MANHATTAN — It’s no secret that Manhattan is a running town. The boys and girls cross country teams swept both state titles this past fall and two of the past three crowns each.
But it is now one month away from the track and field state championships, and all eyes are one of the most powerful distance duos the Tigers have ever seen, Bryce Love and Zak Meeker.
“It’s becoming a culture here. As you can see, we had to get more banners out there. We have two boys track and girls cross country. It’s a big deal, so we love it here in Manhattan,” said Love, a senior on the Manhattan track and field team.
For Meeker and Love, a winning culture is something they are working to create every day. Love is the reigning Class B track state champion in the 1,600 meters, while Meeker is the defending 3,200-meter champ.
“It was something I’ve always dreamed of and ever since I was a runner I saw guys win and I just always wanted to do that. And Zak and I – I think without him I wouldn’t have been able to do it. We push each other each race and if you were there that race, we finished neck and neck,” said Love. “I think I maybe had him by a second, but it was huge and it was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Love and Meeker are best friends: They run together, ski together, take camping trips up to Hyalite. And that bond translates to the track.
“I don’t know, he’s kind of like my brother,” said Meeker. “I care for him just as much as he does and I want him to do good just as much as I want myself to do good. So if I win, if he wins, it’s just mutual.”
But how do you mold two of the most dangerous distance runners in the state and create a running dynasty in a town fewer than 2,000 people? That comes from head coach John Sillitti.
“He is by far one of the most talented and best coaches in the state of Montana. I think he has some of the best training and I don’t think I’d be where I am today without him. I think he does a great job with the team and building runners up to their potential,” Love said.
And now it’s up to Love and Meeker to show off that potential one more time and defend their state titles a month from now in Laurel. But while the hardware has been nice, the wins have never been for themselves.
“It’s more of like, ‘Wow, we did that. We put our hearts into that, we did that, that’s amazing,'” said Meeker. “And it just has our younger kids kind of look at that and go, ‘Wow, if we put our hearts into it, we can do that, too. We can throw up a banner just as well as the other kids before us did.’”