Sunday, March 26, 2023

Stellar jumps, sprints — and hoodies

Daily Inter Lake | June 4, 2022 11:50 PM

Covering track and field is not supposed to hurt, but here I am nursing a swollen knee and it wasn’t for any sort of, you know, effort.

The State AA and A championships on the Merrifield Track at Bulldog Memorial Stadium last weekend did not otherwise disappoint: The Whitefish girls sent coach Kelliann Blackburn out a winner, and the Glacier boys came close to doing the same for their now former coach, Arron Deck.

The 100 meters remains the can’t-miss race of any meet, and the boys’ 100 didn’t disappoint. Especially if you were a Missoula Sentinel Spartan.

Checking Hudson Lembke’s season statistics on, maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he won the sprint, and pushed the Spartans into an insurmountable lead.

It was the fifth time the sophomore won the 100 meters this spring, in 10 starts. He was second two other times: To Helena Capital junior Thomas Carter at the Pilcher Top 10, and two days later to Glacier junior Jackson Hensley at the Wolfpack’s April 28 triangular.

Based on the rankings, I had Glacier nickel-and-diming the sprints and high and long jumps and scoring 78 points, which would be enough to win.

The Pack scored 80; Sentinel, projected at 73 points, came up with 89. The Spartans came to play and managed to send their coach out with the big trophy: reported Saturday that Craig Mettler is moving into a vice principal’s role.

Once and forever a Griz defensive tackle, Mettler came to Sentinel in 2009. He heads out with three straight boys championships (skipping pandemic-canceled 2019), and three girls titles in 2017-18 and 2021.

Deck, meanwhile, got one state title and a pair of trophies in 14 seasons with the Pack.

“The sun has to set at some point on everybody,” Mettler said, but don’t tell that to Dan Hodge, whose 50th season as the Flathead boys coach resulted in a solid finish. Don’t tell that to Sue Loeffler, whose Bigfork charges brought home third-place trophies from the State B meet.

A tip of the hat is due the Vikings’ George Bucklin. Shelby standout Rhett Reynolds lost two high jump competitions all season, at the Archie Roe Invitational and the State B. Bucklin got him both times, the latter with a career-best 6-foot-7.

The Braves scored just five points at state in 2021, and then this year literally jumped up to seventh out of 16 teams. Most of the 30 points came in the triple and long jumps. Dylan Zink finished second in both, and pushed Glacier’s Tate Kauffman in the former.

Zink and Kauffman are both seniors, and it would behoove someone in the Frontier Conference to take on Zink. Kauffman signed with Carroll; it would be pleasing if their duels could continue.

As pleasing as the Braves’ Hodge Hoodies? Possibly. The tops stood out not just because they were snow-white, but also because their longtime coach’s picture adorned the front.

It’s not my biggest takeaway from State, but I feel strongly that they should be on sale at Universal. I’d limp in and buy one.

Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 758-4463 or

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