Saturday, May 27, 2023

COLUMN: Track and field standouts

Valley Press | May 24, 2023 12:00 AM

In the years I’ve been covering high school sports, I’ve often extolled the talents and drive of the young folks I’ve had the pleasure to write about in Western Montana.

These kids, who look younger to me with each passing year of my life, continue to impress and amaze me.

There were several of these multiple stars among the women’s field on display during the Divisional B-C track championships at Big Sky High School in Missoula.

And perhaps nowhere is that more visible than in the multi-faceted sport known collectively as track and field.

The recently concluded Western Divisional B-C conference meet in the smoke-choked Garden City, which featured high schoolers from as many as 20 different area small schools, was stunning in scope and effort.

These days, the more events in which an athlete can take part the better. Small schools need multiple event types to fill the voids lack of population can create.

And examples of diverse talents run rampant on the tracks and fields that make up...track and field.

Take for instance Thompson Falls senior Ellie Baxter. Earlier this past week, Baxter displayed her athletic prowess at the state Golf Championships in Shelby. Tuesday through Wednesday she was busy shooting 18-hole rounds of 86-80, good for third place in the B-C finals. She trailed winner Keni Wade of Bigfork by just five strokes after 36 holes of golf, helping lead her Lady Hawk teammates to a tie for third place in the team chase.

Then, just two days later, she was on the track in Missoula where she dominated the middle and distance runs, sweeping first place in the 800 meter, 1600 meter and 3200 meter runs. For those of you who don’t know, 3200 meters is roughly equivalent to two miles.

That is often further than I like to drive. My days in football were partially determined by the fact that linemen seldom have to run more than 40 yards on any given play.

And for added measure, Baxter was the anchor on the Thompson Falls 4X400 meter relay team. Those efforts were key, along with the multi-event skills of senior teammate Chesney Lowe, with the third place team finish for the T Falls women’s team.

Baxter will no doubt be among the favorites to repeat those feats in this weekend’s State B championships in Laurel.

Baxter is headed to Carroll College this Fall on a basketball scholarship, yet another sport in which she excels, along with cross country and volleyball.

At the District Class C championships last week, also in Missoula, Superior senior Isabella Pereira won the women’s 100 meter and 200 meter sprints, was tops in the pole vault and first in the triple jump. Pereira, who signed an athletic scholarship with Spokane’s Whitworth College, also ran a leg on Superior’s 4X100 relay team that qualified for Divisionals. She followed those achievements this past weekend with top five finishes in the same five events. The Lady Bobcats finished fourth in the team standings.

Joining those talented females was Noxon senior Emily Brown, herself a standout in basketball and volleyball for the Lady Red Devils.

Are you paying attention, area college recruiters?

All Brown did in Missoula this weekend was win the 800 meter run, the javelin, finished third in the 400 meter run and was seventh in the 200 meter sprint. She was the leading point collector for the Noxon women, who surprisingly finished tied for sixth with Valley Christian in the Class C team chase.

Manhattan Christian’s Jadyn Van Dyke was another standout, winning all three of the spints (100, 200 and 400), and captured first in the long jump and triple jump events for good measure. Van Dyke’s efforts helped Manhattan win the women’s C team championship with 106 points.

And there were other multiple contributors on the women’s side, like Plains sophomore Alexis Deming, who won the Class B discus throw with a heave of 120-0850, more than six feet better than Bigfork senior Scout Nadeau’s runner up toss. Deming also finished third in the Class B shot put, while Nadeau was first in that event with a put of 39-07.50, almost four feet ahead of the second place effort by Florence-Carlton’s Trista Williams.

There were, for sure, some really good multiple event efforts in the men’s competition also, including those of Noxon sophomore Ricky Williams in everything from the high jump to the hurdles to the triple jump.

Remember when kids played one sport at a time? Remember when girls were not necessarily encouraged to take part in anything other than cheerleading or baton twirling squads? Several of these kids play two or more sports, including sports with multiple events, in the same season these days.

I was one tired dude leaving Missoula Friday and heading back to Plains. I should have petitioned for team points for sports reporting.

But I was too busy dreading the 75 mile drive back home.

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