Teams gunning for title, not times
Sentinel hit the track jackpot last year, sweeping boys' and girls' Class AA city titles for the first time from Missoula rivals Hellgate and Big Sky.
It could happen again on Thursday when the 35th annual Greg Rice meet takes place at Missoula County Stadium. The first field events are at 4:30 p.m.; running events start at 5 and are scheduled to wind up at 8:05.
"This is a meet where we're not concerned about times or distances," said Sentinel coach Gary Little. "We're just aiming for that place in the top four. I think our kids are excited about going for it (the sweep) a second straight year."
The weather figures to be a challenge: temperatures in the 40s, winds 15 to 25 mph, and a chance of rain and snow showers.
"That's why we have an all-weather track," said Big Sky coach Russ Pilcher.
The Sentinel girls look like solid favorites to claim their fourth straight city championship. Senior Amy Flaig could win four events (the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles, high jump, triple jump), Melissa Kleschen could add the 1,600 title to the 3,200 crown she won last year, and Tassie Souhrada is the defending high jump champ and could also take the triple jump. Flaig ranks among the state leaders in both the 100 hurdles and high jump. Haley Doyle, Lindsey Egeland and Leah Feasline add strength in the 400 and 800, and Dalynn Bunch is a promising freshman in the sprints.
The Hellgate girls are led by Karensa Woirhaye, the favorite in both the shot put and discus; hurdler-sprinters Erin Schoen and Leslie Hane; vaulter Amanda Hall, and a couple of solid relays.
Big Sky is strong on the track, with sprinter Whitney Caron and middle distance runner Jessica Moquin, and also has one of the city's best vaulters in Shannon Sorenson.
The boys' race figures to be much closer, with Sentinel and Hellgate battling for top honors.
"I think we match up pretty well in terms of wins," said Coach Ron Jones, whose Knights have won 11 titles since the meet became a three-way meet in 1981. "The key for us will be getting enough seconds and thirds."
Hurdler Ty Felton and jumper Levi Bessette lead the Hellgate boys. Felton is the defending city champ in the 300-meter hurdles - where he's run faster than the meet record of 39.8 seconds - and also is the favorite in the 110 hurdles, where he placed third last year. Bessette ranks among the state leaders in both the long jump and triple jump. The Knights could also score big in the sprints, with Bessette, Felton, Alex Boggs and Craig Jones; the jumps, where Boggs is a strong complement to Bessette, and the relays, where the Knights come in with the best times.
Sentinel has a swift sprinter in Chris Polhemus and the city's top 800 runner in Nick Doherty, and should shine in the distance races, where Mike LaForest and Steven Flink could place 1-2 at 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
Big Sky's Rob Curran is the defending city champ in the 400, and could also win the 200. The Eagles' other notables include defending champs Bob Pollock (javelin) Dustin Maier (110 hurdles) and Cody Mecham (high jump); and Class AA pole vault leader Gabe Womack.
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