KALISPELL — Missoula Sentinel’s girls didn’t have the depth or firepower to repeat as Class AA state track and field champions, but the Spartans did manage a third-place trophy and nearly pushed for second.
Senior Ashley McElmurry and junior Lauren Heggen secured a trophy on their own, scoring 58.5 of the Spartans’ 76 points.
The weekend’s meet was especially bittersweet for McElmurry, who won both hurdles races and placed runner-up in the long and triple jumps. But it was the 100-meter hurdles with which she was most pleased.
Last spring, McElmurry appeared to win the 100 hurdles at state in Great Falls, but officials called for a re-run after a number of athletes crashed in the original finals. McElmurry would finish fifth. Fast forward to Saturday and she left little doubt, winning by a half-second.
“It was really awesome. I have honestly thought about that race and that state meet every single day since it happened, so it was a really big relief (to sweep the hurdles) and it’s something I’ll remember forever,” McElmurry said. “It was fun.”
For McElmurry, a senior who takes her talents to the University of Nebraska track and field program next fall, the weekend was a fitting ending to an impressive prep career.
“It’s been the perfect senior year. I honestly couldn’t ask for a better one,” said McElmurry. “It’s been so awesome, and I’m going to miss being a part of the Sentinel track team and I’m going to miss high school sports, too, but I’ve loved it so much.”
Saturday’s third-place finish was the cherry on top.
“It was really exciting. Going in, we didn’t really know what we could do. We were hoping we could bring home some hardware, so this is really exciting,” said McElmurry.
“It’s amazing. We lost basically all of our throwers, which was like 50 points from last year,” added Heggen. “Obviously that was a big component of our state title, so the outsiders didn’t really think that we could pull out and really show up this weekend, but we came into the competition with the mentality that, even though we might not have that No. 1 spot secured, we can still compete for second and third, and we can never really count out championships. You just have to come in with the mindset that you’re going to compete.”
Heggen did that, winning the State AA triple jump for the second year in a row, while adding third-place efforts in the long jump and 100 hurdles. Her personal-best triple jump of 40 feet, 7.5 inches sits No. 18 in the nation, and though she didn’t cross 40 at the state meet, she did extend her own all-class record by a couple inches, launching 39-09.25.
“This year was a little bit difficult for me because I was battling an injury early on, so my season has been a little shorter than I would have liked,” she said. “I wasn’t able to get my hurdle time down to where I would have liked based of the circumstances that presented themselves, so I was a little disappointed with that. But to be able to come out and hit 40 feet in triple jump was big for me, and then to also come re-break my state record was really awesome. It’s just a good end to the season, even though it was a little short.”
Sentinel will certainly be on trophy alert again next spring, Heggen leading the charge, along with freshman Brooke Stayner, who added points in the 400 and 800, as well as McElmurry’s younger sister, sophomore Audrey.
“Jeez, I know, she’s coming up,” Ashley said of Audrey. “I would be so happy if she could. That would be awesome.”