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Slim Kimmel: Record-setting state track meets unlikely to be replicated

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Posted at 4:37 PM, May 28, 2024

MISSOULA — When someone says a sporting event or performance is the best ever, it’s good to take the claim with a heaping dose of salt.

Well, pass the shaker, because it’s likely we never again see a collective showing like we witnessed last weekend at the Montana High School Association state track and field meets.

An almost-incomprehensible 10 all-class records — which can only be set at state meets — fell between the performances Friday and Saturday. Athletes tied or beat another 13 class records, and that doesn’t even include the wind-aided long jumps by Scott Klinker of Great Falls High and Kohbe Smith of Glendive.

Yes, these records will inevitably be broken, and it probably won’t even take that long, given the way times have been trimmed, distances lengthened and heights raised over the past decade.

But to see everything everywhere all at once?

It was a special weekend made so by special athletes. Bozeman’s Nathan Neil might be the greatest high school distance runner in Montana history, not to diminish anything accomplished by the Ruttenburs, McGowans, Perrins, Aragons and other high school stars of yesteryear — after all, being the first to do something is often more difficult than being the next to do it, only better.

Christina Aragon, the former Billings Senior star, said as much, crediting her older sisters, Alexa and Dani, for paving the way and showing her what might be possible on the track. Christina Aragon still holds the all-class records in the girls 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.

In that vein, Neil followed in former Bozeman teammate Weston Brown’s footsteps to run a record 4:04.89 in the 1,600. That time makes a 4-minute 1,600 seem possible in the not-too-distant future, which was unimaginable, especially at this elevation, not that long ago.

More impressive, though, was Neil becoming the first Montana high schooler to run a sub-9:00 in the 3,200-meter run on Montana soil. His 8:53.19 is an absurdly astonishing feat.

Montana has long churned out sensational distance runners — look no further than Montana State University’s top-ranked steeplechase group which includes Levi Taylor of Laurel and Owen Smith of Billings Senior. Neil, a future University of Washington runner, is the latest, but he certainly won’t be the last.

The Treasure State has started producing some gems in the jumps, too. While Great Falls’ Klinker won’t get to add his name to the record books (his 24-05½ long jump was determined to be wind aided), Ava Kellenberg of Missoula Sentinel continued the Spartans’ jumping legacy. Her 40-08¼ triple jump broke former Sentinel standout Lauren Heggen’s record that was just four years old.

Ava Kellenberg
Missoula Sentinel jumper Ava Kellenberg set the all-class record in the triple jump at the Class AA state track and field meet at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls on May 25, 2024.

Between Heggen, the McElmurry sisters and now Kellenberg, Sentinel has had quite a run of jumpers. Kellenberg, who will compete in college at UCLA, entered the meet with a shot at the long jump record, too, but Helena’s Logan Todorovich will keep that mark a little longer.

Speaking of Todorovich, the Baylor-bound senior is a rare athlete. After setting the long jump record at 19-04½ last year (Todorovich won the event this year at 19-03), she came out of nowhere this year to break the all-class record in the 100-meter dash at 12.06 seconds.

Prior to the state meet, Todorovich had run the 100 only one other time this season, qualifying for state with a 12.6-second time that had her seeded eighth.

If Todorovich’s 100 record was unexpected, it would have been no surprise had Whitefish’s Brooke Zetooney broken the record. The future Montana Grizzly false-started in the prelims, though, putting the 100 mark out of reach.

Instead, Zetooney put her name in the record books next to the 200-meter dash. Her 24.41 surpassed the 24.75 run by Billings West’s Jaeden Wolff in 2022 and nearly matched West’s Vicky Sturn’s adjusted 200-yard dash time of 24.4 from 1975.

The most impressive run of the Class A state meet, though, was Olivia Lewis’ effort in the 300-meter hurdles. Lewis, a senior at Corvallis who will continue her track career at Montana State, smashed the old record of 42.87 seconds set by Liz Harper of Missoula Sentinel in 2013 with a time of 41.86 seconds.

State A/B track and field
Olivia Lewis of Corvallis runs in the 300-meter hurdles at the Class A state track and field meet at the Laurel Sports Complex on May 25, 2024.

Lewis showcased her championship-winning 400-meter run skills in the 300 hurdles and also seemed to gain momentum after exploding over the hurdles. It was an awe-inspiring performance that reaffirmed the belief the Bobcats are getting a steal in Lewis.

The boys 300-meter hurdles record went down, too, as Bozeman Gallatin’s Nash Coley clocked a 36.91 to break the 37.66 run by Butte’s Jake Larson back in 2000. That was the longest-standing record on the track.

The oldest all-class record in the MHSA record books also fell, as Coley’s teammate, Jack Murray, threw 198-01 in the discus to best the 1982 mark of 193-07 by Dan Tabish of Missoula Hellgate.

Behind Coley, Murray and high-jump champion Quinn Clark, Gallatin won its second consecutive team championship, defeating second-place Kalispell Flathead by seven points. The Braves set two records of their own — arguably the most challenging records to reach — clocking a 41.47 in the 400-meter relay and a 3:15.92 in the 1,600-meter relay.

That leaves only the long jump (23-08 by Huntley Project’s Kelly Friede in 1988) and shot put (68-0½ by Great Falls’ Dennis Black in 1991) as boys records set prior to 2005.

If anything can be gleaned from the jumping performances from the weekend, Friede’s record won’t be safe much longer. Black’s 68-foot shot put, though? Nobody’s touching that.

But it’s probably best to take that with a grain of salt.

Below is a list of class records that were established at the 2024 state track and field meets:

  • Class A boys 100-meter dash: Malaki Simpson, Columbia Falls, 10.74 (tied Havre's Steve Heberly's 10.74 in 2003).
  • Class A boys 200-meter dash: Malaki Simpson, Columbia Falls, 21.67.
  • Class A boys 1,600-meter dash: Ben Bird, Hardin, 4:17.71.
  • Class A boys shot put: Wyatt Miles, Corvallis, 60-09.5.
  • Class A girls 400-meter relay: Whitefish, 47.90.
  • Class B girls pole vault: Brynn Wandle, Project, 12-03.
  • Class B girls long jump: Kaitlyn Noyes, Townsend, 18-0½ (winning 18-04¾ jump was wind aided).
  • Class B girls 400-meter relay: Missoula Loyola, 48.15.
  • Class C boys pole vault: Blaine Downing, Saco, 15-03.
  • Class C boys long jump: Caiden Sekuterski, Cascade, 22-06½ (winning 23-04¼ jump was wind aided).
  • Class C boys triple jump: Caiden Sekuterski, Cascade, 48-01.
  • Class C girls 100-meter dash: Brooke Reuter, Savage, 12.34.
  • Class C girls 400-meter run: Taylee Chirrick, Roberts, 56.4.