Area Spring Sports 2014
HHS softball team is on the verge Daniel Horton Havre Daily News sports writer firstname.lastname@example.org Over the last two seasons, the Havre High softball program has been right on the brink of breaking back into the Class A state softball tournament. And with an extremely talented and experienced junior class back and ready for action, this could very well be the year the Blue Ponies make their move. While the Central A Ponies only lost two seniors from last year's 3-5 conference team, head coach Danny Wirtzberger knows they leave two very big holes to fill. “They were two very important seniors that we lost,” Wirtzberger said. “They are going to be missed. Davee Macleod was our No. 1 pitcher and our threehole hitter, so she is going to be extremely missed with her athletic ability and leadership. And Roxanna Jensen, she was an excellent player for us, too. She is playing college softball right now in California and is going to be missed as our shortstop.” And just like every year, if the Ponies want to claim a top spot in the conference, they will have to play very well, even with two less standouts. A 3-5 Central A record in each of the last two years has left the Ponies out of state as the No. 4 team in the conference. They have yet to play at the state level since the 2010 season. But last year the Ponies came close at the first annual divisional tournament, and if they can play well at the end of this season, they could make more noise at the second annual divisional tournament as well. The Ponies were 1-2 at last year’s divisional tournament as they watched the Belgrade Panthers take the No. 1 spot. The Panthers also return this year with no losses to their lineup and as the team to beat. Lewistown also brings in a talented and well-rounded program, but is comparable to Havre as they, too, lost some key seniors. Haylee Dowdell did the entire conference a favor and graduated from the Livingston program and took her standout pitching to the collegiate level. Browning will also field a team this year, but still has a lot of work to do until they can get in a competitive position in the conference. Havre can break through that barrier and compete at state this season. “I think it all depends on how we develop throughout the year,” Wirtzberger said. “A lot of it has to do with staying healthy, and a lot of it just has to do with year as a returning outfielder, pitcher, and leadoff hitter. “Our sophomores last year were incredible,” Wirtzberger said. “A lot of them started for us, and they are now juniors. We aren’t young like we were last year, and we have girls that have played a lot of varsity games. I am very excited for this junior class, we have some seniors that will produce for us, too, but our foundation is going to be in our juniors.” The rest of the lineup includes freshmen Paige Warren, Tracyn LaBuda, Maddy Tommercup, Mady Cocoran, Jaycelyn Hassa, Jacey McDonald, and Clair Worm. Majeres will look to carry the pitching load for the Ponies this season. Majeres got ample opportunity last season, but will be the ace this season. Tori Mazurkiewicz and Wagner will also get some time in the pitching circle in specific situations, but Majeres will get the nod more times than not. “She (Majeres) throws 285 days out of the year, this is her thing,” Wirtzberger said. “And she loves softball. She works very hard, and she has gained a tremendous amount of strength in the last year with weights and throwing. I think with her being that much stronger, I am expecting big things from her.” Henderson was the best allaround hitter for the Ponies last year, and Wagner was in the leadoff spot. But Majeres will also have to bring her bat for the Ponies to be successful, as will Boucher, Morgan and Tori Mazurkiewicz. Huston and Bohn are also expected to step up and do some things with their offense by coach Wirtzberger. But good games all around are key, as offense, defense and pitching have to be on point for the Ponies this season. They have a very tough schedule from start to finish and compete in a talented conference. HHS will be tested right out of the gate at the Great Falls Jamboree Saturday, April 5. At the jamboree the Ponies will face Billings Senior, Billings West, Butte and Laurel, four softball powerhouses in the Class AA and Class A. The Ponies will also play at the Belgrade Invitational, as well as face the tough Central A field this year. The regular season comes to an end at the Butte Central tournament on May 16 and 17, making the Ponies schedule daunting from start to finish. “That (Great Falls Jamboree) is a great opportunity to see where we stack up against the best of the best in the state.” Wirtzberger said. “Those Class AA programs are bigger, faster and stronger than us, but that is good for us to play against that. But the Butte Central tournament at the end of the year is also one of tournaments the girls have the most fun at because we do get see everybody in the Class A. We really do have a tough schedule when you throw in our conference games, we will be tested.” Havre High opens the season at the Great Falls Jamboree. Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Havre High junior Paige Henderson returns as one of the Blue Ponies' top hitters, as well as their catcher. The HHS softball team should be much-improved this season. how much we can improve. The Central A has some incredible coaches, and one thing they are known for is playing better at the end of the year, and I hope someday I can be in the same class as they are. But that is one of our main goals, to develop all year long, and get to the point where we are playing our very best softball at the end of the year. If that happens I don’t see any reason why we can’t punch our ticket to state.” If the Ponies’ junior class can continue to play well, they will have a very talented core to work off of. Seniors Sydne Huston (infield), China Bohn (outfield) and Natalie Hill (outfield/infield) will be leaned on, but a class of five juniors will be three-year starters for the Ponies this season. Tori Mazurkiewicz (outfield/pitcher), Morgan Mazurkiewicz (infield), Rachel Majeres (pitcher/outfield), Paige Henderson (catcher) and Harlee Boucher (infield) will lead the way for the Ponies this season and are all coming off of great sophomore years. But HHS will also lean on juniors Jordyn Warren (infield) in her second season and Shania Carlson (outfield) who worked her way into a starting role near the end of last season. Sophomore Scout Boucher (infield) is also returning as is sophomore Dani Wagner, as she looks to become a second-year starter this Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Havre High's Sydne Huston, left, is one of just a handful of seniors on the 2014 Blue Pony softball team. The Ponies open their season at the Great Falls Jamboree. Pony thinclads seek quality over quantity Veteran John Ita back at the helm of Blue Pony track and field program Daniel Horton Havre Daily News sports writer email@example.com The last time John Ita was the head coach of the Havre High track and field program, things were a little bit different. But taking over the reins again, now a decade later, Ita is still confident his Central A Blue Ponies boys and girls will be competitive. Ita last coached the Ponies in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And with 90-plus total kids on the team, Ita even coached the HHS boys to a second-place finish at the Class A state meet in his final season. But as the years have passed, the numbers have decreased, and with Ita back at the helm, the track team enters the season with a total head count of less than 50. But that shouldn’t keep the Ponies from being competitive in 2014, as they return several seasoned veterans on both the boys and girls squads. “The days of having 58 boys out and 40 girls out are over,” coach Ita said. “But we have really good quality out this year, so I think we will still make a little noise. The last time I was the head coach the boys were second at state, and we had great speed and great numbers, now we don’t have those numbers. The strategy now is to have a quality person in every event, even if we have to train somebody who doesn’t think they can do an event.” Some kids may find themselves competing in events they never thought they would or could, but the Ponies also have some returning athletes who will continue to stand out in their known events. On the girls side of things, seniors Peyton Filius and Haley Ohm will continue to lead the Ponies in the long-distance races. Senior Lacey Waid will also look to cap off a great pole vaulting career, while senior Martha Stocker will anchor the throwing events for the HHS girls. Stocker placed sixth at state in the shot put and Filius placed sixth at state in the 800 meters last season, they were the only two Ponies to place a year ago. But Megan Erickson (middle distance), Rachel David (middle distance) and Corissa White (sprints) also return to the girls team as they look to build off of last year’s No. 3 team finish at the divisional meet. On the boys’ side, athletes like Thomas Gruber (pole vault) and Gunnar Aageson (pole vault) will return for the Ponies. Kade Rismon returns as the top thrower, while Nate Rismon (sprints) and John Faber (jumps) also return. “Time will tell where our real the Ponies prepare to stand up against the rest of the Central A. Belgrade brings in high numbers once again and should be the team to beat. But Livingston is also very well rounded with moderate numbers. Lewistown, the Ponies and Browning will have to step up their game to compete with the numbers out there. “We have a bunch of kids who have never been out for track before,” Ita said. “We are also working on getting them in shape and up to speed so we can see how they can contribute as well.” Also making up the HHS track team this season will be freshmen Dakota Acor, Donatus Bautista, Emily Brurud, Samantha Huston, Nikolas Keller, Sarah Malone, James May, Cody Rennick, Naomi Terry, Marc Woronik and Meggie Zook; sophomores Zan Anderson, Austin Burnside, Luke Karnauskas, Thomas Keith, Cole Keller, Cameron Knapton, Brock Ross and Lucas Shaw; juniors Julie Kadrmas, Jaden Korb, Rocky Kuhr, Derek Matosich, Carlene Rennick, Tyres Rodarte, Noah Seigel, Dylan Stewart and Brauk Wood; and seniors Ryan Antley, Alicia Borst, Kyle Duitsman, Zeena Fox, Tommaso Perrone and Kelly Teske. The season has begun with some cold and snowy practices, but the Ponies will get their first taste of competition April 5 when they travel to Lewistown. 2 Spring 2014 DAILY NEWS Havre www.havredailynews.com Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Havre High senior Peyton Filius returns to the Blue Pony track and field team as one of the top middle-distance runners in Class A. Veteran John Ita also returns as the head coach of the Blue Pony track and field program. strengths are at,” Ita said. “Cut Bank got canceled, so the first meet we will go to is Lewistown, so that will definitely be helpful to see all of the kids in action. We have some exciting older kids, but we also have younger kids coming on with some athleticism. It is just hard to predict how they will do until you get them out on the track and see them compete. But our goal this season is to get all 17 of the events filled for the boys and girls. We want somebody competitive in every event, and yeah, you may think you are a Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Above: Havre sophomore Nate Rismon competes in the triple jump for the Blue Ponies at a home meet last spring. The HHS track teams will compete at home for the first time April 9 in the Cal Wearly Invite. Below: Senior Thomas Gruber is one of many talented pole vaulters for the 2014 Blue Ponies. 