LAUREL -- The Laurel Locomotives' contingent in the crowd at the State A track and field meet on Saturday at Laurel Sports Complex was given a treat.
Laurel's girls won the program's first State A track and field title, running away from Whitefish on Saturday afternoon.
"It's the greatest feeling. Coming into the season, I knew we'd have a great crew but I didn't realize that this was actually going to happen," Laurel senior Grace Timm said. "We all just poured our hearts out (Friday) and (Saturday) and we left nothing in the tank. I'm just so happy."
The Locomotives had a handful of contributors in their title run. Gracey Willis and Kolby Gibbs finished 2-3 in the triple jump, while Bailey Graves added a fifth-place finish in the discus.
It was on the track where Laurel separated itself, though. Laurel opened the morning with a fourth-place finish in the 400-meter relay. The Locos cleaned up in the 1,600-meter run, as Timm finished third, Andria Mourich fourth and Carly Cook fifth. An Alyse Aby sixth-place finish in the 200-meter dash locked up the title for Laurel with just one event remaining.
"Personally I think this track is the best," Timm said, reflecting on winning a state title in front of her home crowd. "I'm happy we were able to do it and I'm glad that all of our fans came, even if they didn't have kids in the sport."
Although Whitefish crossed the line first in the 1,600-meter relay, the Bulldogs were disqualified for cutting in too early. Prior to that, Whitefish had made a run at the team title.
Brooke Zetooney (12.65 seconds) and Mikenna Ells (12.67) placed 1-2 in the 100-meter dash for Whitefish, and Ells won the 200-meter dash in 26.07 seconds. Hailey Ells added a second-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles as she was edged at the line by Butte Central's Rileigh McGree.
Columbia Falls senior Lara Erickson won the 1,600-meter run on Saturday in 5 minutes, 14.43 seconds to sweep the long distance events. Dillon's Ainsley Shipman won the triple jump with a leap of 36-08. Shipman, a junior, placed second as a freshman.
Butte Central's Rileigh McGree keeping family legacy rolling
Butte Central coach Rachel McGree knows a thing or two about winning state track titles. Rachel McGree won the 100-meter hurdles twice during her time at Butte Central.
Now her younger sister Rileigh McGree can share that joy. Rileigh McGree swept the 100- and 300-meter hurdles on Saturday, sharing a long, tear-filled embrace with Rachel McGree after the former.
"It's been my dream to follow in her footsteps, so when that moment was happening, it was amazing. There's no feeling like it," Rileigh McGree said. "My dad, he's my jumps coach, he was emotional. All my friends were emotional. My mom up in the stands, it was amazing. It's been the best weekend."
McGree crossed in 15.74 seconds to claim the 100 hurdles, then just edged Whitefish freshman Hailey Ells in the 300 hurdles, winning in 46.09 seconds. Add in McGree's long jump title on Friday and the junior made her presence felt in a big way.
"I'm just thankful to be running at all. I had knee surgery around this time last year, so I would have missed last season if there would have been one," said McGree, who tore her meniscus long jumping at an indoor meet. "It's one of those things, I was not sure if I'd be able to run as well as I was. It was really scary. I'm just thankful to be here, really. Winning? That just made it even better."
Hamilton boys run away from pack for State A title
Hamilton ran away from the field to win its first State A track and field title since 2014.
The Broncs scored a large chunk of their 87 points in the distance events, as Colter Kirkland, a pole vault runner-up, won the 1,600-meter run on Saturday in 4 minutes, 29.05 seconds, just ahead of teammate Colter Purcell. Lane Cole finished fourth, giving Hamilton 22 points in the event.
"That doesn't change the fact that we're still best buddies off the field. We don't let that get in between our competition or anything. We love each other and it just pushes us all to be better," Kirkland said.
Kirkland also won the 800-meter run on Friday, while Cole won the 3,200 and Purcell finished third. Eli Taylor joined Cole, Purcell and Kirkland to help Hamilton finish second in the 1,600-meter relay.
"Our coaches told us to go out and compete and have fun and we've been doing it," Kirkland said. "Every day is a grind because we have the best three runners in the state on our team. Every day we're competing and making each other better. That just drives us to our success."
The Broncs did get points in the field, though, as Tyler Burrows finished second in the discus with a throw of 147 feet, 6 inches, one inch shy of the winning throw by Callahan Hoffman of Dillon. Orion Kutuey finished fourth in the discus, while Burrows finished second in the shot put on Friday.