Montana's new speed limits took effect last Friday morning. But someone forgot to tell boys' high school milers around the state, who put the pedal to the metal later that day with three outstanding performances in the 1,600 meters that rewrote the Montana record book.
At Vigilante Stadium in Helena, Scott McGowan of Poplar and David Vidal of Kalispell took advantage of calm, temperate weather to run the third and fourth fastest miles in state prep annals.
First came McGowan, a spidery, 6-foot-3 senior with a long, seemingly effortless stride, who broke away from Plains standout Casey Jermyn in the late going and won the state Class B crown in 4 minutes, 15.5 seconds. That broke the oldest record in the state - the 37-year-old Class B 1,600 mark of 4:16.5 set by legendary Red Lodge distance star Doug Brown in 1962. And it was less than a second off the all-class state record of 4:14.94, set by Derek Stordahl of Class AA Great Falls in 1986.
McGowan moved into an early lead and never relinquished it.
"I wanted to run my race and not depend on someone else not running theirs," said McGowan, a fine basketball player who will compete in track and cross country for the University of Montana.
The only times known to be faster than McGowan's are the all-class record run of Stordahl, and a 4:15.3 clocking by Great Falls' Branch Brady in 1965 at the USATF meet in Billings.
"I've been running in the wind all year," said McGowan, referring to his home on the far eastern end of the Hi-Line. "This was nice and calm."
The crowd was still buzzing over McGowan's time when Vidal, a compact, fluid sophomore blessed with excellent speed, came out of the pack to threaten Stordahl's Class AA and all-class standard. Vidal bided his time and was in fourth place, close behind the leaders, as the final lap began. Then Vidal shifted gears, accelerating around the first curve in a burst of speed that was breathtaking for both its boldness and its confidence. By the far end of the curve Vidal had shot past the leaders - and he continued to pull away.
"To tell you the truth, I didn't know if I had it," Vidal said.
He did, and the watch proved it with a time of 4:16.3, a Kalispell school record. Runner-up Andy Coats of Great Falls Russell also broke 4:20, clocking 4:19.6.
"I felt really good," Vidal said. "We all have good days and this was mine."
About the time McGowan was erasing the oldest Class B record in Helena, sophomore Craig Widhalm of Belt was doing the same to the oldest Class C mark, 115 miles away at Missoula's Dornblaser Field.
Widhalm upset Oregon-bound Travis Stehman of Kremlin-Gildford in 4:19.02, breaking the 4:20.0 mile run by Wade Jacobsen of Simms in 1967.
The key for Widhalm was his kick, but he waited longer than Vidal to unleash it. Widhalm ran behind Stehman throughtout the race, then outkicked him at the end to win by less than half a second. Stehman's time was a swift 4:20.41.
n With Brown and Jacobsen consigned to the ash bin of history, so to speak, these are the oldest remaining records:
n The Class A boys' 110 hurdles time of 14.4, set by Glasgow's Roy Robinson in 1966. Tim Fox of Hardin tied it in 1976.
n The Class A boys' javelin mark of 220-4Þ, set by Glasgow's Curt Brandon in 1967. (What's with Glasgow? The water?)
n The Class B boys' javelin mark of 242-7, set by Malta's Craig Stiles in 1969.
n The Class C girls' javelin mark of 149-9, set by Diana Franklin of Hot Springs in 1969.
n The Class AA girls' 800 time of 2:11.0, set by Julie Brown of Billings Senior in 1973. It also stands as the oldest all-class record.
n Emily Alspaugh of Missoula Hellgate capped an unbeaten senior season in the girls' 100, 200 and 400 meters by winning all four races at the state Class AA track meet, the first time that's been accomplished since 1980.
The 100 figured to be her toughest event, and it was. She was slow out of the blocks and stood even with two-time defending champ Mitsu Frazier halfway through the race.
"Usually in the 100, it builds up to the end," Alspaugh said.
"So I knew I had something left. I was just waiting for it to kick in."
It did, and Alspaugh won comfortably in 12.64.
That left only the 400, where Alspaugh was a heavy favorite to win her third straight state title. She started fast and built a big lead coming off the final turn.
"I made up the stagger really fast," Alspaugh said. "But when I got around the last curve I hit a wall. My legs turned to Jell-o. I just tried to keep it together and hope no one came flying past me."
No one did, as Alspaugh clocked a personal-best 57.19.
"She just did a tremendous job," said Hellgate coach Ron Jones. "The weather was bad, but every time she headed for the (starting) line she'd say, 'I'll be right back, I got 'er.' She just felt really positive. She's certainly one of the outstanding athletes we've ever had at Hellgate High School."
n Michael Estes wasn't born with a javelin in his hand.
But the sophomore from Philipsburg seemed destined to do what he did Saturday - win a state javelin championship.
"My dad's always been the track coach, and we've thrown javelin since I was little," Estes said after throwing a lifetime best of 191 feet, 7 inches in the preliminary round of the State Class C javelin competition at Dornblaser Field. It held up as no one else topped 185. Chester's Eric Kleinsasser, who had the state's only 200-foot throw a week before, threw 182-8 this time and took fourth.
Estes' father, Ron, was also a sophomore when he won his first state javelin title at Anaconda. Ron also won as a junior.
"He threw 215, I believe. Something like that," the younger Estes said.
Michael was 10 when he first started messing around with javelins.
"I'd go out and throw with the girls," he said. "They didn't appreciate it much, but it was always fun. One of them actually threw at me. I used to be a little jerk. She just let 'er fly. She missed but …"
But … young Michael may have decided then and there that, when it comes to the javelin, it's better to pitch than catch.
n How often before has this happened? No boy in the Class C meet won more than one individual event. The only one leaving with two gold medals was Chad Gluhm of Park City, who led the Panthers' 1-2-5 assault in the 100-meter dash not long after he ran the second leg on the winning 400-meter relay team.
n Jan Andring came one jump by someone else from a five-event sweep at the C meet.
While motoring to wins in the 100, 200, 400 and long jump, the Medicine Lake senior, who added triple jump to her resume this year to get a fifth event, unleashed a hop-skip-and- jump of 35-10Þ to take the lead.
But Harlowton's Erin Jones, who went 36-3. last week to win the Southern C and who has gone 37-1Þ this spring, waited until her last try to jump 36-4.. It was a fraction of an inch farther than the Class C record, set in 1988 by Augusta's Naomi Wearly.
Harlowton got 10 points for Jones' final jump; Medicine Lake was knocked down from 10 to 8. The Honkers lost 50-48 to Manhattan Christian for second place.
But Andring, bound for University of Mary in Bismark, N.D., where she'll play basketball and run track, wasn't lamenting the loss.
"I kind of expected a second out of triple jump, because I knew (Jones) had been jumping 36s and I'd never got there before," she said.
Andring was looking forward to the reception the Honkers would receive from townfolk when the bus came chugging up Highway 16 to Medicine Lake, some 20 miles south of Plentywood and west of North Dakota.
"They'll probably have a caravan or something. They'll meet us on Homestead corner and follow us into town," she said. "They really support our athletics."
Tuesday - 6/1/99