Sunday, July 14, 2024

In first summer, Stumptown sets fast pace

Daily Inter Lake | July 21, 2023 12:00 AM

It was during the State A track and field championships, Memorial Day weekend, that Josiah Osborne said the quiet part out loud.

The Whitefish girls were on their way to sweeping the short and long relays, and Osborne, the Columbia Falls assistant coach, was standing alongside his fellow Carroll College alum, Willie Roche, who coaches the Bulldog boys.

“He said, ‘Man, what if Ally Sempf was on your team? How cool would that be?’” Roche recalled.

This is how the Stumptown Track Club came to be. The possibly overdue answer to Missoula’s Mountain West Track Club got its start via offhand remark eight weeks ago in Laurel, Montana.

Getting on the bus in Laurel, Roche already had three legs of a dynamic, USATF age 17-18 four-by-one relay: Sempf, the Columbia Falls burner, and Brooke Zetooney and Hailey Ells of Whitefish. By the time he was back in Whitefish, he had a fourth from Flathead High.

“Someone on the bus said, ‘I knew a girl in Kalispell named Alivia Rinehart,’” Roche said. “Who I had not paid attention to, but who is freaky fast.”

It didn’t stop there. “All of a sudden I’m getting calls from Kalispell and from Bigfork: ‘Hey, I hear you’re running a track club,’” Roche said. “I couldn’t say no, and it snowballed.”

Fast forward to the USATF Region 11 meet in Pocatello, Idaho July 6-8, where 18 Stumptown athletes competed.

It’s where Glacier’s Aiden Krause won the discus with a throw of 180 feet, 11.25 inches; and Ells won the college-length 400-meter hurdles by 1.31 seconds, in 65.73.

Meanwhile Rinehart, Ells, Sempf and Zetooney clipped through the short relay in 48.38. For comparison’s sake, Whitefish won the State A title at 48.91 in May.

Word of mouth resulted in a pretty potent squad.

“Her boyfriend, his friend, his friend’s sister, that sister’s boyfriend,” Roche said. “Aiden Krause called and I said, ‘Sure. We don’t really have a throws coach yet, but come on out.’ ”

They found a throws coach — Matt Beckwith — and a pliable schedule. The only requirement to get to the Region 11 meet was to compete at the USATF Montana Junior Olympic meet June 16-17 in Missoula.

To get to the National Junior Olympic Championships, which begin Monday in Eugene, Oregon, you had to finish in the top eight at Region 11.

Counting age 14-15 athletes, 15 Stumptown boys and girls qualified.

“I figured only a couple would want to go, but 14 are signed up,” Roche said. “It’s a cool experience for a lot of these kids.”

For some, like Zetooney, it probably won’t be the last time they compete inside Hayward Field. College coaches will be there, no doubt.

For all of them it’s the big-time, right now, and that’s why the club came about.

“We’ll register it as a non-profit and keep it as cheap as we can,” Roche said. “We’ll have summer meets and winter meets. We’re not going to like club soccer where we have practices all year around, but it’s an opportunity for track kids who want to go next-level and get exposure.”

Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 758-4463 or