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Making their mark

Polson girls rise to the challenge, place second at MCHS meet

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The Polson track team passed an early season test against some of the biggest and best track and field teams in the region at last Saturday's Missoula County Public Schools Invitational. The event is so big — it attracts 17 teams, including six Class AA teams and two from out of state — that it places eight individuals/teams in events rather than the usual six.

Both Polson teams did well, led by an outstanding second-place finish by the girls. The Lady Pirates finished with 74 points, behind Missoula-Big Sky's 95 points. The Polson boys' team finished with 36 points in ninth place as a team, the second-highest finish of Class A squads.

Loni Havlovick led Polson in the field events, winning the shot put with a career-best throw of 37 feet, 4 inches. She also placed second in the discus with another career-best throw of 126-11.

"Loni Havlovick had an outstanding meet. Both (shot put and discus) marks should put her at the top or near the top of the best marks so far this season in Class A," Polson head coach Bob Gunderson said. 

Joining her in placing in those events was Natasha Lafferty, whose throw of 33-7.75 earned fifth place in the shot put, and freshman DJ Conko-Camel, who placed seventh in discus with a personal-best throw of 99 feet, 8 inches.

"DJ is working hard and is a pleasant surprise for our girls track and field team," Gunderson noted.

Breanne Kelley and Nicole Davey racked up the points by placing in every event they were entered.

Davey finished second in the pole vault with a season-best jump of 9 feet, 6 inches. She also placed fourth in the 400-meter run with a time of 61.35 seconds.

Kelley was fourth in both hurdle events, clocking a 16.62 in the 100-meter hurdles and 49.20 seconds in the 300. She also earned fifth in the 200-meter dash in 27.28. 

Kelley and Davey also ran on both of Polson's second-place finishing relay teams. The 400-meter relay team of Katie Finley, Anna DiGiallonardo, Davey and Kelley clocked a time of 51.50 seconds, while the long relay squad of Finley, Kelley, Christa Red Crow and Davey finished in 4 minutes, 16.97 seconds.

Both times were very, very close to winning it all.

"The girls won their heat of the 1,600 relay but placed second due to a faster time in the previous heat. Kalispell won by four-hundredths of a second (.04)," Gunderson emphasized. "Nicole Davey ran an outstanding final leg, catching and passing the Missoula Big Sky runner at the finish line in this race. The short relay was also nipped in a photo-finish by CMR (Great Falls). They lost by five-hundredths of a second (.05) in this one."

Red Crow earned some nice points in the long jump by jumping 15 feet, 3.75 inches and Mesa Starkey returned to the track to place sixth in the 3,200, finishing the two miles in 12 minutes, 33.52 seconds.

"It was good to welcome Mesa Starkey back from a family trip to Hawaii. This was only her second meet and it was obvious that she had done some training in Hawaii as she did very well placing in the 3,200 meters," coach Gunderson noted, adding his girls' team did very well to place second at such a large meet. 

"Our girls had their best showing ever at this meet, finishing second ahead of much larger schools from Montana, Washington and Idaho."

The Polson boys, too, had a good showing, with some solid marks for it being so early in the track season. 

Jason Bowman had a good day in the sprints, though he could have had an even bigger day. Bowman had the fastest time (11.06 seconds) of the qualifying heats in the 100-meter dash, but had a slow start out of the blocks in the finals. Still, he placed third in 11.43 seconds.

"Jason didn't have a great start in the finals of the 100-meter (finals) and it cost him. He still ran a good race, finishing third to some very fast sprinters. (But) there is very little room for error in this race and the start is extremely important," Gunderson said.

Bowman also placed sixth in the 200 in 23.39. 

Colter Bull placed twice in the longer races. He was fifth in the 1,600 meters in 4:40.94 and placed seventh in the 800 in 2:05.19. His kick in the final lap of the mile was a sight to see.

"Colter Bull continues to run impressive doubles (800 and 1,600). Both times in these races were season bests," Gunderson said, noting, "He came from 17th place up to fifth in the final lap of the 1,600, clocking a 62-second split on his last lap."

Both Polson relay teams also placed. The 400-meter relay team of Traven Hoyt, Bowman, Joe Andrews and Vince DiGiallonardo took third in 44.75 seconds, while the 1,600-meter squad of Mike Devlin, Bull, Chris Cote and Andrews was sixth in 3:38.05. 

Andrews is back after recuperating from an ankle injury suffered playing pickup soccer, though he admits he isn't back in shape yet.

Teammate Alex Havlovick proved he's in good shape for so early in the season, placing fourth in the discus event with a personal-best throw of 145 feet, 2 inches.

"Alex has put a lot of work into the discus. His throw was excellent for this early in the season," Gunderson noted.

Also placing fourth was Ty Fouty in pole vault, though his vault of 12 feet, 6 inches is not his best. Assistant coach Rob Kelley said Fouty has been clearing 14 feet in practice, which would have won Saturday's event by a foot. 

Freshman Mike Devlin has shown a lot of grit in his events in his first season if high school track, including an eight-place finish in the long jump at 19 feet, 9 inches.

"Mike Devlin continues to impress me with his overall abilities on the track and in the field," Gunderson said. "His jump of 19-9 — he had four jumps over 19 feet — was good for eighth place in the long jump and is currently the best long jump mark in our conference (Northwestern A). He is (also) currently second in the 400-meter rankings in our conference."

Getting better every week is what spring track is all about and Gunderson likes where his team is heading.

"One of the things I love about track and field is that you can measure improvement in every athlete," the coach said. "The boys continue to show improvement with a number of outstanding early season marks."

This weekend the Polson track team will measure itself against a lot of the conference's track teams at the Libby Invitational on Saturday. A lot of the Pirates and Lady Pirates are expected to qualify for Tuesday's (April 27) Top 10 Meet at Missoula Big Sky, which starts at 3 p.m.

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