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Not even close

Vikings run away with Western C Divisional title

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There was no need for the Vikings to win the 1,600-meter relay — the final race of the Western C Divisional Track Meet.

They had already sewn up their first divisional crown in 10 years, but after finishing in fourth place and just off of the podium the past four years, who can blame them if they wanted to make sure? And much like the rest of the two-day tournament, the mile relay wasn’t even close, with the Vikings crossing the finish line nearly five seconds before their nearest competitor to add to their already insurmountable lead.

The Vikings ended up winning six of the 17 events and added six second-place finishes at the Missoula County Stadium Friday and Saturday to rack up 142 points, just 82 more points than the second-place Ennis Mustangs. Sheridan finished in third with 46 points. The 17-team meet was the Vikings’ third meet in a row that they won.

At the start of the season, the first goal that Charlo coach Bret Thompson writes down is to win a state championship, and with such a dominate performance at the divisional meet, the Vikings have a legitimate shot of bringing home their first state championship since 1972.

“But that’s a long ways from here until then,” Thompson said of a possible state championship. “We still have to show up; we still have to keep people healthy; we still have to work hard. Keeping the kids having fun is always key, but winning always makes that a little easier.”

After never winning a divisional event, Viking senior Chance Firestone made sure that didn’t happen in his final divisional meet. The Viking senior took gold in four of his five events. The 400 was Firestone’s only event he didn’t win, and he finished second. On Friday, Firestone won the pole vault by clearing the bar at 12 feet, 6 inches and the long jump with a season-best jump of 20 feet, 2.5 inches. He also teamed up with Chico Stipe, Austin Bauer and Cody Nitschke to win the 400-meter relay with a time of 44.83 seconds and was on the winning 1,600-meter relay Saturday.

After winning the final race of the meet, Firestone said the Vikings’ dominant performance probably makes them a candidate to be state champions, but that hasn’t been their focus.

“Coach just expects us to do good and a bunch of us to make it to state. He just wants us to do our best and have fun with it. That’s what we’re doing, and we’re winning,” Firestone said.

Stipe and Nitschke, who along with Chance Rosenbaum ran on the mile relay, were the other individual champions for the Vikings. 

Stipe finished in front of a strong field in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.53 seconds. Austin Bauer finished in fifth — the final spot to advance to the state tournament. Stipe just missed out of winning the 200-meter dash, finishing second with a time of 24.32 seconds — three hundredths of a second slower than Drummond’s Neil Mannix.

After Stipe’s silver in the 200, a Viking victory was a foregone conclusion, but experience had taught the junior to be cautious. 

“It will be a huge milestone for us because for the past three years, I believe, we’ve been points off from just getting hardware. We’ve been right in the top three the whole meet, all weekend, then when it gets to placing time we miss it by a couple points, so it will be a huge milestone for us to get the win today,” Stipe said.

Nitschke, who set Charlo records in both hurdle races since joining the team past the midway mark, won the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 15.23 seconds. Nitschke finished right in front of sophomore teammate Stephen Delaney, who for the first time in his career beat Hot Springs’ Riley Winebrenner. Viking freshman Tra Ludeman finished sixth in the race, just one spot away from earning a berth to the state tournament in Great Falls this weekend.

In the closest race of the day, Nitschke, who was originally named the winner of the race, finished a hundredth of a second behind Winebrenner in the 300 hurdles. Nitschke finished in 40.12 seconds, breaking the school record he set at the Lake County meet. Delaney, finished in fourth in the 300 with a time of 43:05 seconds.

Rosenbaum, a senior, finished runner-up in three events. He cleared 12 feet to finish behind Firestone in the pole vault – Viking senior Jame Petersen cleared 11 feet, 6 inches to finish fourth and advance to state. Rosenbaum also was second in the 800, with a personal-best time of 2:05.44. He was second in the 1,600, finishing behind Ennis’ Gavin Owens in both races. The Mustang senior had the fastest Class C time in the 1,600 and the second fastest in the 800. 

Michael Smith also finished right behind Owens in the 3,200, another race Owens owns the fastest Class C time in. Smith’s time of 10:33.46 broke the school record he set the week before at the district meet. Smith also finished third in the 1,600.

The Lady Vikings finished fourth with 64 points, just 7.5 points behind Lima and one spot away from the podium. Ennis won the meet with 92.5 points and Shields Valley finished in second with 75 points.

Senior Stephanie Maughan was the only Lady Viking divisional champion, winning the pole vault with a season-best vault of 8 feet, 6 inches – the same height as her second-place vault in the 2008 divisional meet. Lady Viking senior Jaris Kelley also cleared 8 feet, 6 inches to finish in second. She also had a personal-best throw of 109 feet, 11 inches to place third in the javelin.

Lady Viking senior Schaelyn Fell ran a personal-best 16.57 seconds to finish in second in the 100 hurdles. Fell will also compete in the 300 hurdles at the state meet. She finished fifth with a time of 51.55 seconds.

Brittany Shaver finished fourth in the 1,600 with a time of 5:51.31 and fifth in the 800 with a time of 2:29.49, which was a personal best time by nearly 6 seconds.

“I didn’t expect that at all,” Shaver said of her time in the 800. Toward the end of the season, the junior has really turned it on.

“...I had a lot of success and that makes me want to work harder and push myself harder,” Shaver said of her late-season surge.

Both the Lady Vikings relay teams finished third and will compete at the state tournament. The short relay team of Deondra Brown, Rachel Hoyt, Maughan and Fell finished in 53.48 seconds, a half second quicker than then district-winning time. Dawn Blevins, Maughan, Shaver and Hoyt ran the 1,600 in 4:21.68, nearly 5 seconds quicker than their district-winning time.

Brown finished fifth in the 200 with a time of 29.03 seconds and sixth in the 100-meter dash. Blevins finished fifth in the 400 (1:04.13) and sixth in the 800 and javelin.

Hoyt, only a freshman, tied for fourth in the high jump with a personal-best jump of 5 feet, which tied the school record.

Nearly all the Charlo athletes had personal records at the meet, which “is kind of what you strive for this time of year. Hopefully, we’ll get some more PRs next week,” Thompson said.

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