Rafe Espinoza flew, Robin Wemple sailed, and they both landed in the record books Thursday afternoon as the Western C divisional track meet began a two-day run at the University of Montana's Dornblaser Field.
Espinoza, a senior from Arlee, won his third straight divisional pole vault title in dramatic fashion with a career-best clearance of 5 feet, 6.25 inches. Only a handful of Montana preps have ever soared that high; it may have been unprecedented for a Class C vaulter. In any case, Espinoza's effort blew away the old meet mark of 14-0, set by Drummond's Pat Bignell in 1984.
"I just fed off the crowd," Espinoza said. "Their support was awesome. I was so pumped, I just wanted to grab the pole and fly."
Wemple, a senior from Victor, was equally impressive in claiming the girls' 3,200 meters for the fourth straight year. She lapped her competition with a personal-best time of 11 minutes, 29.22 seconds, erasing the 13-year-old divisional standard, held by Arlee's Cher Desjarlais, by 19 seconds.
"As my splits (lap times) were called out, I kept telling myself, 'you're running too fast,' " Wemple said. "But I felt so great. There's something about this time of year that gets me going."
Espinoza's buoyant demeanor reflected not only his personal accomplishment but Arlee's chances of claiming its first divisional title since 1995. Through six of 17 events, Arlee built a slim 38-36 lead over three-time defending champ Charlo, and the Warriors are poised for an avalanche of points on Friday.
Sophomores Craig Tanner and Paige Carney gave Arlee a boost in the pole vault, placing third and fifth, respectively, behind Espinoza. Arlee also did better than projected in the 400 relay, placing a close second to Charlo, and sprinter-hurdler Kyle Thomas looked good in his qualifying heats.
Arlee didn't escape unscathed, as junior standout Robert Sanchez had a tough day. He was disqualified in the 100-meter trials for a false start, and placed sixth in the long jump, one spot away from qualifying for next week's state meet in Billings. He came back to post the fastest qualifying time in the 200.
"We did fine," said Arlee coach Dan Nile. "We had some slips, but those happen. We came through better in the relay and pole vault than anticipated."
Charlo not only won the relay, but went 1-2 in the open 400 behind Devon Cox and Drew Dumont.
The Charlo girls took the first-day lead with 36 points, followed by two-time defending champ Manhattan Christian (31) and Twin Bridges (30).
Cassi Dehne of Alberton won the high jump in a duel with defending champ Sarah Smith of Lincoln. Lucinda Lagomasino, Smith's teammate, was the day's other regional winner, taking the shot put.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Espinoza entered the pole vault at 12-6, and made that height, 14-1, 15-0 and 15-6 on his first attempts. He ticked the bar on the way down at 15-6. It wavered, but stayed in place. Espinoza then failed on three tries at 15-10 - one inch higher than Helena standout Todd Foster's state all-class record that has stood since 1988.
"My goal today was 15-6, and it's great to get it," said Espinoza, who will shoot for his third straight state title - and the record - in Billings. "I still have a lot of room for improvement. My run-up and my plant need to be better. I'm not the fastest guy on the board, so I have to do everything right when I get airborne."
Espinoza has a busy schedule on Friday, when he'll be expected to excel in the 110 hurdles, high jump, javelin and triple jump.
"That was a tremendous vault, the kind of thing we've come to expect from Rafe," Nile said. "He has some key events still to come, and he'll come through."
Wemple also has some unfinished business on Friday, when she'll shoot for her third divisional title in four years in the 1,600.
"As soon as one race ends, I'm already thinking about the next one," Wemple said.
At Dornblaser Field
Team scores (6 of 17 events): Arlee 38, Charlo 36, Sheridan 22, West Yellowstone 16, Hot Springs 14, Noxon 12, Shields Valley 12, Gardiner 10, Harrison 10, Manhattan Christian 8, Philipsburg 6, Victor 2.
400 - 1, Devon Cox, Cha, 51.08; 2, Drew Dumont, Cha, 51.16; 3, Kevin Hansen, WY, 51.19; 4, Tyson VanDyken, MC, 51.58; 5, John Fremont, SV, 51.64; 6, Josh Gerving, Sher, 51.84.
1,600 - 1, Carl Sgrignoli, Har, 4:39.64; 2, Mitchell BigSam, Arl, 4:43.45; 3, Jake Ferrell, Nox, 4:49.71; 4, Dan Nottingham, SV, 4:49.74; 5, Tony Hochhalter, Vic, 4:50.04; 6, James Smith, WY, 4:54.90.
