I might have said the 2013 State AA and B track and field championships were the best ever even before all the all-class marks — the weather was so much nicer than at the last several state track meets, I was already pretty jacked.
Then Sentinel’s Liz Harper and Helena freshman Carly Smiedela ran a highlight-reel girls’ 400 at Van Winkle Stadium in Bozeman, complete with a train-wreck finish. Both crashed to the track and Harper was awarded the win by .006 of a second. And things started getting better and better.
Wait. Back up. There had already been the AA boys’ 1,600 earlier Friday, and Kalispell Flathead’s Zach Perrin ran away with that event in near-record time. On May 10 he’d run 4:09.24 in a dual meet at Libby, and that is the fastest time ever run inside the state’s borders. On May 24 Perrin was shooting for 4:13.29 run by David Vidal, another Flathead runner, at state in 2001; as he got closer and the clocked ticked past 4:10, he slowed noticeably and still ran 4:14.99.
“I was actually too fast at the start,” Perrin said after the race. “We didn’t run very even. On the first lap – with 100 meters to go I had to slow down a lot or we probably would have been 57 (seconds), which would have been way too fast.”
Then Perrin added something interesting, about running in Bozeman as opposed to Libby. The Loggers run on what is said to be the lowest-elevation track in Montana, at around 2,000 feet. Fact: When you gain elevation you lose time, and Bozeman sits at nearly 4,800 feet.
“It makes a huge difference,” Perrin said. “My coach was telling me, ‘You’ve got 5 to 6 seconds altitude conversion to (Bozeman).”
For all that, the record was right there — and in fact it was Perrin’s future Colorado teammate, Adam Peterman of Missoula Hellgate, who set an all-class record in the 3,200 on Saturday.
Said Perrin: “I should have run through.”
Jim Haugen, the retired executive director of the Montana High School Association, said the AA-B was among the best meets he’d ever watched. The Plains girls, with one senior, stormed to a B title. Thompson Falls made a run despite having just half of the Bluehawks’ 1-2 punch, Preston Schubert, most of the time.
It was hard to top with five all-class records set — I feel like I gave short shrift to Townsend’s Chiara Warner, who was spectacular in the 3,200 and shattered the Class B records in the 800 and 1,600, while running on an injured foot! — as well as the personalities involved.
Take Matt Tokarz, the Flathead triple-jumper. On the way to breaking the 31-year-old all-class record set by former Griz track coach Harry Clark, Tokarz defeated two past AA champions, Weston Northrop of Big Sky and Kyle Griffith of Glacier. And he did it pretty handily, going 48 feet, 3 inches (Clark marked 48-2 in 1982) and then 48-9 1/2. Between each jump he grabbed a knitted beanie he’d found, not purchased, and threw it over his blond hair.
“You know what, I was wanting 49 feet to be honest,” he said. “But I’m proud of myself. I’ll take 48-9.”
Tokarz is set to be an Oredigger gridder and yet Montana State — Tokarz found that beanie at a Bobcat football game — could still be in the picture for track and field.
“I signed to Tech for football, and right now that’s the deal,” he said. “But I don’t know. I just jumped really far.”
One who barely jumped was Missoula Hellgate’s Colin Dolese, in the AA boys’ 400 on Friday. Yet his false-start kept him from challenging the eventual winner, Alex Klatt of Billings Senior, or Jacob Kvilhaug of Billings West or Evan Epperly of Glacier.
“It was really a small false start,” offered Dolese, who rallied to win the 300 hurdles Saturday, holding off Chris Lange of team champion Missoula Big Sky. “I just jittered. I didn’t take a step or anything.”
Dolese set Hellgate’s school record in the 300s, running 38.24. He’s a junior who, along with Billings Senior’s Morgan Sulser, could make serious hay next year.
“I really wanted to go into the 37s,” said Dolese (the all-class record is 37.66). It’s great to win and everything, but there’s a little bit in me that’s like, ‘I want to do better.’ I’ll save that for next year, I guess.”
Not many athletes can say that — and at least four seniors couldn’t afford to: So Tokarz, Peterman, Harper (300 hurdles) and Warner got their all-class records while the getting was good.
– Fritz Neighbor