State A track Fri

Laurel's Casey Cole competes in the long jump during the State A track and field meet Friday in Bozeman.

DEAN HENDRICKSON, Billings Gazette

BOZEMAN -- Sidney pole vault coach Steve Yockim has talked in the past about his girls’ humble beginnings, years before they created a phenomenon. He mentioned it again Friday after they added another championship.

“When I took over we had two broken poles, and that first year I don’t think we had anybody place at divisionals,” Yockim said. “But you have success and it breeds on itself.”

The Eagles’ vaulting dominance continued on the first day of the State A track and field meet at Van Winkle Stadium, as Aubrey Kessel won Sidney’s 13th girls pole vault title since 1997, winning with a vault of 10 feet, 6 inches.

From the early days when Melanie Prevost began the tradition all the way up to Kessel’s championship performance, the Eagles have built upon their legacy.

Kessel is a proud new member of the club that also includes Leila Ben Youssef, Ashley Taylor, Miranda Fehilly, MaKayla Fink, Vanessa Bawden, Mikayla Minow and Jalyssa Gorder.

“It’s unreal,” said Kessel, who outlasted teammate Harmony Hampton and Hamilton’s Taylor Bess on Friday. “It’s been my dream throughout high school.

“I had a really bad warm-up. I got in my own head a little bit. It’s just the state atmosphere. I had a lot of nerves. I had to calm down and just jump.”

Thanks to Kessel and Co., Sidney finds itself in third place in the team standings entering Saturday. The Eagles have 21 points, trailing second-place Corvallis (29 points) and first-place Hamilton (36).

Corvallis is chasing its sixth consecutive Class A girls' championship.

Corvallis’ boys are in first place after Day 1 with 22.33 points. Sidney ranks second with 16.67 points, while Billings Central is in third with 16.

Sidney’s Garrison Hughes, perhaps setting the tone for Kessel, won the boys' pole vault title Thursday with a vault of 15-0.

Glendive’s Carson Oakland stole the show early Friday, upstaging Laurel’s Casey Cole and Billings Central’s Jacob Hadley to win the boys long jump. Oakland had a top jump of 21-4¾, more than three inches better than Cole and four better than Hadley.

The trio has battled throughout the season, but Oakland placed third among them at last weekend’s divisional meet. Oakland said he saved his best for last.

“We’ve been going at it all year,” said Oakland, who won a triple jump title last season. “I think all of us have won one meet, but I was fortunate to win this one. I think I just kept a level head. It’s a great feeling.”

Hadley ended up placing third in the high jump, also, behind Dillon’s Cordell McGinley and champion Parker Spadt from Frenchtown.

Meanwhile, Central’s Jade Smith came away with the girls high jump crown. Smith’s previous best performance in the high jump at a state meet was a sixth-place finish when she was a freshman.

Now a senior, Smith shattered that glass ceiling by winning with a leap of 5-8¼, more than three inches better than her seeding measurement.

Keaunna Mason of Hardin won her second consecutive shot put title in dominant fashion, heaving it 42-2½. The throw easily outpaced the next-best finishers.

“I came in here with a clear head and came out with relief,” said Mason, who is considering signing to join the track team at Lewis-Clark State in Idaho. “That’s an amazing thing to say, I won state twice.”

Among Friday’s other title winners was Belgrade’s Pipi Eitel, who came away with victories in both the 400- and 800-meter finals.

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