400 relay - 1, Charlo (Ben Dumont, Scott Smith, Drew Dumont, Devon Cox) 45.03; 2, Arlee 45.08; 3, Sheridan 45.83; 4, Noxon 46.12; 5, Shields Valley 46.76; 6, West Yellowstone 46.77.
Discus - 1, Dave Rossiter, Sher, 144-6; 2, Andrew Leichtnam, HS, 142-9; 3, John Perrin, HS, 138-4; 4, Shane DeBoer, MC, 132-9; 5, Brian Tanner, Arl, 130-3; 6, Bryce Finley, Arl, 127-11.
Long jump - 1, Regan Mack, Gar, 20-4; 2, Levi Weickum, WY, 20-3þ; 3, Tom Graham, Pbg, 20-1; 4, Josh Fremont, SV, 19-10þ; 5, K.C. Posselt, Nox, 19-10.5; 6, Robert Sanchez, Arl, 19-9þ.
Pole vault - 1, Rafe Espinoza, Arl, 15-6.25 (meet record; old record 14-0, Pat Bignell, Drummond, 1985); 2, Scott Smith, Cha, 13-6; 3, Craig Tanner, Arl, 12-6; 4, Pete Allhands, Sher, 12-0; 5, Paige Carney, Arl, 11-6; 6, Chad Elser, Sher, 11-0.
Team scores (8 of 17 events): Charlo 36, Manhattan Christian 31, Twin Bridges 30, Gardiner 27, Lincoln 26, West Yellowstone 16, Alberton 15, Victor 14, Noxon 12, Lima 11, Sheridan 8, Shields Valley 8, Arlee 6, St. Regis 6, Harrison 2.
400 - 1, Marny Adamson, TB, 61.59; 2, Jessi O'Neil, Gar, 62.17; 3, Becca Miller, TB, 62.43; 4, Lindsey Burrington, Vic, 62.50; 5, Maria Bartoletti, Sher, 62.81; 6, Laura Cote, Gar, 64.21.
800 - 1, Laci High, TB, 2:24.45; 2, Brooke Forsythe, WY, 2:26.18; 3, Laura Cote, Gar, 2:26.79; 4, Valeri Droge, MC, 2:27.97; 5, Crystal Kain, Cha, 2:29.26; 6, Sam Hammond, Cha, 2:30.84.
3,200 - 1, Robin Wemple, Vic, 11:29.22 (meet record; old record 11:48.2, Cher Desjarlais, Arlee, 1988); 2, Lois Ricardi, Gar, 12:26.99; 3, Stephanie Maurer, Sher, 12:49.90; 4, Nicole Bierie, Cha, 12:59.90; 5, Megan Young, Har, 13:14.65; 6, Amber Johnson, Lima, 13:33.0.
400 relay - 1, Manhattan Christian (Camilla Cok, Amanda DeHaan, Megan Schutter, Anne Venhuizen) 51.75; 2, West Yellowstone 53.19; 3, Charlo 53.36; 4, Twin Bridges 53.40; 5, Arlee 54.44; 6, Alberton 56.63.
Shot put - 1, Lucinda Lagomasino, Linc, 37-þ; 2, Dani Finley, Cha, 35-5þ; 3, Amanda Marich, Nox, 34-2.5; 4, Amanda Barber, SR, 33-11þ; 5, Nichole Thompson, Nox, 33-11; 6, Randi Loughlin, Cha, 33-3þ.
Discus - 1, Heather Schwartz, Lima, 111-2; 2, Lucinda Lagomasino, Linc, 110-8; 3, Randi Loughlin, Cha, 108-7; 4, Dani Witt, Alb, 104-2; 5, Amanda Barber, SR, 102-10; 6, MacKenzie Barger, Arl, 98-0.
High jump - 1, Cassi Dehne, Alb, 5-1; 2, Sarah Smith, Linc, 5-0; 3, (tie) Kim Tanascu, Gar, Glennis Cates, Cha, and Kitty Meredith, Nox, 4-10; 6, (tie) Heidi Blanksma, MC, and Shawna Flikkema, MC, 4-10.
Triple jump - 1, Shawna Flikkema, MC, 33-11.5; 2, Courtney Arthun, SV, 33-9.25; 3, Megan Gier, MC, 32-10; 4, Glennis Cates, Cha, 32-9; 5, Nicole Printz, Arl, 32-1.5; 6, Lynnsey Baker, Arl, 32-1.