MISSOULA – The first title came pretty comfortably. Now the second is expected. The Missoula Sentinel girls track and field team returned most of its top placers from its first-ever state title in 2017, and now the ladies are favored to repeat this week at the State AA meet.
Sometimes the top competition the Spartans have seen comes when they go against each other. That includes when they fill the podium at meets, but also when the competitive group pushes each other at practice.
While each star is chasing her own individual titles, Sentinel’s ladies admit their fellow Spartans can provide quite a boost when the team points start piling up.
“I think, especially with this team, we’re all super-supportive of each other, looking out for one another, cheering each other on,” said junior Shelby Schweyen. “So when you see somebody hit a good mark or a good jump, good throw, you’re always excited. That just pumps you up getting ready for your events, as well.”
“We feed off each other so much,” added junior Ashley McElmurry. “You see somebody else doing good, and it just pumps you up and makes you want to do even better. Yeah, definitely having your friends and teammates just support you through it is so much fun, and just helps you do so much better.”
Sentinel will need a big week from its stars to repeat. The Spartans rely heavily on athletes that excel in multiple events. According to www.montanatrack.com, only seven Spartan girls enter state ranked in position to place (top six in an event), but five of them are ranked in multiple events.
McElmurry ranks top six in five events (100-meter dash, 100- and 300-meter hurdles, long jump and triple jump). Lauren Heggen often competes step-for-step with McElmurry. The sophomore is expected to place in three events (100 hurdles, long jump and triple jump). Schweyen has top-six marks in the 100, 200 and high jump. And Sentinel’s strong squad of throwers is led by senior Emily Malone (ranked in shot put, discus and javelin) and senior Madi Arneson (ranked in shot put and discus). Plus the Spartans are expected to pick up more points in the relays, where McElmurry, Heggen and Schweyen also play a big part.
So the Spartans know they will have no chance to rest this week, but they welcome the challenge.
“It’s pretty all-out all of the time,” said McElmurry, who will attempt all seven of her events in the same meet for the first time this season at state. “During the beginning of the season it’s definitely a lot harder than now toward the end, because you’re getting back in the rhythm of having to do so many events, and it gets to be more of a fun thing instead of something that’s stressful.”
“I think it kind of starts in practice, just making sure you are communicating with your coaches and getting in the right practice every day,” Schweyen added about preparing for state. “And then going through the meet you’ve just got to really manage your time well and know what’s coming up next. And it’s tough, but you’ve just got to stay focused through the meet, and focus on each event as it comes.”
Sentinel will open its quest to repeat when the State AA meet starts in Great Falls on Friday.