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Track sending 36 to state

by TERESA BYRD
Staff Writer | May 26, 2021 7:25 AM

The Columbia Falls track and field teams delivered substantial results at the Western A divisional track meet over the weekend with the girls team taking third overall and the boys team taking eighth at the two-day, 12-team event. Hamilton won the boys title, Whitefish the girls. Overall, the Wildcats had 36 athletes placing in the top 10 of their event to qualify for the upcoming state track meet.

The results were serendipitous for head coach Jamie Heinz who, on paper, had expected half that amount to qualify.

“Our team effort was outstanding,” said Heinz. “I can’t really single one person out because everybody had such great performances. You know, we had kids that were disappointed in some events but then they would come back and go to state in another, say, ‘weaker’ event.”

The unexpected surge of contenders was particularly notable given the program’s cutback in participants this year, with the girls team seeing about half the numbers of typical years. However, what the Kats lacked in quantity they made up for in quality, with nearly all of the girls team’s 20 divisional athletes making it to state.

Lara Erickson led Columbia Falls by taking first in both the 800 meters with a 2:20.49 and the 1,600 meters with a 5:20.51. She also ran in the 4 by 400 meter relay, helping the team take second behind Corvallis with a 4:12.16.

“[Lara] had a phenomenal divisional track meet,” said Heinz. “Her nickname is ‘Alpha,’ and she is definitely the alpha person on our track team, by far.”

The girls team also saw standout performances from Siri Erickson who took second in the 1,600 meters with a 5:26.22 and fourth in the 800 meters with a 2:27.17. Freshman Ally Sempf also

had an outstanding weekend, placing in the 100, 200 and 400 meter dashes as well as both relays.

The Wildkat girl pole vaulters also had a solid showing, with the Kats qualifying four for state, including Hannah Sempf who took second with a vault of 10-0.

The boys team was led by Jaxon Heinz who tied for second in the pole vault with a height of 11-06; Richard Role who took third in the 800 meters with a 2:02.39, and Jace Duval who took fifth in the long jump with a 19:11.25.

The event, which was hosted in Columbia Falls at the Dr. Nicosia Track Complex, went off without a hitch, said Heinz.

“I was extremely happy with how smooth the track meet went, you know, with all the help from our community, the food trucks, the booster club, help from students and just community members— it was awesome. Couldn’t have done it without all those people,” said Heinz. “We hosted probably one of the better divisional tournaments I’ve had in twenty six years of coaching, and it was fun to be part of it.”

The Wildcats head to Laurel to compete in the 2021 State Class A Track Meet starting with boys pole vault at 4 p.m. on Thursday.