BOZEMAN — Caleb Neth credits Manhattan’s track and field success to the commitment of coach John Sillitti, a Billings native who in recent years has built the program into a juggernaut.
“He is ultimately the (reason for) what we’ve become,” Neth said during Day 1 of the State B track and field meet Friday at Van Winkle Stadium. “Our training and stuff, it’s all him and the coaches. He’s got a great staff, and we’re very thankful.
“He’s actually had some college offers, and he’s turned them down because he wants to stay with us. And that means a lot.”
Sillitti’s handiwork hasn’t gone unnoticed. But Neth and teammate Alec Nehring are the ones who have done the heavy lifting, staking the Tigers out to 45 first-day points and a big lead in chasing their fifth consecutive team championship (and seventh in the past nine years).
Neth won his third straight long jump crown and captured the 400 meters for the second consecutive year to set the pace. His top measurement in the long jump was 23 feet, 3¾ inches.
Neth said one of his jumps measured 24 feet, but it was discounted because he scratched by a quarter-inch.
“Records are sometimes made to be broken, sometimes they’re not,” said Neth, who will run in the 110- and 300-meter hurdle finals Saturday, as well as both relays, which should help give the Tigers even more of a boost.
“Still a busy day,” Neth said.
Elsewhere, Nehring won the discus and placed fourth in the long jump, while Manhattan teammates Tracer Stone and Cole McCloud placed third and fourth in the pole vault.
Behind Manhattan in the team standings is a logjam, with Boulder (in second with 17), Thompson Falls, Bigfork, Malta and Glasgow separated by just seven points.
It’s much the same in the girls' standings. Shelby is in the lead with 30 points, followed by Roundup (16 points), Townsend (16), Colstrip (16), Bigfork (14) and Malta (13). Kim Parsell’s huge day led Shelby: Parsell captured titles in the 400, the 800 and the 3,200.
Similar to Neth, Malta’s Sophia Stiles kept her grip on the girls long jump title by leaping 17-6 to edge Manhattan’s Alexa Arthun. It was Stiles second straight state title in the long jump, and came after early rain forced a delay in the event.
Stiles, a junior, will try to win her third consecutive triple jump crown Saturday, and will also compete in the high jump and both hurdle events.
She is expected to add further to her championship haul, which includes the past two Class B girls' basketball crowns with the M’ettes.
A year ago, Glasgow’s Benji Phillips was denied the javelin title by Casey Cole of Forsyth, who eclipsed Phillips’ best throw by nearly three feet. But when Cole transferred to Class A Laurel before this school year, it cleared an even greater path for Phillips.
Take nothing away from Phillips: He might have won the javelin this year regardless if Cole was competing or not. Phillips' winning throw measured 190-7.
“I came in last year thinking I was going to win it and I got beat,” Phillips said. “Casey Cole had a really good throw; he had a big PR.
“It feels good. It feels good. I worked pretty hard, so it’s nice to get rewarded for that.”
If anyone felt vindicated it was Colstrip’s Hailey Poole.
Poole suffered a knee injury last year and underwent surgery, which kept her out of the shot put and discus events and relegated her, ultimately, to a third place finish in the javelin at the state meet despite winning it as a freshman the season before.
Poole made amends Friday by claiming the discus title with a throw of 128-4.
“This was just something I had to do,” Poole said. “I had to go out and get it. It’s better than I’ve thrown in a long time. I knew today was the day. I had a good feeling.”