Last year it was a dropped relay baton. A few Mays before it was a training violation.

"I've had many chances. Many chances," Thompson Falls track coach Randy Symon said. "We could have won the state meet three or four times. Something always happens."

Hope springs eternal at the 2001 Class B meet Friday and Saturday in Great Falls, where action starts at 9:30 a.m. each day.

The Bluehawk boys, who tied Missoula Loyola for the Western B divisional crown last week, rate as slight favorites. Loyola, Southern B champ Roundup and the North-East B's Cascade and Fort Benton are all in the trophy chase as well.

The Florence girls get a clearer nod to snap the streak of three straight Malta-Frenchtown finishes at state. Western B runner-up Plains, Conrad, Fairfield and Cascade are waiting to pounce if the Falcons slip.

Fairfield's Angela Ostberg eyes her fourth straight state 400 title, and should challenge the Class B record. The Plentywood girls' 1,600-meter relay team also has a chance for No. 4 in a row.

Thompson Falls' Jeremey Thomas, defending champion in the 100 and 200, is a threat to state records in both. Other possible record-setters: Manhattan's Richie Pemberton (3,200) and Roundup's Derin Gebhardt (discus).

Thompson Falls' boys, long known for their throwers, are now based on fleet feet, especially those of Thomas. A repeat of his sprint sweep and no misadventures with the baton ought to put Thompson Falls near the top after it tied for third in 2000.

Symon also has high hopes for Travis Hedahl in shot put, Jesse Hanna in the long jump, Adam Oswald in the 3,200 and Doug Czerwinski in javelin.

Roundup gets solid points from Gebhardt and Landon Godfrey. Gebhardt, who's seeking to regain the discus title he lost last year and should win the shot put, had the two fastest hurdles times at divisionals.

Loyola broke ground with its divisional co-championship, and coach Matt Morris has reason to hope the Rams can win hardware in Great Falls. "It's going to be really tough, because there are lots of good teams over there," Morris said. "Weird things happen at state."

Loyola senior Jack Scott seems to have licked a lung infection he suffered from in early May. He ran the fastest 1,600 in Class B and is one of only two 3,200 runners under 11 minutes. Mike Potts, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior, could figure prominently in sprints and relays.

Kasey French of Plains was first in the 400 and second in the 200 at state last year. Teammate Jack Revier unleashed a Class B-best javelin throw of 207 feet, 4 inches last week.

Superior's Cody Feasel, hobbled by a pulled muscle in his lower back and now a sore knee, could still make noise in three sprints and two jumps.

Florence's girls have a potential five-event winner in senior Alicia Torrey, who hurdles and excels in all three jumps. It's a golden sports era for the Falcons, who won the state girls' basketball title two school years ago and the softball championship last spring. Now they can add a track title.

"That would be perfect," said Torrey, who has margin for error - Falcon sophomores Kim Heinz and Annie Gayvert could score generous slices of points, and five other Florence girls will cover a total of 11 events.

Elsewhere, no teams loom huge. Conrad's Loni Perkins is a top-notch sprinter/jumper, and Julie McFarland could win the pole vault. Fairfield and Plains will score big in the sprints with Ostberg and sophomore Marie Errecart, respectively. Plains has additional punch with Jenny Dicello in javelin and Charity Nance in long jump.

"We try not to look at it on paper," Florence coach Sam Baerlocher said. "I get too nervous. But I don't foresee a lot of points being scored by any one team. I don't see a team that's really loaded."

Events to watch

BOYS

100 meters (Trials: Friday, 2:25; Finals: Saturday, 12:55)

The classic race has a classy field, paced by defending champion Jeremey Thomas of Thompson Falls and Nick Walters of Florence, who beat Thomas last week at the Western B divisional. The top six times at divisionals came from that race in Missoula, which saw Thomas nip Loyola junior Mike Potts for second. Thomas, also the state 200 champ in 2000, is a threat to break Class B records in both sprints.

Long jump (Friday, 1:30)

Three jumpers were between 21-7 and 21-4.25 at divisionals Cody Feasel of Superior, Joel Laird of Three Forks and Travis Phillippi of Frenchtown. A fourth, Bret Ralston of Darby, leads Class B with the 21-9 he jumped at a Seeley-Swan Invitational in Missoula in early May. Phillippi was fourth and Thompson Falls' Jesse Hanna was fifth at state a year ago.

GIRLS

300 meters hurdles (Trials: Friday, noon; Finals: Saturday, 11:10)

The you-pick-em race in Class B. The field includes state leader Alicia Torrey of Florence, divisional leader Julie Ho of Baker and three point-winners from last year - Lacy Matthews of Three Forks (third), Chioko Nakasone of Superior (fifth) and Nicole Plante of Fort Benton (sixth). Gone is record-breaker Mariah Guilfoyle of Malta, now at the University of Montana.

High jump (Saturday, 10:30)

Jumpers from the two leading contenders, Florence and Conrad, square off. Torrey, the defending state champion, has cleared 5-4. So has Conrad's Loni Perkins, who was among five jumpers who tied for second a year ago. Florence sophomore Kim Heinz came out on top in the wind at Western B last weekend.

- Kim Briggeman, Missoulian

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