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The joke around the Missoula Hellgate golf team is that David Cromwell just can't avoid the water.

While Cromwell may not be the next Tiger Woods, he continues to reach levels rarely - if ever - attained by a Montana prep swimmer.

Cromwell, a 6-foot-5 junior, took his career to its highest level yet by competing in the U.S. Spring Senior Nationals at Austin, Texas, earlier this month. Cromwell, who swims for the Missoula Aquatic Club, is believed to be the first Montana boy to qualify for the meet, which probably ranks second in national prestige behind only the Olympic Trials.

Cromwell, competing in the 100-meter backstroke, placed 28th out of 41 swimmers in a field that included top collegians and world-class performers. His time was 59.83.

"That's not shabby," said MAC coach Jim Hawbaker. "Only one person younger than David beat him, so that tells you where he ranks for his age in the country.

"He's very talented, and he's a great competitor. When he sees something out there he wants, you can't tell him he won't get it."

Cromwell punched his ticket to Austin by clocking a career-best 49.88 seconds in the 100-yard backstroke at the senior sectionals in Seattle. That time would've been fast enough to advance Cromwell to last year's Olympic Trials.

Cromwell has been close to unstoppable against high school competition, where he ranks among the top dozen backstroke specialists in the country. He broke two state records last February in leading Hellgate to a state runner-up trophy.

For now, though, Cromwell is taking a break from the pool and trying to avoid water hazards as a golfer for the Knights. He shot a pair of 88s last week at the Great Falls Invitational.

When Cromwell resumes his training, he'll turn his sights on the U.S. Senior Summer Nationals, the second week of August in Fresno, Calif.

"This was a big step for David," Hawbaker said. "Now he's looking to have a strong summer. It'll open up all kinds of college possibilities for him after his senior year."

Missoula Sentinel junior Adam Hober stood on the 18th tee box at Anaconda Hills Golf Course last Saturday, leading the Great Falls Invitational by one stroke.

Hober knew that a birdie on the narrow, uphill, 358-yard par-4 would tie the competitive course record, but his first instinct was to play it safe. That didn't last long, however, as a crowd of fellow competitors hooted with derision when Hober pulled an iron from his bag.

"I was going to play it conservative, but the guys were giving it to me pretty good," Hober said. "They said I couldn't hit driver. So I took driver and hit it 305 yards, right in the fairway."

From there, Hober wedged to within 12 feet and sank the birdie putt to cap a sizzling, 5-under-par 64 - certainly one of the lowest rounds ever shot in a Montana high school tournament.

"It was just one of those days when everything clicked," said Hober, who had only one bogey compared with six birdies. "I was never in trouble all day. I drove it great, and I felt so confident with my putting. It was unreal. In one stretch, I think I had 13 putts in 11 holes. It's one of those rounds you dream about."

Hober, who finished with a two-round total of 139, ended three shots clear of the field to notch the biggest victory of his high school career. He also led the Spartans to the team title, combined with solid performances from Brad Solander, Kyle Mittlestadt and Jordan Heitz.

It was an a confidence builder for Sentinel, which won the state title two years ago and took third place last spring.

"I think we have the best overall team in the state," Hober said. "Our whole team is solid. We have six players who I feel can shoot in the 70s if they put their minds to it. There are good teams out there, Kalispell, Billings Senior, CMR, (Billings) West. But I like our chances."

Hober was a key member of Sentinel's title squad as a freshman, and placed fourth at last year's state tournament. He credits much of his success to switching to a cross-handed putting grip last year.

"I want to win state pretty bad," said Hober, who was out in the rain on Monday afternoon, hitting three buckets of range balls. "I'm going to work hard and do everything I can to help us reach our goals."

Congratulations are in order for Alberton's Frank Kibbee, who recently was honored by the Montana High School Association for more than 40 years of service as a coach and administrator.

Kibbee received the "Meritorious Service Award," the MHSA's highest honor. There have been only 20 recipients since the award was established in 1979.

Kibbee retired in 1996 after 37 years in Alberton. He also coached prior to that for several years in St. Ignatius. Although he coached all sports, Kibbee was most notable for his successful basketball teams. He also served many years as Alberton's athletic director.

Coming up: The state's biggest track meet, the Archie Roe, is Saturday at Kalispell. Seeley-Swan hosts a meet Saturday at Missoula County Stadium. … Hellgate travels to Big Sky for a crosstown softball game on Thursday. Helena and Helena Capital come to Missoula for doubleheaders against Big Sky and Sentinel on Saturday.

Athletes of the week

Adam Hober, Missoula Sentinel

The junior golfer captured the individual title and led Sentinel's boys to the team crown at the Great Falls Invitational tournament. Hober fired a 5-under-par 69 at Anaconda Hills for a two-day total of 139, three shots better than his nearest competitor.

Other notables

Kori Fansler, Libby: The senior catcher went a perfect 7-for-7 with six RBIs on Saturday as Libby defeated Stevensville and Polson at the Frenchtown softball tournament.

Ross Jessop, Corvallis: The senior won the boys' 100, 200, 400 and long jump at the Smurfit-Stone Invitational track meet.

Ben Winn, Darby: The senior won the boys' discus at the Western Montana Top 10 track meet, outdueling Dillon's Richard Griffin.

Traci Gibbs, Frenchtown: The sophomore catcher went 5-for-7 with two doubles, a triple, and five RBIs as the Broncs defeated Conrad and Corvallis.

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