HELENA — Spring has been taxing on Tony Arntson.
The former Helena High football coach who accepted an assistant position with the Carroll College football staff in February has made countless trips from Billings Avenue to North Benton since March. Arntson, who recently wrapped up spring drills with the Fighting Saints, remains the head track and field coach of the Helena High boys this spring, forcing him into double duty between the two locations.
“It (went) well,” Arntson said, laughing. “Thanks to Coach (Mike) Van Diest, Coach (Alex) Pfannenstiel, Coach (Alex) Kastens and Coach (Nick) Howlett, especially, for putting up with me and arranging their schedules trying to help me out. They’ve been awesome.”
Learning new terminology and studying the playbook has been and continues to be homework for Arntson, who leads the Saints’ offensive line after Jim Hogan announced his retirement in early February. That hasn’t taken away from his duties with the Bengals, who placed third at last spring’s State AA meet, but it has made Arntson rely more on the veterans on the squad.
“I really like Kaleb Winterburn and Ray Trudeau right now on the track. Those guys have put in some good performances,” Arntson said of the Bengal seniors. “I want to thank those two, they’ve kind of taken the big leadership role with our sprinters, our older sprinters, in being able to help out if I have to ghost out of practice early or they get things started while I’m getting over there. They’ve done a tremendous job. They had great offseason and started ahead of where they were at last year, and I think over the next couple of weeks I’ll be looking for really big things out of them. They’re really grooming some younger kids to come in with them. I’ve been very pleased with our progression on the track so far in an area I didn’t think we were going to be very strong.”
Senior sprinter Will Cumley is another athlete impressing Arntson, as well as the state. Cumley’s personal-best time of 11.29 seconds in the 100-meter dash currently ranks sixth in Class AA. Trudeau holds the No. 5 mark in the Class AA 400, 51.02, while Winterburn ranks ninth (51.5).
But the Bengals have also shown depth off the track. Record-setting high jumper Trey Tintinger holds the top clearance in the state, 6 feet, 9 3/4 inches, while javelin thrower Gabe Dalbec sits fifth in the class with a heave of 174-02.
Arntson also points to another senior who is rewriting the program record books.
“Caleb Ferguson, there’s another kid. He lays out a 44-02 triple jump, which is the longest triple jump we’ve had at Helena High since 1997. His coach, Adam Strainer, did that. That was very impressive,” said Arntson. “I’m anxious to see him come along in the pole vault. I know coach Bill Hurford will do a great job with him and he’ll be ready. I think track-wise there are some pleasant surprises right now, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Ferguson’s triple jump PR sits No. 3 in Class AA this season. He is also tied for the third-best pole vault clearance, clearing 14 feet in four straight meets.
Helena High meets crosstown rival Helena Capital on Thursday afternoon in the annual city meet. Each team travels to Missoula for the divisional seeding meet on Friday, May 18. The State AA meet will join the Class C state meet in Great Falls on May 25-26.