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'Tremendous support': In-state Bobcats carry hometown pride into USA Outdoor Championships

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BOZEMAN — A handful of people in the Bozeman track and field community have become well-acquainted with Hayward Field.

Montana State jumper Lucy Corbett, distance runner Duncan Hamilton, hurdler Drake Schneider and distance runner Levi Taylor all were at the historic track stadium in Eugene, Oregon, a couple weeks ago for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. All but Taylor had competed at Hayward before that, and they’re back there this week for the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, as is javelin thrower Cantor Coverdell.

At Hayward Field in the week between those two events were the Nike Outdoor Nationals. Several Montana high school athletes competed at that meet, including five from Bozeman. Accompanying them was Hawks distance coach Casey Jermyn, who helped Hamilton get to where he is now.

Four of the five Bobcats at the USA Championships, which will run Thursday through Sunday, attended Montana high schools. Hamilton and Corbett both went to Bozeman, Coverdell attended Fairfield and Taylor prepped at Laurel (Schneider is from Wisconsin). Those four look back fondly on their high school experiences, and they’ve given their hometown communities many reasons to feel proud.

“It's so exciting that individuals that are from the state are able to compete at the top of the conference level, then on top of that the NCAA level and now at a meet like the U.S. Track and Field Championships,” said MSU head track coach Lyle Weese, a Dillon native. “It's just been so great to see their development.”

Hamilton had the best finish of MSU athletes at the NCAA Championships, placing second in the men’s steeplechase final to earn first-team All-American honors. Hamilton’s showing was hardly surprising, considering the success he’s enjoyed throughout his four years at MSU and at Bozeman High.

“He's always been very driven, very committed, so you kind of could see it all there,” Jermyn said. “It's pretty surreal to really see it coming together.”

Hamilton was already a mini-Bozeman celebrity before his near-NCAA championship, often receiving words of support when he’d go to the store or run around town.

“The amount of support I get in Bozeman is just incredible,” Hamilton said. “I'm so thankful to live in a community where that's happening. I love it.”

Jermyn owns the Bozeman Running Company and recently hired Hamilton to work for him. That’s given Hamilton more opportunities to interact with people embedded in the Gallatin Valley’s running community, and he’s continued to give them reasons to praise him.

“They've watched Duncan run since he was 2 ½ feet tall in Bozeman Track Club. … He's got a huge fan base here,” Jermyn said. “It's pretty astonishing, but it's well deserved.”

Corbett has encountered similar experiences. She grew up in California and only attended Bozeman High as a senior, but many people treat her as if she’s a Bozeman native, she said.

Corbett credits her high school coaches for setting her up for college success.

“A big part of how they helped me was just encouraging me,” Corbett said. “They thought I could achieve higher heights.”

Lucy Corbett

Then-Bozeman High senior Lucy Corbett clears the bar in the high jump at the 2018 Class AA state meet in Great Falls. 

Corbett, MSU’s record-holder in the women’s high jump, earned second-team All-America honors at the NCAA Outdoor meet with a 15th-place finish in that event. She’s also an academic All-American.

“It was pretty special to be able to have been around her for her senior year in high school. Such a special athlete,” said Bozeman jumps coach Mike Cole. “She’s got a very healthy approach: It's not the end of the world if she doesn't win, but she's so competitive that she wants to get to those levels.”

Coverdell comes from a much smaller town than Corbett, Hamilton and Taylor, and he suspects that Fairfield is an extra-encouraging town, given all the texts and calls he’s received recently.

“I've gotten tremendous support from the community of Fairfield and even surrounding communities,” Coverdell said. “Fairfield’s a pretty small town, so everybody knows what people are doing.”

Cantor Coverdell

Montana State's Cantor Coverdell prepares to throw the javelin at the 2022 Big Sky Outdoor Track and Field Championships on May 13 in Pocatello, Idaho.

He and Fairfield track coach Mike Schmidt believe Coverdell’s high school days set him up for his college success, which includes a Big Sky outdoor javelin title last year. It wasn’t just throwing that got Coverdell to this point.

“Being a triple jumper, being a long jumper, being a sprinter, being a discus thrower, doing all those things obviously helps him be athletic enough to throw that jav,” Schmidt said.

Taylor said he receives congratulations from people in Laurel whenever he sets a personal record or qualifies for big events like the USA Championships, where he’ll accompany Hamilton in the steeplechase. Taylor finished second in that event to Hamilton at the Big Sky Outdoor Championships, placed 11th at the NCAA West Division I Preliminary Rounds and was ninth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships to become a second-team All-American.

Levi Taylor

Then-Laurel senior Levi Taylor races to the finish line during the boys 1600-meter run during the State A track meet at Laurel Sports Complex on May 25, 2019.

Taylor’s decorated Laurel career included school-record runs in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Those marks were previously held by Patrick Casey, who went on to have an All-American career at MSU before transferring to Oklahoma.

“When he was in high school, it was about chasing Pat Casey’s school records,” Laurel distance coach James Haskins said of Taylor. “He’s an incredible athlete. The kid’s got hop. It doesn’t surprise me he’s jumping over stuff. (Steeplechase is) kind of the perfect marriage.”

Jermyn won’t be able to return to Hayward Field next week, but he’ll be following Hamilton closely from afar. He won’t be the only one. Hamilton’s heroics have energized Bozeman, Jermyn said. Corbett has too, and Fairfield and Laurel have received jolts from Coverdell and Taylor.

Those four Bobcats, as well as Schneider, will try to send a few more waves of positive energy to Montana this weekend.

Email Victor Flores at victor.flores@406mtsports.com and follow him on Twitter at @VictorFlores406

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