As regular as the calendar, the Corvallis girls' track and field team has been penciling in their own holiday just ahead of Memorial Day for the better part of a decade.

On the Saturday before America honors its fallen combat heroes, the Blue Devils celebrate their State A track championships.

It's happened every May since 2011 and after a close-call gold in 2016, 2017 is shaping up like more of the same as Class A track teams break their winter hibernation this week.

The Corvallis girls, owners of the top three state scores ever for Class A, edged Columbia Falls and Hamilton by just 10 points to win title No. 6. That tied for an all-class Montana record — boys or girls. And only one state scorer, javelin champion Zena Smith, is gone.

"We had a lot of freshmen that made it to state, some who even made finals at state and were right on the verge of helping us last year," explained head track coach Spencer Huls. "They're that much stronger and ready to go."

They'll pair with sophomore discus champ Calla Haldorson and runner-up Brookelyn Palin, a senior. They'll add depth behind senior Penny Jessop, who finished top four across the board in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter sprints. They'll fill the gaps behind middle distance standout Heidi Nisly, a three-event scorer in the 400, 800 and 1,600.

But Huls knows you can't count titles until Memorial Day weekend and the Wildkats and Broncs — as well as Belgrade and Butte Central — have some talented athletes in the fold as well.

"Last year was our most difficult year and I think it'll be another difficult year," he said. "There's nothing in the bag. It's just nice to have most of our kids back. We know where we're at, our at least we know where we think we're at."

Hamilton returns two-event champion Jacie Schmalz, who won the 1,600 and 3,200 as a junior, along with high jumpers Kacia Guisinger and Ashlee Searle.

Schmalz will pair with freshman Sarah Passey, who finished fourth at the State A cross country meet in the fall, for distance races.

"(Passey) could come through pretty well for us," Hamilton coach John Stromberg said. "... Jacie will have a good year. She's pretty focused and she's ready to roll."

Other returning area placers include Polson's Beatrix Frissell (800, 1,600) and Molly Sitter (3,200); Columbia Falls' Kaitlyn Casazza (hurdles); Stevensville's Megan Pendergast (hurdles) and Mariah Hinson (long and triple jump, javelin); Whitefish's Lydia Kryshak (400) and Kate Doorn (high jump); Frenchtown's Adeline Richardson (shot put); and Corvallis's Albany Jessop (3,200).


The Class A boys' competition could see a repeat winner as well with Dillon reloaded for a 2017 run. The Beavers return state champions Troy Andersen (100, 200) and Patrick Griffin (discus), as well as high jump runner-up Cordell McGinley.

All are seniors.

"The senior boys in Dillon I think would like to go out winning state — football, basketball and why not track again?" said Stromberg, highlighting Dillon's recent accomplishments. "Troy Andersen, if he stays healthy, could win five events at state by himself."

The Beavers will get some competition from, of course, the Blue Devils. The Corvallis boys have won four of the past eight titles but were a distant third last year behind Dillon and C. Falls.

The Devils will be led by distance runner Carson Jessop, last fall's cross country champ, as well as sprinter Bruce Thomas and thrower Zach Jessop.

Wildcat Sage Wanner is the area's only returning boys' champ. He was first in last year's 3,200 and third in the 1,600.

Other returning placers from western Montana include Hamilton's Matt Wilson (3,200) and Jaylen Taggart (discus); Polson's Danny DiGiallonardo (tall hurdles); Whitefish's Jansen Anderson (short hurdles); Corvallis's Ridge Albright (high jump), Braxton Roth (triple jump) and Marvin Reynoso (pole vault); Frenchtown's Jacob Price (triple jump); and C. Falls' javeliners Dakota Bridwell and Logan Kolodejchuk, along with Logan Stephens (long jump),