place finish in the pole vault – especially in the hurdles. During a downpour Friday, Nitschke broke the 15-second mark for the first time in the 110 hurdles to win his heat, but that was just the beginning.
“I wasn’t ready two years ago,” said Nitschke, who sat out last year with a knee injury. “I’m ready this year, I’m ready to rock.”
On Saturday with a little better weather, Nitschke won the 110s with a time of 14.89 seconds, which is the quickest time in Charlo history. Charlo sophomore Stephen Delaney battled back from a slow start to finish in sixth with a time of 16.26 seconds.
On Friday, running in the inside lane for the first time this season in the 300 hurdles, Nitschke finished in 40.75 seconds to place second. Delaney won his heat, to place fifth with a time of 42.59 seconds.
Firestone finished third in the pole vault for the fourth year in a row by clearing the bar set at 12 feet. Firestone has consistently cleared 12-6 this season and 13 feet at times, but the steady rain made that nearly impossible Friday.
“I should have got second, but the weather wasn’t cooperating...It was just hard to hold onto the pole. I almost slipped off one time and the next time I was so nervous I just hit the bar,” Firestone said.
Rosenbaum finished tied for fifth with his 11-foot, 6-inch vault. He also finished sixth in the 800 with a time of 2:06.1.
Thompson said you don’t finish second at the state meet, without some surprises and their surprise performance came from Michael Smith. Smith finished fourth in the 3,200 with a time of 10:32.54, breaking his own school record he set at last week’s divisional meet. Smith’s fourth-place finish in the 3,200 was really no surprise, since breaking the 19-year-old school record in the race at the district meet, he has steadily improved on his time. The 1,600 was where Smith astounded his coach. After staying with Rosenbaum the first three laps, Smith pulled away from the teammate he had never beaten in the final lap to finish in fifth with a personal-best time of 4:47.96.
While the Vikings’ relay teams came in as clear favorites, the Lady Vikings’ teams finished only third at divisionals and were longshots to place at the meet, but the Lady Vikings’ 1,600 team of Dawn Blevins, Stephanie Maughan, Brittani Shaver and Rachel Hoyt pulled off probably the biggest surprise of the meet in the final race.
Running in the slow heat, the four shaved about six seconds off their divisional time to finish in second place with a time of 4:16.64.
“For me, I was like this is the last 400 I’m ever going to run in my life, so I better make it a good one,” said Stephanie Maughan, the only senior on the team. “For everybody else, they just knew it was state and that kind of pumps you up and gets you going.”
Maughan also tied for sixth in the pole vault.
The Lady Vikings’ short relay team of Schaelyn Fell, Deondra Brown, Maughan and Hoyt finished in fifth with a personal-best time of 53.39.
Fell, a junior, finished fourth in the 100 hurdles with a time of 16.8 seconds, one spot higher than her finish at last year’s state meet.
After missing most of the season with an ACL injury, senior Jaris Kelley finished second in the pole vault by clearing 9 feet, a height she hasn’t been able to clear this season. After missing on her first two attempts at 8 feet, 6 inches, Kelley cleared it on the final attempt to ensure her of her highest finish in the pole vault.
“I knew I could make it, I was upset the I kept missing it... It was just like yeah I got it, I was waiting for 9 feet to come up,” Kelley said.