MISSOULA — Polson senior Bea Frissell closed her decorated high school career as a six-time state champion, winning two cross country championships and four track titles.
But that level of success as a top distance runner in Class A may not have happened without a key change her sophomore year. Frissell grew up loving soccer, so it was tough to convince her to leave the sport for cross country in the fall. But Matt Seeley, the Pirates' cross country coach who also now coaches the track distance team, eventually got her to convert.
“Soccer had my heart back then,” recalled Frissell, a future Montana Grizzly cross country and track runner. “Matt’s daughter Malia was on the track team, and I remember it got to the point where he’d stand outside the fence and yell out to coach us even though he wasn’t the track and field distance coach at the time.
"Eventually I would search for his face in the crowd because I depended on him being there. I grew to think he was such an amazing coach. I became good friends with his daughter Malia, and she was one of the big factors in me doing cross country.”
Frissell was one of the Missoula-area athletes who brought home an awards haul of 38 state championships over the past two weeks to cap the spring sports season. Their hardware included six team titles and 32 individual, relay or doubles titles. The girls won 22 championships, while the boys won 16.
Sentinel led the way with 11 titles. Seeley-Swan captured seven championships, while Loyola won six crowns. Charlo picked up three titles. Three teams won two titles: Polson, Hamilton and Bigfork. Five teams won one title: Hellgate, Corvallis, Darby, Drummond and Valley Christian.
In track and field, area athletes won 25 individual titles, two relay titles and two team championships. On the tennis courts, they won two singles titles, one doubles crown and two team championships. On the golf course, they captured two individual titles and two team championships. No area softball teams won a title, but some brought home hardware.
Track & field
In Class A, Frissell repeated as the state champ in the 1,600 and 3,200 with a bang. She broke the Class A record in the 3,200 set by Belgrade’s Pipi Eitel, her top competitor when she was an underclassman. Frissell’s time of 10:47.33 was 9.36 seconds faster than Eitel’s time in 2017.
Seeley felt Frissell exceeded the expectations he had for her in both sports, especially since she doesn’t come from a distance-running family, like he said many of the state’s top distance runners do.
“I would attribute (her success) to her incredible dedication and hard work,” Seeley said. “She has quite a bit of talent. She’s just not a natural for running in terms of stride, but she's very much a hard worker. She likes the strategy of racing. The mental side of it and her competitiveness are her two big things in racing. And then all the hard training and dedication.”
Frissell set personal records in both the 1,600 and 3,200 at state. She credited her cross country training of high-mileage runs with helping her develop more strength on the track.
Frissell's personal records throughout this season impressed Seeley after he saw her reach a plateau as a junior. Even she was still in awe of her two times at state on Tuesday afternoon.
“As I think back, it’s still a little shocking,” Frissell said. “I think, ‘Wow, I PR’d by so much in both races.’ That still surprises me quite a bit. As I think back, it makes me incredibly proud and happy what I managed to do. Then on Sunday, I got food poisoning, so it was a bit of a fall. I’m still recovering from that.”
Frissell will be coming to Montana this fall to compete in cross country and track on an athletic scholarship and a Presidential Leadership Scholarship, an academic award of which there are only about 25 given out each year to incoming freshmen. She chose the Griz over offers from Montana State and Portland State, among others.
“I thought about going out of state and felt like I’m not quite ready to leave Montana,” Frissell said. “I grew up here and just love how easy it is to do things like walk out the door and go on a hike. Being close to the mountains for a bit longer and enjoying the culture at Montana and the girls on the team really drew me there.”
Corvallis senior Calla Haldorson ended her record-breaking career with her fourth consecutive title in the discus throw. She became Montana’s first female four-time discus champ, Corvallis’ first four-time track and field champ and Montana’s 26th female four-time champ in a single event.
“The even more impressive thing for her is she did it against some strong competition,” Corvallis coach Spencer Huls said. “Her first two years, she had to beat teammate Brookelyn Palin (who’s now at Montana State). She was doing it against not only Brookelyn, but the whole state was tough during her four years.
