MANHATTAN – Manhattan is a titan of Class B track and field. However, this spring will be a bit different.
“This year we are going to be underdogs, but just like (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) won against Virginia, you never know what’s going to happen,” said junior Zachary Meeker.
Their shot at a dominating season like they have done in years past may not be the same steep odds as a 16-seed beating a No. 1-seed during March Madness, but the Tigers know it will be a tough task to reach where they once were.
“I was just looking at returning points from last year at state, and we don’t have a ton,” said John Sillitti, Manhattan’s head track and field coach. “We have a lot of freshmen out. I think we have 55 kids total, and about 20 of them are freshmen.”
The Tigers’ boys team has won seven of the last 10 state titles. But this year will be a bit different. The girls team has not won a state title since 1996. But they’re ready to change that, even with a young squad.
“I would like to see the girls up there, maybe get some sort of state trophy this year,” said senior Hannah Madsen. “I want to make it a good year because there is a lot of underclassmen, and I want to keep the tradition going and hopefully the program growing, because I think there is a lot of potential in them. I’m excited to get out there and see what we all can do.”
There is a lot of snow on the ground in Montana, and it has already cancelled the Tigers’ scheduled season-opening meet in Bozeman. They have to stay inside, however they are ready to work regardless of where they practice.
“It’s tough practicing in (the gym) because we don’t really have a lot of space, but we still try to get outside, and we have been,” said senior Cal Holgate. “We’ve been running down the trail and stuff, and it hasn’t affected us too much.”
Even though they may not seem like a title favorite right now, Manhattan comes into the season with a lot of experience, sweeping the cross country titles in the fall. No matter what the outside noise is, the Tigers are ready to compete.
“I think we are going to go far again. We have a lot of talent, everyone has been working hard and we expect to go to state again and do well,” Holgate said.
“I expect that our team is going to work hard every day, and we do that,” Meeker said. “And our hard work (in practice) is going to reflect our hard work on the track.”