GREAT FALLS — Lauren Heggen and Ashley McElmurry have become good friends, but there’s certainly still a budding, though still friendly, rivalry between the two.
The Missoula Sentinel duo entertained Saturday’s crowd at the State AA track and field meet at Memorial Stadium by going back and forth in the triple jump competition, breaking and re-breaking records along the way.
McElmurry set the Class AA record last spring, sailing 38 feet, 7 3/4 inches in Butte. Heggen bested that on her first attempt Saturday, leaping 38-11 1/2. But McElmurry did one better moments later, breaking Heggen’s mark and the all-class record with a jump of 39-05. Kellee Glaus held the record at 39-02, set at the 2010 state meet.
The two dueled into the finals, where Heggen launched 39-07 on her final attempt, the fifth record-breaking jump of the afternoon. The mark held for the State AA title.
“I just stayed low in my first phase, really rode the second and finished it really well. I was behind the board still, that was annoying, but hopefully I’ll get that down this summer with the summer track I’m doing,” said Heggen.
The record was impressive in its own right, but it came moments after a disastrous 100-meter hurdles race for Heggen, which wound up creating quite the controversy.
Four girls ran into hurdles during the finals, with Heggen and teammate Lauren Bingham each crashing to the track. Heggen was able to get up and complete the race, but Bingham was tended to by the medical staff before being helped off.
“It was definitely difficult. Obviously that race was not ideal, it’s not how I wanted my state finals race to go, but it happens, you can’t control it,” Heggen said of the 100 hurdles. “There’s bad luck sometimes, I guess. I just had to get my head straight and realize what I was here to do. I did what I know how to do in the triple jump.”
But track officials marked three infractions during the race, with runners and hurdles causing interference. After hours of discussion, the meet’s lone referee, former Montana High School Association executive director Jim Haugen, called for a re-race later in the day.
“As the referee, I’m the only one who can make that call,” said Haugen. “After discussing the infractions with the officials, hearing what they saw that caused interference, it was the most fair decision in my mind.”
McElmurry won the initial race with a time of 14.99, but the second race saw Heggen, who clocked the fastest times in the prelims on Friday, cross the finish line first in 14.66. Billings Senior’s Tavy Findon placed second, while Helena Capital teammates Elena Carter and Melissa Moreni were third and fourth, respectively.
McElmurry finished fifth in the race. Missoula Sentinel won the team title, amassing 113 points. Bozeman was second with 84.5 and Billings West finished third with 77.
Big Sky’s Kearns breaks discus records
Brooke Kearns entered the meet as a threat to potentially break the Class AA discus record, but the senior did one better.
Kearns belted a toss of 157 feet, breaking not only the Class AA record, but the all-class record from former Plains standout Leah Thompson. Thompson threw 154-11 in 2016.
“I think my biggest drive was to beat my school record, which was 145-03. I hit 144-02 last week at divisionals, I really wanted to hit this,” said Kearns. “When I hit 160 in my warmup throws, nobody would tell me I threw 160 because I didn’t want my confidence to go through the roof. I went in there relaxed, collected and I just threw.”
Kearns’ throw brought an eruption from the crowd outside of Memorial Stadium, but the cheers echoed into the grandstands. She says it was the perfect moment to cap her career.
“My parents asked me if I wanted them to cheer or if I didn’t. I told them, ‘I love it. Cheer please, if I hit it,'” she said. “I don’t know how to feel right now. I was a state champion last year and for it to happen again, it’s just amazing.”
Brockel wins fourth 200 title, breaks Class AA individual titles record
No female athlete in Class AA has won more track and field championships than Billings West’s Maddie Brockel.
The senior won the 400-meter dash and 400-meter relay on Friday, helping the Bears set a new all-class record in the latter, then added wins in the 100 and 200 on Saturday afternoon, bringing her championship total to 14 gold medals, more than any Class AA female athlete in history.
Former Great Falls CMR runner and jumper Denise Pidcock won 13 from 1979 to 1981.
“It’s amazing. It never gets old and it’s just an awe moment every time. I’m happy to be able to do that every year,” said Brockel.
Saturday’s win in the 200 put Brockel in more elite company. It was the fourth consecutive year she had won the event, adding her name to a prestigious list of four-time champions.
“There’s a lot of tough competition here, so it’s fun to be able to do that,” she said. “It’s bittersweet because this was my last one. … I’m very thankful for what great teammates we have. We have a very tight group at West High. We train hard together, that definitely helps a lot.”
Brockel’s winning times in the 100 and 200 were 12.28 and 25.06, respectively.
Kalispell Glacier boys shrug off pressure to win team title
Evan Todd wanted to start Saturday on a strong note. The junior did just that, winning the Class AA javelin on Saturday morning, with the winning throw coming on his final attempt.
Missoula Sentinel’s Rylan Ortt held the top mark at 182 feet, 5 inches entering the finals, but Todd dug deep for a toss of 184-01 on his final throw. Ortt came close on his last attempt but couldn’t surpass the Wolfpack junior.
“I think going through this meet, I wasn’t really thinking about it. I was going out and doing what I knew I could do. I proved myself near the beginning of the season, I knew that I could do it so I said, ‘Might as well go do it,'” said Todd.
