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Weather-altered spring sports championships successful, if imperfect, for MHSA

Hurdles
Posted at 5:11 PM, Jun 04, 2024

MISSOULA — As the executive director of the Montana High School Association, Brian Michelotti is sometimes tasked with solving complex administrative or logistical puzzles to provide students with competition opportunities.

But first and foremost, Michelotti is just a fan.

“(MHSA associate director) Scott Wilson and I were down in Laurel and watched (Corvallis' Olivia Lewis) break the 300 hurdles record, and we were in total awe of the talent that was coming down the track,” Michelotti said in a phone interview with MTN Sports, also mentioning the record-setting performances of Bozeman’s Nathan Neil, Helena High sisters Logan and Madilyn Todorovich, and others.

“We just keep getting better and better, and I’m just so happy and it’s so fun to watch these outstanding athletes compete at the highest level in Montana and eventually go on to bigger and better things, as well.”

Lewis shattered the all-class record in the 300-meter hurdles at the Class A state track and field meet in Laurel. Her performance, as well as the numerous other athletes breaking records at the state track and field meets, provided a highlight during an otherwise stressful week for Michelotti.

When a storm hit Montana with heavy snow and rain in advance of the spring sports championships scheduled for May 23-25, Michelotti, tournament officials and schools were forced to pivot. As snow piled on the softball fields at Belgrade, the host site for the Class AA state tournament, Michelotti was left with a no-win situation.

“The challenge of driving to Belgrade that morning, seeing the eight inches of snow on the ground and looking around the room wondering what we're going to do, the thought processes of changing the entire schedule, picking up that tournament and moving it to another location that claims they have good fields and also claims that they're going to hopefully have good weather for the next three days, those are the stressful decisions there,” Michelotti said.

“There’s a lot of coordination that happens on the phone calls. That’s when we get into those situations when we really have to rely on relationships. And when we have such strong relationships with our member schools and the people that we work with, it just goes so far.”

After delaying the start of all three state softball tournaments — Class AA, which also moved from Belgrade to Helena, and Class A and Class B/C in Billings — Mother Nature cooperated the rest of the weekend.

Tournament managers Tim McMahon (Class AA), Mike Erickson (Class A) and Tim Kaczmarek (Class B/C) utilized contingency brackets to help map out the softball schedules. The Class A and Class B/C tournaments concluded that Saturday with Columbia Falls and Manhattan rallying to win state championships, and the Class AA tournament wrapped up a day later with Helena Capital winning the title.

“We always have a few issues that pop up, and we feel like we’ve managed those issues, been able to put in proactive solutions to not only fix it, but also hopefully to solve the problem for the future, as well,” Michelotti said.

The state track and field meets and state tennis tournaments all finished on time with only minor adjustments to their schedules. All in all, it was a successful, if imperfect, weekend.

While final tournament reports are still being compiled for state softball, track and tennis, Michelotti is confident those figures will point to another successful spring sports season. He has seen data from the state baseball tournament, which was played May 16-18 in Missoula.

“Baseball was very successful,” Michelotti said. “We were actually able to return money to help pay for a lot of the expenses that happened in both travel and per diem at our state baseball tournament over in Missoula, so that was a real positive situation.”

The 2023-24 high school sports season is officially in the books, which means end-of-year meetings and conferences are on deck for Michelotti and the MHSA staff. Soon, each classification will hold its annual meetings to review its processes, work on future schedules and tweak rules and formats.

“We work closely with our MHSA member schools,” Michelotti said. “So many of those individuals are so active, whether it be running tournaments or scheduling or doing all the (administrative) things, that we’re just really fortunate to have a great staff and membership out there.”