051715 AA track1 mg.jpg

Big Sky's Hannah Porch, left, edges Monica White of Kalispell Flathead to win the 200-meter run Saturday at the Western AA Divisional track meet at Missoula County Stadium. Porch had a hand in five Eagle golds, but Kalispell Glacier topped Big Sky by a point for the team title.

MICHAEL GALLACHER photos, Missoulian

A third straight championship for Missoula Big Sky's boys is but a fleeting dream this week, while the girls have only a somewhat better chance to end Billings Senior's streak of golds.

The real intrigue at Kalispell's Legends Stadium, at least in the team battles, will be in the Class B girls' ranks this year.

The State B and State AA track and field championships will run concurrently in Kalispell beginning Friday. Team titles are to be handed out Saturday afternoon after a second day of competition.

Bigfork and Plains lead the pack of B hopefuls searching for girls' track hardware from far out in front, a few individual placers near the bottom of the podium possibly the only difference between the two-time defending champs from Plains and the Valkyries.

"I think we can get close, but we'll have to perform real well," Bigfork coach Sue Loeffler said. "I feel they've got more than we have."

In the AA field, success will likely be measured by individual medals this year rather than team trophies.

Class AA

The Big Sky girls missed a Western AA Divisional title last week by a point to Kalispell Glacier, but both western front-runners are still chasing the champs out east.

Billings Senior, though down some this spring, is the perennial champ. The Broncs are still a danger for a team trophy, though Bozeman's dominant performance at the Eastern AA Divisional last week at home -- the Hawks won by 75 points -- could be foreshadowing.

Big Sky, which competed without power thrower Anna Gragg (foot) and, on the second day, runner Hannah Kearns (hamstring), still has a shot at a top-three finish. That's if the girls are fully recovered, Eagles coach Dan Nile said.

"It just depends health-wise, that's the big question," said Nile, who expects to be without Gragg this weekend. "State, I think, is going to be wide open. The nice thing is a lot of our key kids are peaking at the right time. If our health is where we want it to be, you know, maybe we can do some damage over there."

Missoula's only girls' defending champion is the Eagle 400-meter relay team, though Kearns' injury could leave it a step slow.

Big Sky will look for big points from Hannah Porch (sprints, jumps), Hannah Coburn (hurdles, jumps) and Courtney Carl (jumps). Porch won five events at last week's divisional.

Sentinel has medal potential in runners Olivia Burgad (400), Ellen Brooks (middle distance) and field athletes Tana Garden (throws), Bailey Deyle (javelin), Jordyn Schweyen (high jump) and Shayla Palmer (pole vault).

The same goes for Hellgate thrower Darby Henthorn (javelin) and distance runner Samantha Sayer.

Hellgate's Zayne Babbitt is the defending boys' shot put champ and looks like a sure bet to make it two in a row, but the fellas from Missoula will have a tough time claiming too many more golds.

Either Tristan Gray or Conner Schenk of the Knights could get there in the high jump. Sentinel's Marshall Beatty has the top time in the 3,200 and Josh Deshner won the divisional javelin event. Long jumper Marcus Lindquist and sprinter Sam Kirkedie are Big Sky's best bets.

Helena High has the inside edge on a boys' championship with a few teams like Glacier and Bozeman in the running.

"Truthfully, they're not great in the field events except the pole vault, but they're so loaded out on the track," Big Sky's Nile said. "The bus would have to go to the wrong town."

That pole vaulter is Chase Smith, the only Montanan to ever clear the 16-foot mark in the event. He's up to 16-5 on the year.


Class B

Class B is brimming with area repeat champions, none so obvious as the Plains girls.

Bigfork swept the Western B Divisional last week, setting up an interesting showdown at Kalispell with the rest of the state invited.

Get the latest sports news and scores sent to your email inbox

"Hungry," said Plains coach Denise Montgomery, describing her girls who lost a division title by a point to Bigfork last week. "I think it'd be fun if it did (come down to a close finish) again -- but I'd like, of course, for us to be on the other side of the point."

Plains is led by Hailey Phillips, the defending champion in the 200, 400 and 100 and 300 hurdles. She has two career titles in each of the two sprints and is seeking a fourth in the long hurdles.

Phillips won all four events, plus the 100 meters, last week.

Most of the rest of Plains' points will come in the field from throwers Kayla Holmes and Leah Thompson (shot put, discus), Carley Vonheeder (javelin) and Kimberly Earhart (javelin). Thompson is the defending State B discus champ.

The Trotters need firsts in the field because "the best we can do in the distance is third place because of the Morleys," Montgomery said with a laugh.

Bigfork counters with distance experts Bryn and Makena Morley. The latter Morley, a senior, has two state titles apiece in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, though she's missed time this spring battling anemia.

Coach Loeffler said Makena will run her full load this week, though.

The Vals will use relay teams and depth to rack up extra points. Look for solid performances from Matti McAnally (hurdles, pole vault), Gabby Eaton (pole vault), Riley Coleman (throws), Marissa Hiza (throws, hurdles) and Haile Norred (sprints).

Other western Montana girls with high expectations include the Hannum sisters from Thompson Falls -- Autrey is the defending high jump champ, though her sister Shey could challenge -- Loyola Sacred Heart hurdler Tessa Burke and Ronan jumper Lee Camel.

Bigfork hopes to catch 2014 boys' winner Manhattan behind defending champs Logan Morley (1,600) and Josh Sandry (high jump), but also standouts Carson Cantrell (hurdles, pole vault) and thrower Tyler Iverson (shot, discus).

Sandry is slowed by a nagging hamstring though, Coach Loeffler said.

Troy's Sean Opland will put on a show individually. The junior won division titles in the 100, 200, 400 and high jump while leaping second in the triple jump.

Look for good things, too, from Eureka sprinter Christian Langston, Plains distance runner Russell Kujala, Florence javelin thrower Caden Venters and Loyola jumper Noah Pohlman.