“I knew I had to do it for my team. I had to lay it all on the line for my team, it’s not about me, it’s about the team,” he continued.
Todd and teammate Bennett McChesney, who finished third, battled with Ortt and his Sentinel teammate Caden Venters all season long, with friendships sparking in the process.
“It was really awesome. I made some really good friends from Sentinel,” said Todd. “Rylan Ortt, we were both quarterbacks on the football teams, so we’re pretty good buddies, actually. It was fun competing against him this year.”
Todd’s win in the javelin added to an impressive day for the Wolfpack. Senior Mark Estes won the triple jump competition with an incredible leap of 46-04 3/4.
“My first jump, I scratched my first jump and went back to my coach. He told me not to worry about anything and just jump. I was basically competing with my other teammate, (Hunter Nicholson),” Estes said of the competition. Nicholson finished fourth in the event.
It was a special conclusion to the career of Estes, the former Class C standout at Drummond High School. Saturday marked the first team championship in Kalispell Glacier boys’ history.
“That’s sweet. It’s sweet we can all come out here and win that. Our goal was to take first in the team running and a couple of us wanted to take first in individual events,” said Estes. “We were really blessed this year with all the athletes, for sure. We had athletes in almost every event doing something.”
Glacier scored 107 team points, beating rival Kalispell Flathead’s 76. Bozeman placed third with 45 points.
Nelson re-breaks the 100-meter dash record
It seemed premature to interview Great Falls CMR speedster Damien Nelson on Friday, moments after he broke the nine-year-old 100-meter dash record set by former Rustler Chris Wilson. As it turned out, it was.
Nelson re-broke the record in the 100 finals on Saturday, posting a blistering time of 10.50 seconds, the second-fastest ever in Montana. Wilson clocked a 10.48 at the divisional meet in 2009.
Nelson crossed the finish line well in front of the other competitors, but the stadium went silent, impatiently waiting for officials to post the time on the scoreboard in the south end zone. When the 10.50 finally flashed on the scoreboard, the celebration was on.
“It was kind of nerve-racking to see what I ran. The guy showed me the hand-clocked time, so I was trying to calculate that to see where I would fit in,” Nelson said. “It was a heck of a wait, kind of nerve-racking after the race, which is surprising because you’re done running. Looking up at the scoreboard was exciting seeing my (personal record), especially because it was the last 100 in my high school career. I’m very happy with what I’ve done here the last four years.”
What time did officials have for Nelson in the hand timing?
“The hand time was 10.31. Seeing that I was like, ‘OK, I must have ran a 10.60 or something lower.’ It was very exciting,” he said.
Nelson also won the 200 in 21.61.
Sulser comes just shy of 110-meter hurdles record
The record books nearly saw another change in the 110-meter hurdles race, as Billing Senior superstar Gabe Sulser nearly topped Matt Larson’s 14.21 from 2002. Sulser clocked a 14.22 in Saturday’s final and was admittedly a bit disappointed to come so close.
“It’s kind of a sucky feeling, but that’s the fastest time I’ve ever ran. That’s all you can ask for at state, is to run your best when it matters,” said Sulser. “This track is really fast. Honestly, a little rest never hurts. I hadn’t ran the last three weeks and I think that helped me. I’m a little out of shape, but for this short race it kind of helped get re-juiced and go fast again. That was the key, being patient the last three weeks and trying to do my best and be ready for this meet.”
Sulser says he was “thankful to compete” after pulling his hamstring at a meet last month, with the win and time making his return to the track worthwhile. There might have been a little ribbing from his older sister, Morgan, however. She holds the girls all-class record of 14.11 from 2013.
“She might give me a little crap when I get into the stands, but that’s all right. She can have it. She’s probably a little more deserving than I am,” laughed Sulser.
Other key performances from Saturday’s final day of the State AA track meet can be found below.
- Glacier’s Annie Hill added another gold medal to her illustrious distance career. Hill won the 1,600 on Saturday, with a winning time of 4 minutes, 51.62 seconds.
- Findon just missed the first-place position on the podium in the 100 hurdles, but the Senior standout made up for it in the 300s. She won the race with a time of 44.20.
- Butte’s Hailee Regan pulled a shocker in the shot put competition. Regan threw 39-05 to upset throwers from Missoula Sentinel. The Spartans’ Madi Arneson also threw 39-05, but Regan was announced the winner on a judge’s decision of the next best throw.
- Sentinel’s Jonathan Harrison provided quite the kick in the boys 800. CMR’s Braden Stremcha led the entire race, but Harrison sprinted past him in the final 100 meters to win in 1:55.09. Hellgate’s Will Dauenhauer finished second, Glacier’s Elijah Boyd third and Stremcha fell to fourth.
- Justin Jenks added another gold to his weekend. The Helena Capital thrower won the discus Saturday, tossing 172-03.
- Ben Perrin came within seconds of breaking his older brother Jake’s all-class record in the 3,200. The younger Perrin ran 9:08.38 Saturday, the record being 9:04.35.
To view complete results from all of the state track and field meets, please click here.