HELENA – Odessa Zentz is already one of the best middle-distance runners in Montana.
The 14-year-old has already proven that, setting her age division’s meet record in the 400-meter run at last month’s USA Track and Field Region 11 Junior Olympic Championships in Provo, Utah. She clocked a time of 59.05 seconds.
“That was the first time I’ve gotten under a minute,” Zentz said. “My previous (personal record) was 60.64, so I chopped off a second and a half.
“I finished the race and I had beaten probably the favorite in that race, Jada Crockett, and she’s really good competition – I love racing her. I looked up at the time and it was 59, and I looked down and smiled.”
Zentz was running in the outside lane, so she never even saw her competition the entire race. She finished 1.33 seconds ahead of second-place Crockett. Zentz’s 59.05-second mark, which would have placed her fifth at last year’s Class AA state track and field meet had she been in high school yet, will send the soon-to-be freshman to the National Junior Olympic Championships in Greensboro, N.C.
She’ll be making her second trip to the national meet, where she’ll also compete in the 800, the 1,600-meter relay and the high jump. The latter event nearly derailed Zentz’s summer at the USATF state meet in Butte.
“I broke my nose in the high jump, so I thought I wasn’t going to be able to go to Regionals. But I came back and ran the 800, that was what I hadn’t missed yet,” said Zentz, who cruised to an easy win in the 800 with a time of 2 minutes, 31.86 seconds at the state meet. “I did miss the 400, and then they got me into the fast heat (at the regional meet), thank goodness.”
Zentz won all four of her events at the regional meet in Utah, clearing 4 feet, 9.75 inches in the high jump to edge Helena Vigilante teammate Logan Todorovich. Todorovich and her two younger siblings, sister Madilyn and brother Tyse, will be joining Zentz at the national meet July 23-29.
Logan will compete in the 100-meter dash, high jump, shot put and javelin at nationals; Madilyn will compete in the pentathlon, 80-meter hurdles, long jump and high jump; and Tyse will compete in the 100, shot put and javelin.
“My parents, they’d take to me to some track meets when I was younger,” said Logan, 12. “And they took me to Junior Olympics and that’s when I really got involved and really started enjoying it and liking it.”
“I started going to different heat meets and I enjoyed watching my sister, and I thought it would be fun for me to try it, too, and I enjoyed it a lot,” added 11-year-old Madilyn.
“I kind of got bored of just watching it the whole time, so I wanted to try it,” said Tyse.
Tyse dominated the 8-and-under shot put and javelin at the regional meet, marking a shot put heave of 24 feet, 10.5 inches and a javelin throw of 65-08. In the month between the regional and national meets, he intended to improve his hip movement to get better throws.
Madilyn already calls her younger brother “a monster thrower,” and the siblings are each other’s biggest fans. They’ll compete against each other in practice – Tyse says he can’t quite out-throw both of his sisters yet – but they cheer for each other at the meets, where all three admitted to battling nerves.
“I get a little nervous, because of all the competition I have down there and stuff,” Logan said. “From Montana, you have competition, but when you go down there and see a bunch of kids that in the future are going to be in the Olympics even, it’s really cool to watch and go against.”
Helena High’s Trey Tintinger will also be competing at the USATF National Junior Olympics, aiming to repeat as the 15-16 boys high jump champion.