KALISPELL — With sunshine and blue skies finally making their long-awaited return, track and field is in a normal swing of things. And two runners from Glacier High School are taking full advantage by recording some of the fastest the times in all of Montana so far this season.
"It felt great, you know, all the hard work," said senior sprinter Jeff Lillard. "Working in the offseason and finally getting some fast times with good weather."
And fast times are an understatement, as Lillard put himself in a tie for the fastest 400-meter time in the state at the Russ Pilcher Top 10 meet in Missoula on April 25, with a time of 49.66 seconds.
"I'm confident in both our team and myself, too," said Lillard. "I mean we got guys already qualified, like 16, so I think we have a strong unit."
Teammate Kash Goicoechea, who placed first in the 100 meters at the same Russ Pilcher meet with a time of 11.08 seconds, couldn’t be more grateful to be competing regularly after the season's slow start.
"Felt great just to go out compete against a lot of other schools that I haven't competed against this year," said the junior sprinter. "It's really fun to go out with my team and have fun but compete at the same time."
When it comes to a shorter season and with the Class AA state meet just around the corner in Butte, Goicoechea knows preparation is just as much mental as it is physical.
"You gotta be mentally prepared," said Goicoechea. " Takes a toll on you mentally but you just gonna kind of block it out and just focus on running your race."
Glacier coach Connor Fuller knows he’s lucky to have such great runners on his team, as Lillard and Goicoechea made up half of the 400-meter relay team that set a new Russ Pilcher Top 10 record with a time of 42.22 seconds.
"They’ve put a lot of work in the offseason to give themselves a chance to to win a big meet like that," said Fuller. "It's good for their success and the team’s success, a lot of confidence for all of us, but especially those two. Because they have put the time in. We talk about giving relentless effort and they show it, and it's cool when they win races like that.
As preparations for state get under way Fuller has high hopes for his unit that seems to be finding their stride at the right time.
"Excited to see where we're going to go because I think with the weather coming up, hopefully we keep just improving little by little," said Fuller. "Our goal as we like to say is to be golden in May. And at the end of the day, we put great work in during the week and try to perform at our best, and no matter what it is, it's going to be a positive outcome for the team, and it's exciting to watch those guys get to go out there."
The state meet for Class AA (this year combined with Class B) is May 26-27 at Memorial Stadium in Butte. The Glacier boys are seeking their first title since 2018.