BUTTE — Missoula Loyola's 1,600-relay team hugged, went silent, then jumped and screamed with joy.
The Breakers team of Xavana Lorengo, Isabelle Berry, Annie Rue and Ireland Johnston had taken fifth in the relay, but that was enough to solidify the program's championship run at the State B track and field meet at Memorial Stadium in Butte on Saturday. For Loyola, it was their first girls title since 2012 and third in program history.
Johnston anchored the relay for Loyola, and it proved just enough to hold off Huntley Project's comeback bid to tie it, similar to what happened in the State AA boys team title race. Loyola finished with 68 points while Huntley Project had 66 and Big Timber was third with 38.
Project entered the final event behind Loyola by 10 points, and the Red Devils went on to win the relay, but Loyola finding a way to place made sure they stood alone at the mountaintop.
"I knew the first three legs that they were going to have a tough time, it's been a long two days, and I knew that going into it that we needed sixth to win," Johnston said. "Doesn't matter if we got first, we just needed that one point and we brought it home.
"It just made me feel like all of the tough workouts, the cries because you didn't PR, just really matter. That's all I was thinking about was those hard times were paying off and really just made me proud of myself and my team."
The Breakers were led by a dominant day by Berry on the track on Saturday. The junior won the 100 and 200 dashes on Saturday and also took home the gold in the 100 hurdles to make it a three title day. She also took third in the 300 hurdles and ran a leg on Loyola's 400-relay that finished second.
Behind Berry, the Breakers now find themselves as state champs.
"Last year I won the 200 and really going into this meet I wanted to be a defending state champ, I wanted to get it again," Berry said. "So this is super exciting. My coach likes to say she's confident but cocky, because you never know. The third seed could have the best race of their life and so I like to remind myself going in that every girl deserves to be here but so do I.
"I love helping the team. I want us to win as a team and everyone's out here supporting me and I really appreciate it. Like I can see my team in the bleachers and our whole team is super supportive of each other. In the end, I want the team to win."
Johnston also came up big for Loyola's points with second-place finishes in the 400 and 800. Victoria Gerhart added a third-place finish in the high jump as well.
"It means that we're finally up there and getting our name out and to look for us," Johnston added about the win. "We've had an incredible season and just watch out for Loyola the next couple of years."
On the boys side, it was Jefferson doing what they do best: win state track and field titles.
The Panthers took home their third straight State B team title on Saturday after scoring 72 points. Florence took second with 57 points while Loyola's boys were third with 55.
Jefferson saw three boys take individual state titles in Dylan Root (110 hurdles), Hunter Stevens (high jump) and Dalton Noble (shot put). The Panthers 400-relay team added a second-place finish while Jace Oxarart was third in javelin and Tavan McMaster added a third-place mark in the discus. Luke Mest also added second and third place marks in the 3,200 and 1,600, respectively.
"It feels great to run three in a row, every year it gets better I feel like," Root said. "I feel like everybody was pretty relaxed. Everybody knew what we were there to do and I think everybody came to compete.
"It was awesome (to win the 110 hurdles). Felt like the prelims I could improve some stuff so I just knew what I had to do so I did it in the finals and came out with the win."
In the girls meet, Project nipped at Loyola's heels to end Saturday after holding a slim lead on Friday. Freshman Avery Gerdes picked up a win in the 400 on Friday and added another state title in the 800 on Saturday. Gerdes also ran on the winning 1,600-relay team and added a second-place finish in the triple jump to guide the Red Devils.
Project also got a boost from Harlie Murphy who took third in the discus as well as a second-place finish from Brynn Wandle, plus the 400-relay also took first for the Red Devils.
"It feels pretty good, I didn't expect (state) to be like this," Gerdes said of her first state meet. "Seeing the rankings, my expectations were pretty high. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I felt a lot of relief (after winning the 400). I felt like it kind of took pressure off of me for the 800."
Big Timber came up in third in the girls team placing thanks in large part to distance runner Natalie Wood. Wood took home the gold in the 1,600 on Friday and followed up with a blazing performance in the 3,200 on Saturday where she won the race by over 30 seconds of the next closest placer. Wood also took third in the 800.
"It's really nice, I have been working for it for so long and luckily this is not my last track season. I think if it was I would be a lot more sad about but I'm happy I was able to end my high school career with two wins that I've working really, really hard for," said Wood, who will compete at Montana State next year. "I felt a lot more confident (Saturday), I was pretty jittery and nervous beforehand (Friday). I was able to forget it during the race but before I was getting a lot of nerves and today I was able to stay calm for almost the whole day and it was nice to not feel like I was getting nervous."
Another standout on the day was Townsend's Dawson Sweat, who won three individual titles on Saturday. Sweat started the day by taking the victory in the boys 300 hurdles, and followed that up by doubling it up in the 100 and 200 to bring home three gold medals to the Bulldogs. Sweat also ran a leg on Townsend's state championship 400-relay.
Sweat's prior best individual place was a second-place mark in the 2022 State B 100 race. But Sweat saved his best for his last high school meet.
"It feels great, I've working on this since middle school," Sweat said. "Really paid off. There's a lot of good competitors. I was confident going in and that last back stretch I knew I had it. Definitely one of my better experiences (in the 300 hurdles)."
Another standout from the meet was Bigfork's Jack Jensen who won the 1,600 on Friday and added the 800 on Saturday. For the junior, he's excited to be back next year to defend both titles.
"It's surreal and so much fun to be winning," Jensen said. "It was just so great. Second place last year in those two events and it felt really good to be able to come around on top this time. It's going to be faster next year, we're going up to Class A so I have to work a little harder in the summer and be prepared for that."
Other champions on Saturday included Red Lodge's Brayli Reimer in the girls 300 hurdles, Florence's Kyler Harris won the boys 3,200, Joliet's Cori Coombe won the girls triple jump while Loyola's Talen Reynolds won the boys triple jump. Shepherd's Ashley Carroll won the girls javelin, Baker's Madison O'Connor took first in the girls high jump and Colstrip's Talen Rogers won the shot put. Red Lodge also got the win in the boys 1,600-relay.