SEELEY LAKE — The Seeley-Swan girls took the Class C track and field team championship in 2019.
Last year's season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Blackhawks are back at it in 2021 gunning for another championship with high school spring sports back in full swing.
Across all classes, there aren't many returning individual champs, but Seeley-Swan has two in senior Klaire Kovatch and junior Sariah Maughan.
"It’s really nice (to be back) because last year we had so much potential and all the seniors graduated so we didn’t quite get to perform how we knew we would last year," Maughan said. "So it’s nice to see all of the newcomers and actually get a season to show people what we can do."
"My two main goals are have a bunch of fun and contribute the most points I can for my team," Kovatch added. "I think it’s really important, the team aspect of track. It is definitely an individual sport, that's what I love about it is you can go out and compete yourself. But at the same time, if you can contribute points through what you do, that’s awesome."
Kovatch, who signed to compete at Colorado State earlier this year, is a two-time State C discus champ and has also run legs on relay teams that have finished first as well. Maughan won the 1,600-meter run as a freshman in 2019.
Despite losing last season, Kovatch practiced with her dad throughout the spring as she trained for and competed at the Big Sky State Games in Billings over the summer. For Kovatch, using this season to prepare for the competition she'll see in the Mountain West Conference is one of her main goals. With a personal-best throw of 150 feet, 2 inches coming into the season, Kovatch said her goal this season is to reach the 165-foot mark. She recently threw 159-3 for a new personal best at the Bigfork Invitational on April 3. The current all-class record is 157 feet, which was set by Missoula Big Sky's Brooke Kearns in 2018. All-class records can only be broken at the state meets.
This year, Kovatch will compete in discus, the 200-meter dash and both relays for the Blackhawks.
"I’m looking at what the girls at Colorado State are doing so I look at what their marks are and how that compares to mine and what it’s going to take for me to get there," Kovatch said. "Really my motivation is looking at how much farther do I need to get, how am I going to compete at that level and what is it going to take."
Maughan will compete in the 400, 800, 1,600 and both relays this season, saying the team started out by easing into track and getting used to the workouts again after missing last year, but lately the team's workouts have started to pick up.
The Blackhawk track and field team has had to adjust plenty already this spring. Sitting at a slightly higher elevation outside of Missoula, Seeley-Swan High School's track still is covered by plenty of snow, so the team hasn't actually used its track this year in preparation for its meets yet.
But in typical Montana fashion, the Blackhawks found a way to make it work. They use their parking lot combined with a nearby road as a makeshift 300-meter loop that they use for training. It's not ideal, but it's nothing new to the team. They've made it work before in the form of state championships and are hoping it pays dividends again come late May at the State C meet in Missoula.
"It’s just kind of fun and rewarding to be a part of a team that’s so athletic in multiple sports, and just being a part of each individual sport and seeing how far we can go is the best part," Maughan said.