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Far above the rest

Lady Pirates cruise, repeat as divisional track champions

Add another divisional track title to the Lady Pirates’ record, their sixth over the last 11 years. And with three state title under their belt, they are definitely in the hunt for a fourth.

The Polson girls swept through the competition at last weekend’s Northwestern A Divisional track and field meet in Libby, earning 11 individual event titles and racking up 216 points to easily out-distance the competition — Whitefish was second at 131.5 and Columbia Falls was third with 74.5 points.

The Polson boys battled to a second-place finish with 122 points, behind champ Columbia Falls with 206.

The number 13 was lucky for Polson, though luck certainly didn’t have much to do with it the team’s performances. Polson qualified 13 girls and 13 boys for this weekend’s state Class A track and field championships in Laurel. The Polson’s girls have the chance of winning their second state title in three years, while the boys last won in 2008 and placed third last year.

The Lady Pirates started off the meet strong on Friday, winning six of the seven girls’ events and leaping out to a 102 point mark, far ahead of Columbia Falls at 52. 

Nicole Davey was a double-winner, clocking a 59.58-second win in the 400-meter dash and clearing a personal-best 10 feet, 6 inches to claim the pole vault crown. She won’t be competing alone in the event at state, either. Four of her teammates qualified for state, with McCall Banner third at 7-6, Mckenzie Banner fourth at 7-6, and Katharina Medland and Mariah Hamel tied for fifth at 7-0.

Breanne Kelley won the 100-meter hurdle title in 16.07 seconds, followed by Christa Red Crow in third at 17.35. Mesa Starkey won the 1,600-meter run in 5 minutes, 25.57 seconds and Polson went 1-2 in the discus, with Loni Havlovick first at 126 feet, 7 inches, and Natasha Lafferty second at 100-4.

Polson’s 400-meter relay team of Katie Finley, Anna DiGiallonardo, Nicole Davey and Breanne Kelley not only won but they set a new divisional record with a time of 50.54 seconds. 

Kelley also placed second in the 400-meter dash in 1:00.34 and Christa Red Crow was second in the triple jump with a mark of 33 feet, 8 inches.

The Polson boys started out well by nearly sweeping the pole vault competition. Ty Fouty won the event by clearing 12 feet, 6 inches, followed by Zion Lee at 12-0 for second, Trae Fouty at 12-0 for third and Brock Bleazard at 12-0 for fourth.

“Rob Kelley continues to do a great job with our vaulters. He is one of the better vault coaches in Montana,” Polson head coach Bob Gunderson emphasized. 

Colter Bull finished second in the 1,600-meter run in 4 minutes, 37.59 seconds and Miles Bieber placed fifth in 4:47.20.

The Polson boys’ 400-meter relay team of Brock Picard, Mike Devlin, Joe Andrews and Vince DiGiallonardo qualified for state by placing fourth in 45.43 seconds. Polson’s 1,600-meter relay team of Devlin, Colter Bull, Jordan Cross and Andrews finished third in 3:37.97. Though the long relay team was disqualified at the meet, the disqualification was overturned by the MHSA on Tuesday, clearing the way for the team to compete at state.

But the Pirates suffered a huge team loss in the discus when conference leader Alex Havlovick fouled on two of his three throws and finished 11th, far out of the top five that qualified for state. “He was the best thrower in the conference and one of our best chances to place at the state track meet next week,” Gunderson said. “Athletics can teach us some of life’s hard lessons at times and this was one of those times.”

However, on a positive note, Polson’s Clark Rubel, Tyler Krell, and Riley Sampson all made the finals in the discus with personal-best efforts. Rubel and Krell ended up placing second (130-5) and third (129-3) respectively and Sampson earned a letter for his effort.

On Saturday, Polson’s girls wrapped up the defense of their divisional title with impressive performances on both the track and in the field.

