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After securing back-to-back titles, Missoula Hellgate track and field duo ready for next level at UM

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Posted at 8:28 PM, Jun 03, 2023

MISSOULA — As she was in the process of defending her Class AA state pole vaulting title last weekend in Butte, Hannah Moses found herself on the edge of disaster.

The Missoula Hellgate senior had failed on her first two attempts at 11 feet, and was staring at the do-or-die final opportunity to extend her track and field season.

But Moses found the adjustment she needed on the fly.

"So, what happened there was I was on my poles that I was jumping on earlier in the season when I wasn't as strong, and so I was kind of blowing through those poles and I kept missing it, and I had to get on this pole that I've never jumped on this season yet and it was a little bit scary but I ended up getting on it and clearing it by a ton," Moses recalled. "That gave me a little bit of a confidence boost for my next couple of jumps that I cleared on my first attempt which is good."

Moses breezed the rest of the way, clearing both 11-6 and 11-9 on her first try, the latter tying her personal record, and sealing her second straight state pole vaulting championship. Fittingly, she won her first title at 11-9 last year as a junior.

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Missoula Hellgate's Hannah Moses won the girls Class AA pole vaulting state title in 2022 and 2023.

"It felt really good, when I was like falling down I saw the bar still up and I just started smiling all of a sudden," Moses said. "I go over to my coach and he gives me the biggest hug and is just like super rewarding and all of the other coaches around were like that's a good jump, that's a defending state champion jump and it just felt really good."

It had been a challenging season up to that point for Moses, who was putting pressure on herself to outdo her work from a year ago, but she battled through it as it all came together at the right time.

"It's very special and very rewarding to push through all of those moments and get through a bunch of injuries and pain and just have it be pain-free and have fun and cap it off and do my best that I could do at the time.

"It meant a ton just coming off of kind of a rough season and a lot of like mental blocks, hitting that mark was my season record of the year and so it was really exciting and it just felt like I was back to normal again, like back at the top of my game and that felt really good. It meant a lot more than last year even. It just meant a ton to finally end out my high school season on a really good note and makes me even more excited to go off to college and continue jumping and continue with good coaches and rep out Hellgate the rest of the time."

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Missoula Hellgate's Aiden Nichols, left, and Hannah Moses both repeated as Class AA state track and field champions in javelin and pole vault.

Moses wasn't Hellgate's only repeat state champion either, as she is joined by javelin thrower Aiden Nichols, who won his second state title with a throw of 192 feet.

His winning throw came on his third attempt, so for Nichols, he sealed up his win quickly, and efficiently.

"(The throw) didn't feel very special. I kind of looked at it and was like I don't know about it, but I start running towards it and it's past 180 so it's always a good throw if it's past 180," Nichols said. "It was definitely very special especially for the last meet of my high school career so it's nice to hit a good PR."

Consider it two-for-two for Nichols, who has only been throwing javelin for two years, with two titles now under his belt. He won it last year as a junior with a throw of 182-01.

For him, this past spring was about growing in the sport he picked up for the first time last year.

"I've been working on taking a lot of, there's different steps in jav, like how far back you go on the runway and last year I stayed with a five-step so I was working more on just gaining more momentum towards the toe-board which will increase my distance so just kind of working on my form," Nichols said. "(I) was definitely very nervous at the start (of the season) but after I started winning meets and kind of gained my confidence back I wasn't too worried about it."

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Missoula Hellgate's Aiden Nichols competes in the boys Class AA javelin on the second day of the State AA-B track and field meet in Butte on Saturday, May 27, 2023.

Not only do Moses and Nichols share the path of back-to-back champions for Hellgate, but they're also bound for Division I track and field as well, as they'll both compete for the Montana Grizzlies after graduation.

For Nichols, being a collegiate athlete wasn't on his radar, but as success grew in his newfound sport and interest from college coaches formed, he pivoted, and is now going to achieve that next-level opportunity.

"They reached out to me last fall and I hadn't committed because I didn't plan out my classes right for NCAA because they require some more classes, so once I finish this semester I'm good to go," Nichols explained. "But I'm pretty excited for it. I feel good because one of their throwers I was throwing like the same distance as him so it's good to know I'm throwing as good as a junior in college."

They both left a big impact with the Knight's program, and now, the hometown kids are ready to pursue more gold and accolades at UM.

"I would say it's very special," Nichols said. "No one else in my family has gone to college like all four years, so it would be kind of cool to go do something no one else in my family has done, so I think it will be fun and cool experience. Definitely very nervous. It's a big change, big difference, but I'm a little excited too so should be fun, good experience."

"It adds a ton more excitement, because just like early in the season I was just kind of doubting myself and just wasn't feeling as good, but now I'm definitely ready and amped for it," Moses added.