MISSOULA — Twin brothers Cade and Paul Johnstone quite literally hit the ground running when they arrived on the Montana track and field team in 2018-19.
As freshmen, the brothers each ran legs on Montana's 4x400 relay team that won a Big Sky Conference title in Missoula, and also set a school record.
As small-town kids from Forsyth, that early success has set the tone for their track careers and simultaneously proved a point.
"Definitely right off the bat I wanted to show people that just because you're from a small town and you don't have amazing facilities that you can come out and compete with the best of people and our team and everyone that was around us definitely motivated us and pushed us," Cade said. "We just kind of followed the line with them and they kind of just led us where we are today."
But that success is no surprise to those who follow the sport.
The duo led Forsyth High School to the Class B team title back in 2018, nearly scoring all of the points for the Dogies. Forsyth scored 86 team points, and the Johnstone twins combined for 72 of them.
Since, there's been ups and downs, but along with their outdoor relay title as freshmen, Paul won an indoor 4x400 conference title in 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Outdoor 2020 was canceled, and Paul redshirted all of last year. UM didn't hold an indoor season in 2021 either.
After battling injuries in this most recent indoor season, the elder of the twins — by eight minutes — is getting back to where he wants to be.
"I'm just really excited. This will be my first real outdoor since I was a freshman," Paul said. "I think I was learning basically the whole season so I'm really excited to use everything I've learned and kind of come out here and not really put any pressure on myself or have a set PR or time that I'm going to run. Just see what I can do and just do it."
Cade meanwhile felt the highs again last outdoor season when he won a Big Sky title in the individual 400 and set another school record in the process at 46.69 seconds. After also dealing with injuries early in the outdoor season, he's back in the swing of competition as well.
So through battling cancellations, injuries and more, the two have found successes in between as they embark on this outdoor season.
And from the beginning, the one constant behind that, is each other.
"It was nice growing up with him," Cade said about his twin. "I always knew my best competition was kind of like competing right next to me. So coming here I think I was prepared for that. Like I know some kids it's kind of like a shock but having him by my side that was probably the best experience I could have had growing up. Just everyone pushing each other."
"It's definitely helped me stay on track," Paul added. "There are days where maybe you don't want to go to the training room or do certain stretches or whatever and we hold each other accountable and we know that if we have a day where we take it off, the other one is going to be working hard so you've got to keep with them. You have to work with them otherwise they're going to get better than you kind of thing. We push each other."