High School SportsHigh School Track and Field


'Hunger' paved the way for record-setting season by Corvallis' Olivia Lewis

Posted at 1:44 PM, Jun 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-04 15:44:26-04

CORVALLIS — What Olivia Lewis did this season for Corvallis High School can be described in one word: historic.

Arguably no one in Montana had a more dynamic track and field season than Lewis, and the junior capped it off last weekend in Laurel with three individual state titles and a team championship for the Blue Devils.

The team championship came by one point over Whitefish, as Lewis ran a leg on Corvallis' second-place 1,600-relay team that sealed it.

"It was so important, and so that's what made that day even better, it was amazing, it was because of everyone," Lewis said. "We could've just won it by like a bunch of points and been like we won state, but the fact that it was one point and took everybody's little contributions made it so much more special, so that's why there was so much pressure on that 4x4 because of everyone's little contributions and everybody was counting on us.

"I think it was the best experience I've had so far with state track, I think in any sport it's the best experience I've had because like I already had more experience from being a junior, so it felt way different than it had been the past couple of years because being a freshman and sophomore, you can be good, but it's totally different if you don't feel in your place and I think this year was so much different because I just felt like I knew what I was doing and I belonged, and I was like I don't have to prove myself, I just need to do what I know how to do."

It capped a memorable state weekend and season for Lewis.

Lewis won the 400 and both hurdles races for Corvallis at state, and she set a new Class A record in the 300 hurdles, breaking former Corvallis star Paige Squire's record. Lewis won the race in 43.37, breaking Squire's record of 43.76.

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Olivia Lewis, right, poses with former Corvallis and Montana State track and field standout Paige Squire at the State A track and field meet in Laurel.

And as fate would have it, Squire was an athlete Lewis always looked up to, and in Laurel she was the one who presented Lewis with her winning medal.

"That was awesome because I've always just heard about her. The record board is right there and walking to the locker room every day I'd walk past it and look at it and just like look at her name. But every day I'd look at that record and just think I don't think I'd ever be able to run a 43 (second race) but it might be possible one day and then once I did it was crazy," Lewis said. "It meant so much more to me because she was from Corvallis, and coach (Spencer) Huls coached us both and it was like really cool having her give me the medal because it just meant so much more. Her presenting it to me was just awesome because she hugged me and was like, 'Congratulations,' and I was like, 'Sorry I got your record,' and she was like, 'It's OK!' It was awesome year."

Even more, Lewis ended her breakout season with the fastest times in the entire state regardless of classification in those three events she became a state champion in, making her one of the top athletes in Montana.

"I just got like way more of that hunger, because, after seeing my times drop my sophomore year, I was like I want to get these times down even more and then I actually started looking at those records after that," Lewis said. "And so all summer and winter long is when I was actually working on track thinking of those records, thinking of dropping my times and seeing it pay off was awesome, because I was just telling myself that whole state weekend, like you've been working for this the past year, the whole past three years and so to see it pay off was like super rewarding."

Corvallis' Olivia Lewis races to victory in the Class A 100-meter hurdles on Saturday, May 27, 2023, in Laurel.

Lewis is etching her name into the school's long and decorated history in track and field, and longtime Corvallis head coach Spencer Huls she has the potential to add to her already impressive legacy and become one of the best ever.

"Had lots of girls come through the program that have made huge marks, and it's fun to watch Olivia because she isn't there yet, but I think she can be better than all of them," Huls said. "Her ceiling is higher and I'm really looking forward to that and that's saying a heck of a lot."

Success and accolades can also build pressure for an athlete, especially at state, but her coach says that Lewis is built for it.

Corvallis head track and field coach Spencer Huls, center, poses with Rylee Herbstritt, left, and Olivia Lewis after the Blue Devils won the girls State A track and field title in Laurel.

"I never really had a doubt about Olivia because she just has no fear," Huls said. "That pressure that lots of people feel, she seems to just relish in that pressure and I've never seen her falter because she has a lot of confidence in herself and a lot of confidence in her training. She's never been afraid of it, she's never been afraid to hurt, she's never been afraid to fail, and she rarely does."

The sky truly is the limit for Lewis as she now heads into her senior year with her eye on setting the all-class record in the 300 hurdles while gunning for more hardware for Corvallis.

After that, who knows.

"We're just going to work harder than I did last year and as long as I just keep working even harder and just keep focusing on those goals then we'll see what happens," Lewis said. "I just want to make sure that I can from this season and just keep on going with it."

"I'm looking for really big things from her and I think everybody is, that'll probably put a little pressure on her but she's the type of kid that handles it," Huls said. "She's not afraid of the pressure, she leans into it, and so that type of kid it's fun, you put a little pressure on, they lean in and they get even better so that's my thoughts on that. I'm looking for great things next year."