BUTTE – Haile Norred is a coach’s dream.
Beyond the natural talent and tremendous work ethic lies an athlete willing to put the best interests of the program ahead of her own.
“It’s fun to win but I look at it like, it’s our team,” Norred said.
Case in point: The Bigfork junior is a budding star on the soccer fields, but when the school’s cross country coach, Sue Loeffler, came calling for another harrier, Norred never hesitated and joined the program.
“I really love soccer and Mrs. Loeffler was like, ‘You know, we have a great cross country team. It will really help with your basketball and your track.’ I want to do running in college so I was like, ‘Ok, I guess I’ll do it,’” said Norred. “It’s pretty awful, honestly, but it’s fun being with the team and oriented with a bunch of different teams. It’s awesome.”
It’s not surprising Norred immediately made an impact on the Vals’ cross country program, finishing in the top 40 at state the past two seasons while assisting in Bigfork’s Class B championship run in 2015. But she also continues to shine on the soccer fields, scoring or assisting on numerous goals. Finding time to practice and train for each sport is a challenge, but what happens when the schedules cross paths?
“There were many times for that but I chose to do soccer (over cross country). I did the big meet, which is Mountain West, divisionals and then state for cross country every year.”
Norred is also a fine player on the Bigfork basketball team, but it’s during the spring sports season she truly shines. Norred has found a home in Loeffler’s track and field program, running the three sprints and each relay.
She burst on to the scene as a freshman in 2015, reaching the podium in all five events at the Class B state invite. Those finishes, coupled with her determined personality, seem to have motivated Norred to strive for greater.
“My freshman year I ran pretty fast times but last year I just couldn’t get there. I don’t think I was as confident with so much competition,” said Norred, who still placed in all five of her events in 2016. “This year I came in and was like, ‘I’m going to be the competition.’ This season really motivated me because colleges are starting to look at you. I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to try and PR in every event,’ and I did that. I came here and was ready to compete, you know?”
A large grin flashes across Norred’s face, almost a sign of satisfaction, after she completed her junior season with first-place finishes in the 200- and 400-meter dashes, as well as the 4×400-meter relay, to go with a runner-up effort in the 100 and 4×100 relay. She set personal bests in each of her individual events, putting her back on course with the goals following her freshman season.
Perhaps no one is more excited for Norred than Loeffler, the same coach who convinced her to join the cross country program to benefit her track and field performances. The senior-to-be recognizes the impact and is quick to credit the veteran coach of some 40 years.
“She is, I would have to say, the best coach I’ve ever had,” Norred said. “I honestly think she has motivated me and made me who I am today and my family as well. I would not be here competing today like I am if I did not have her. She’s a confidence-booster and she’s just awesome.”
Loeffler, Norred and the Bigfork girls scored 109 points over the weekend, the third-best mark in Class B history, just one point behind the 2015 Bigfork Vals and six points back from Plains the same season. Norred and fellow junior Bryn Morley were the only Vals to win individual events, two for Norred, three for Morley, but the team racked up points all over the stadium en route to their second state championship and first since 1992.
“I’m so excited because my freshman and sophomore year, we just hit second each time,” said Norred. “This year, we knew it was our time and we were going to get it this year. I’m so excited and I know my coaches and my whole team is really excited as well.”
The celebration may be resumed in May of 2018, with a strong core of Norred, Morley, Madison Gardner, Jordan Nelson and others returning. The future looks bright years down the road as well, as Norred’s younger sister, Chloe, who is still in elementary school, is already eyeing her personal bests.
“Yeah, there is a worry actually,” Norred laughed. “She’s already into cross country and soccer. She always tells me she can beat me in a race and I tell her, ‘Keep that up,’ because I’m assuming she will be as fast or faster than me.”
Norred wouldn’t mind. It would be in the team’s best interest, after all.