BUTTE – Throughout Montana’s storied history in track and field, no female athlete has captured four consecutive individual titles in both the long jump and the triple jump. If only Sophia Stiles could go back in time to May of 2014.
“Yeah, if I wouldn’t have choked my freshman year,” laughed Stiles.
The Malta sensation earned a third-place finish in the long jump that freshman season, missing out on the top spot on the podium by five inches. Stiles responded with three straight long jump titles and four consecutive in the triple jump, capped by Saturday’s school record in Butte.
“I started off with a 36 (foot jump), so I was like, ‘Ok, I’m in the finals and can go as hard as I can,’” said Stiles. “I just went and I went far, I guess.”
There was little guessing regarding Stiles’ jumping. It seemed the biggest question marks surrounding her final state track performance would be how far and how high she would go. Stiles responded with the school record 37 feet, 10 inches in the triple jump, 17-9.75 in the long jump and 5-2 in the high jump. She won all three, finishing her prep career with a jumping triple crown, while also garnering runner-up and third-place honors in the hurdles races.
“My family prepares me really well because they put more pressure on me than anyone else,” said Stiles. “It means a lot to have that expectation and I feel like it makes me do better.”
Stiles has re-decorated the Malta trophy cases with state titles in track and basketball, all-conference and all-state honors and Gatorade player of the year plaques. The school and community returned the favor with love and support over the past four years, making the weekend’s return home, the final bus trip in a storied career, an emotional one.
“It’s definitely going to be sad taking my last M-ette jersey off,” said Stiles. “Being an M-ette has meant a lot to me over the years. It’s been a great four years and I’m really looking forward to Missoula.”
Ah yes, the career continues beyond the court, track and field of Malta High School. Stiles, the two-time defending Gatorade basketball player of the year, joins Shannon Schweyen’s Lady Griz basketball program in the fall. Stiles says Schweyen and the staff have already sent a workout plan for the summer, and she had a chance to chat with her future coach briefly at the track and field championships over the weekend.
“I’ve talked to Shannon for a long time and all the coaches are awesome, they always text me good luck no matter what I’m doing. Obviously Hailey (Nicholson) is on the team so it will be fun,” said Stiles, referring to her former Malta teammate who also calls Missoula and UM home.
But the weekend belonged to Stiles and Malta. The senior did manage to make history – raising the standard in the M-ettes’ record books, while also becoming the first Montana female athlete to win four straight triple jump and three consecutive long jump titles.
Danged that freshman year and those five inches.