MISSOULA — Missoula Sentinel felt right at home at MCPS Stadium as the Spartan girls and boys teams took home the State AA track and field titles on Saturday.
The Spartan boys are repeat champions, last winning in 2019 before the 2020 season was canceled. For the girls, it’s their third title in four years, not counting the lost 2020 season.
Brooke Stayner starred for the Spartan girls, who finished with 91 points. After winning the long jump on Friday, Stayner followed that up with victories in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. For her, competing alongside her friends on both the boys and girls teams was the most special part as both squads took home the gold.
"I've never been more excited than just to be with a team that had enough talent and enough drive to do well and that led us to where we are now and that's been so exciting," Stayner said. "It was so cool being able to cheer (the boys) on. It was such an exhilarating moment to be out here with those boys and girls and of course can't ask for anything better than a school sweep."
Audrey McElmurry added a big win in the triple jump in one of the more thrilling events of the day. Kalispell Glacier’s Taylor Brisendine jumped 39 feet, 4 inches on her final attempt to take the lead. Up next, McElmurry, a Sacramento State signee, went 39-7.50 to take the win and first place. Immediately after hearing the result, she raced over to her younger sister, freshman Emily McElmurry, and the two embraced with big smiles on their faces.
"I was really nervous because she went out and had that big jump and I knew it was all going to come down to that last jump," McElmurry said. "So I just wanted to go out there and jump my best and thought about how this was my last jump ever in high school and I just wanted to end on a good one. It felt really good, I just didn't know if it was going to be enough on that last one."
For the Spartan boys, they entered the day with a 39-point lead thanks to Friday’s performances. Junior Zac Crews opened the day with a victory in the javelin. Then, not even an hour later, Crews won the 110 hurdles in 14.95 while teammate Drew Klumph took second. Klumph then turned around and won the 300 hurdles championship as the Spartans pulled away and won with 132 total points.
“I knew it was going to be close in the javelin and the hurdles," Crews said. "There was a kid from West and a Hellgate kid throwing father than me coming in, and then a West kid running faster in hurdles. I knew I had to compete today, and it was perfect conditions for it. I PR’s by two-tenths of a second. Coaches preached compete all week, and that’s what me and Drew came out to do.”
Sentinel coach Craig Mettler was emotional when talking about his team afterwards, and everything they and all other teams have gone through over the past year.
"Words are tough to come by right now," Mettler said. "We had a lot of tough, gutsy performances, man. Lot of spirit out there. No arena is too big for these guys. Having a year off was tough on not just the kids and families but the coaches as well. The reason to do this is for the kids. It's not about anyone else except them, so to have the kids not have that opportunity last year to compete was difficult. Able to be here in an environment where we had some normalcy again, it was fun and special."
HUFF, BUTTE SPRINT TO TROPHY
Butte’s Tanner Huff finished as a two-time individual state champion in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. He also ran a leg on Butte’s 1,600-relay team that finished in first as a team. He clocked in his 100 time at 11.06 and 200 at 22.40.
Thanks to Huff’s performances, the Bulldogs finished in second as a team with 76 points. The Bulldogs also got a win from Christian Hansen on Saturday in the triple jump who went 43-09.50 to round out Butte's performance.
Hansen and Huff helped the Bulldogs end the meet with a bang in the 1,600-relay, a special moment for those who as well as Colton Case and Ryan Neil, all four of whom are outgoing seniors.
"It felt great (in the 100 and 200). It was just teammates, family and coaches pushing me," Huff said. "When I didn't believe, they always believed in me and I just had to keep pushing it and needed to get points for my team to make a run for a state championship.
"We all went in (to the relay) saying this is our last race as a Bulldog. Couldn't be more proud to say that we put the top off of it and ended our careers like that."
FITZGERALD CAPS EXCITING FINAL MEET
Missoula Hellgate rounded out the top three on the boys side with 51 points, as Ignatius Fitzgerald added another state title to his collection. The Oregon signee won the 1,600 in 4:12.69 and narrowly missed setting the new all-class record which stands at 4:12.06. But he broke the school record and paired it with Friday’s win in the 3,200. Afterwards, Fitzgerald was complimentary of his teammates, coaches and competitors who all pushed him throughout the season.
"This is the culmination of an incredible team and incredible community that's fostered in our program," Fitzgerald said. "This is really about the whole team. That's why I'm out here, I love running with these boys so much."
Hellgate also got a win from junior Layne Cooney in the boys discus as he threw 152-08 for the win. Sage Brooks, a Syracuse signee, won the girls 1,600 for the Knights in 4:55.48.
ZENTZ PACES HELENA TO SECOND
In the girls race, Helena High finished in second place. After winning the 400 and 800 on Friday, junior Odessa Zentz won the 200 for the Bengals and ran a leg on both of Helena's relays. In total, Zentz had a hand in 44 of Helena's 72 points.
Billings West rounded out the top three with 71 points. Jaeden Wolff won the 100 and took second in the 200. Both of West's relays also won on the weekend, as the 1,600-relay ended the meet with the victory as the Golden Bears edged Hellgate by one point to earn a team trophy.
Billings Skyview's Alison Jenkins took home the discus title as well to round out the winners on Saturday.