Loni Havlovick won the shot put for the second year in a row with a heave of 38 feet, 7 inches, Lafferty placed second at 34 feet, and D.J. Conko-Camel was fifth at 29-1. Havlovick, who accounted for 28 team points, also placed second in the javelin at 105-7, while Hamel took fourth at 98-4.

Red Crow took second in the long jump at 15-9.5, while Finley placed fourth at 14-5.5.

On the track, Davey won the 300-meter hurdles with the second-best time in Class A, 45.90 seconds. Kelley finished second in 47.80 and Red Crow tied for third in 48.40. 

“Christa ... ran her best time of the season ... in the 300 hurdles ... (and) accounted for 28 individual points in the meet,” her coach said.

Mesa Starkey won the two-mile run in 11 minutes, 51.82 seconds, plus placed sixth in the 800 in 2:31.25. 

“Mesa Starkey won the 3,200, breaking the school record for the second week in a row ... (and) almost five seconds faster than last week. This is after she ran a PR in winning the 1,600 on Friday,” Gunderson noted.

Anna DiGiallonardo sprinted her way to two second-place finishes in the 100-meter dash (13.33) and 200 (27.48). Kelley followed in 27.5 to place third in the 200 and Finley was fifth in 28.78. Finley also took fifth in the 100 in 13.83.

As expected, the Lady Pirates won the 1,600-meter relay race in a season-best 4:09.14, but they won it with a different lineup — Finley, DiGiallonardo, Red Crow and Davey. 

“I took a chance and ran freshman Anna DiGiallonardo on our 1,600-meter relay team in place of Breanne Kelley — Kelley was already entered in the maximum five events,” coach Gunderson explained. “Anna came through with a 61.11 split on her leg and we ran the best time of the year.”

The Polson boys had a pair of throwers earn divisional titles on Saturday. Brock Picard won the javelin with a throw of 180 feet, 4 inches and Alex Havlovick bounced back to win the shot put with a put of 46 feet, 5.25 inches.

“Both young men had PRs in these events,” Gunderson added. 

Bull placed third into two events, clocking a 2:01.16 in the 800 and 10:33.90 in the 3,200. Bieber was fifth in the 3,200 in 10:43.13.

“Colter Bull had a very good divisional qualifying in three events for state. (800, 1,600 and 3,200). He had PRs in both the 800 and 3,200,” Gunderson said. “Miles Bieber is making his first trip to state. Miles ran PRs in both the 1,600 and 3,200 races.”

Vince DiGiallonardo also placed in two events on Saturday, taking third in the high jump at 5 feet, 10 inches, and fourth in the long jump at 19-2.

Joe Andrews placed in three events. He was third in the javelin with a mark of 171-3, fourth in the 200-meter dash in 23.29 seconds, and sixth in the 100 in 12.02.

Rubel also took fourth in the shot put at 43 feet, while Zion Lee added a sixth-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles in 43.46 seconds.

In total, the Polson boys had three divisional champs, while the Lady Pirates won 10 of the 17 events. Davey alone won or had a part in five titles, scoring 30 individual points. Polson’s girls had four first-place finishers and 17 top-five performances on the final day and repeated as the best in the Northwest for the first time since the program did it in 2003 and 2004. Both those years the Lady Pirates went on to win state.

With the top five finishers advancing to this week’s state Class A track meet in Laurel, Polson takes a good group of athletes on a final road trip that concludes the track season. While the boys’ competition will probably be dominated by Corvallis, Belgrade and Columbia Falls, the girls’ team race is more wide-open.

The Polson girls are heading for Laurel for this week’s state meet with the chance of winning their second state title in three years. 

“The Class A girls’ competition at state is the best that I’ve seen in years,” coach Gunderson said. “Billings Central, Hamilton, Belgrade, Glendive and Polson are all in the running for the title.”

Competition begins at 9 a.m. on Friday at the Laurel Sports Complex and continues on Saturday, also beginning at 9 a.m.

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