“It’s impressive because it’s likely she could have easily been beaten – not as much her junior and senior year, but her freshman and sophomores years there was some really strong competition. She was just consistent when she came to big meets and big events. It was almost like clockwork. You knew she was going to show up.”
Hamilton sophomore Brynnli Poulsen won the 800 run.
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Among Class A boys, Hamilton senior Michael Graves won the javelin throw after taking second last year.
In Class AA, the Sentinel boys won the team title for the first time since 1964. Spartans senior Elias Dewaters, a Griz football signee, won the long jump and triple jump. Senior Rylan Ortt, a future Montana State football player, beat out Glacier’s Evan Todd in the javelin throw and tied the sixth-best mark in the nation with a distance of 208 feet, 8 inches. Junior Jaden Foster won the 200 dash and 400 dash.
On the AA girls side, Sentinel senior Ashley McElmurry, a Nebraska track and field signee, won the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles. Spartans junior Lauren Heggen defended her triple jump title and broke her own all-class record.
Hellgate junior Piper Pfister won the javelin throw.
In Class B, Bigfork junior Ashton McAnally won the lone area title, taking first in the shot put.
Among the Class C boys, Valley Christian senior Benjamin Tuinstra repeated as the champ in the 110 hurdles. Charlo senior Wills Degrandpre won the 1,600 run. Drummond senior Jonah Parke won the high jump. Seeley-Swan captured the title in the 1,600-relay for the second year in a row, this time with the team of senior Cordell Turner, junior Dakota Wood, junior Caleb Maughan and senior Hunter Shelmerdine.
The Class C girls showed out, highlighted by Seeley-Swan winning its eighth team title and its first since 2014. Seeley-Swan freshman Sariah Maughan won the 1,600 run. Blackhawks junior Terra Bertsch repeated in the pole vault. Seeley-Swan sophomore Klaire Kovatch won the discus throw for the second year in a row. Blackhawks senior Autumn Morse captured the title in the javelin throw. Seeley-Swan also won the 1,600 relay with the team of Maughan, Kovatch, freshman Hannah Ayers and senior Lily Mercer.
In the rest of Class C, Darby senior Casey Ehmann defended her title in the 300 hurdles. Charlo sophomore Carlee Fryberger won the 100 dash and 100 hurdles.
Loyola freshman Evelyn Dechans set high expectations for the future when she won the State B-C girls singles title in straight sets. The Breakers won their first team title in the 19-year history of the state tournament behind Dechans’ title and third-place finishes by Grace Daniel in singles and the doubles team of Lauren Bodlovic and Melanie Benson.
Bigfork senior Trey Christiaens closed out his career by winning the State B-C boys singles title after finishing second twice and third once at Valley Christian. He defeated Great Falls Central’s Roger Mai in a three-set thriller.
The Sentinel duo of seniors Cody Curtis and Connor D’Angelo ended their careers with a bang. They won the State AA boys doubles title in straight sets to cap their first year as partners. Their strong play helped the Sentinel boys take the State AA boys team title.
Loyola senior golfer Bucky Crippen ended his career with back-to-back State B boys individual titles. He shot a first-round 65, the third-lowest score in State B since 2003. Along with his three older sisters, the Crippen siblings combined to win seven individual state titles.
The Rams won their second team title in three season and seventh in 11 years with the performances of Crippen, Sam Miland, Reed Noyd, Joseph Kendrick and Connor Hansen. Their 48-stroke victory was the second-largest margin over the past 12 tournaments.
Loyola senior Katie Fagg, a future Carroll College golfer, captured the State B girls individual title after back-to-back runner-up finishes. The Breakers rolled to a 40-stroke victory for the team title behind the performances of Fagg, Isadora Tomazeli, Kelsey Esh and Ashton Libel.
No area softball teams won a state championship, but six finished with a top-4 placing.
Polson placed second in State A, its best finish since 2013, losing to Belgrade in the title game. Hamilton took third. Frenchtown finished fourth, ending its streak of 15 consecutive top-3 finishes.
At the State B-C tournament, Florence’s reign as back-to-back champs ended as the Falcons took second place, losing to Huntley Project. Plains/Hot Springs finished in third, while Loyola took fourth.