It had been 10 years since the Charlo boys last plundered a divisional track and field title. Now comes the bigger prize.
The Vikings will attempt to shake off 38 years of dust when the State C meet begins Friday at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls. With a legion of runners, jumpers, vaulters - there are three headed to state - and lest we forget the two fastest relays in its enrollment class, Charlo is favored to win just its second boys' track and field title ever and first since 1972.
And if preparation means anything, that was some primer these Vikings put forth a few days ago.
"I hope that we would be able to match what we did last week," said longtime Charlo coach Bret Thompson, whose team scored 142 points to win the Western C divisional for the first time since 2000. "As far as on paper goes, we have a shot, but that's why it's not run on paper. There will be things that are changed."
The West is the only Class C divisional that gets split into two days, allowing for more rest time compared to the single-day divisional formats used in the East, North and South. At state, everybody enjoys the two-day scheduling. Action begins Friday at 9 a.m. for field events and 10:30 a.m. for track events.
"I think the kids are ready for the challenge," Thompson said. "I'm excited to get down there and go see how we match up with everybody else."
The Vikings will be locking horns with the likes of defending champ Harlowton and state runner-up Joliet, both of which return some prominent point-scorers from last year's teams. Joliet senior sprinter Jess Graber won the 100 and was second in the 200 a year ago, while Harlo hurdler Caleb Dick is looking for a repeat in the 300 hurdles to go with his almost-certain win in the 110 hurdles.
Dick, who has the third-best time in the high hurdles at 14.54 seconds, will be challenged by Charlo's Cody Nitschke and Stephen Delaney. Nitschke won the Western C title in 15.23 and Delaney was runner-up. Nitschke, who came off academic suspension toward the end of the season, also runs on both the Vikings' well-stocked relay teams.
Charlo's 1,600 relay, which also includes Chico Stipe, Chance Firestone and Chance Rosenbaum, dropped its Class C-leading time to 3:34.36 at last week's divisional meet in Missoula. The short relay, which swaps Austin Bauer for Rosenbaum, tops all schools in its classification with a time of 44.54.
"I thought they'd be good," Thompson said of his relays, "but I wasn't sure they'd have those types of times."
Firestone won divisional titles in the long jump and pole vault and was runner-up to Hot Springs' Reiley Winebrenner in the 400. Stipe added a win in the 100, while Rosenbaum was second in the 800 to Ennis' Gavin Owens, the reigning 3,200 meter state champ, as well as the pole vault. Jame Peterson took fourth in the vault and is one of three Charlo vaulters to have cleared 12-6 this spring. Of course, defending champion Kirk Capdeville of Hinsdale/Saco has cleared 15-2.
"It's going to take all eight of our kids scoring for us to have a chance to be on the podium at the end of that track meet," Thompson said.
The last time the Vikings trophied at state was in 1999, when they tied Chester for third and the meet was held in Missoula. The Vikes finished fourth at state the next year.
The Charlo girls may also have gotten a preview of things to come during divisionals.
The Vikings weren't the only team to get blown - and thrown - away by the mighty Ennis Mustangs last week. Behind standout senior thrower Taylor McNally and sprinter/hurdler Mikayla Sullivan, the Mustangs put the rest of the Class C girls' teams on notice ahead of state.
Ennis, which also received big points from throwers Emily Gregg and Courtney Shearer, defeated a deep field that included Shields Valley, Lima, Charlo and Harrison. McNally's two wins in the shot put - at a meet record of 46-1 1/2 - and discus are as sure of points as there is, but the rest may be up for grabs.
"They're going to get broken up a little bit," Thompson said. "But Ennis has a great shot with its throwers and one sprinter. They won't lose a lot of points there from divisionals."
Fairview, which features sprinter/jumper Morgan Klose as a potential four-event winner, and Shields Valley with its relays will be some of the top challengers at state. Lima and Harrison can't be counted out, either.
Harrison junior Shannon Young won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at the Western C. She'll be challenged in the distance races by Joliet's Mackenzie O'Dore, who won the 1,600 at state last year. Hot Springs senior Devon White is a threat in the triple jump after winning the event at divisionals.
Back on the boys' side, Drummond Junior Nate Bignell won the shot put and teammate Neil Mannix is one of the state's top sprinters. Winebrenner is likely the biggest threat to Harlo's Dick in the 300 hurdles.