400 runner, but we have three other 400 runners and what we need is a 300 hurdler. We are just going to try and fill every event.” With a solid group of freshmen, sophomores and first-time upper classmen, the Ponies are looking to get to know themselves a little bit better moving forward. And with the Cut Bank meet getting canceled, the first meet on the Ponies’ schedule takes them to Lewistown April 5, but HHS will also compete in Great Falls, Belgrade, Glasgow and Whitefish this season. They will also host the annual Lions Invite April 12, a triangular with Lewistown and Malta May 10 and the Central A divisional meet May 23 and 24. As the season gets rolling, coach Ita should get a better idea of what he is working with. Freshman Kristin Nash has already garnered some attention with her athleticism, as has freshman Michael Loftus with his speed and great jumping ability. Senior Matt Curtis adds to the boys team as a first-year competitor, but Ita is excited to see where he, too, will fit in as Plenty of track talent on the Hi-Line Daniel Horton Havre Daily News sports writer firstname.lastname@example.org Every spring, the Hi-Line finds a way to field some of the best track and field athletes in the state. And with a lot of those top-notch athletes returning to action this season, several area programs will be pushing for some top team finishes at the divisional and state levels. Some local schools struggled to produce a program with low numbers, but North Star, Chinook, Turner, Big Sandy, Box Elder, Rocky Boy and Chester/J-I will look to build on some recent success. The North Star Knights have been a dominating force in the girls ranks, looking for their eighth consecutive 9C title. A year ago the Knights finished as the No. 3 team at state, and were crowned state champions two seasons ago. The Knights have also dominated the 9C meet over the last decade, as well as finishing second at the Northern C divisional meet last year, and things look promising as a great group returns. Bettie Carlon returns as a two-time state champion in the triple jump and a standout long jumper. Delainey Spicher is also a standout hurdler, while Sierra Yanny returns after competing in the pole vault at state a year ago. Tylynn Rettig will also help lead the way in the pole vault and 100-meter sprint. Rettig placed second at state in the pole vault last year and placed in the 100-meter the last two years. The North Star boys don’t have the same numbers, but do return Cooper Spicher and Quinn Spinler. Spicher is a state placer in the long jump, triple jump, high jump and high hurdles. Spinler is a state competitor in the pole vault. "I have really high expectations for both of our teams this year,” North Star head coach Brian Campbell said. “The girls have a chance to continue competing at a high level in all the meets they are in. The boys are really talented and could compete well throughout the year if they work hard." The Sugarbeeter boys are also looking to continue their great run of team wins. The Beeters won the 9C last year, took second at the Northern C meet, and placed No. 6 at the Class C state meet. Key returning Beeters include Zach Molyneaux (sprints and throws), Travis Roth (distance), and Ty Simenson (sprints). For the girls, Chinook also returns Hannah Wever (distance), 3 Spring 2014 DAILY NEWS Havre www.havredailynews.com Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Above: Chinook senior Zach Molyneaux is one of the most talented and versatile track and field athletes, not only on the Hi-Line, but all across Montana. The area track and field season kicks into high gear with the annual Cal Wearly Invitational April 9 at the Havre Middle School track. Right: North Star's Tylynn Rettig, center, is back to help the Knights stay on top of District 9C and Northern C girls track. The North Star program has been one of the premier Class C program's over the last decade. Emily Dennis (jumps), Britney Nelson (throws), Tavin Schneider (throws), Makhayla Farmer (throws). And after a No. 3 finish at the Northern C a year ago, the Beeters are also looking to keep moving up. Rocky Boy seems to always find a distance runner to carry the load, while C/J-I also has limited numbers, but standout athletes like Justin May, who has proven to be a great triple jumper. The Chester girls may struggle with key losses like Kate Graff and Brittnee Theel. But even small programs can compete and produce top-tier athletes. The Box Elder Bears return Brandon The Boy and Will Ketchum this season, and both seem to get better and better with every long-distance race. The Hi-Line programs will compete all over the state, but local fans will also have some opportunities to catch them in action. The Cal Wearly Memorial meet in Havre on April 9 brings in all the local talent, while most will also compete at the Havre Lions Invite April 12 in Havre. The 9C meet will also take place in Havre May 14, followed by the Northern C meet May 22 in Great Falls and the state meet May 30 and 31 in Great Falls. 4 Spring 2014 Daniel Horton Havre tennis teams chase more success we will expect them to be leaders. We also have a little better idea of what our lineup should be from the start because of the experience we return. We know where some kids fit and where they’ll help the team the most. That’s something we didn’t have as much of at the start of the year last season. “But we also have an outstanding group of freshmen,” he continued. “It’s our biggest freshmen class in quite some time, and I’m really excited about all of them. They are all learning quick and that group is going to all compete for varsity time, right away and throughout the season. So our lineup might look different as the year goes on. They are a really good group.” Freshmen Jake Sedahl, Nate Korb, Isaac Warp, Jeff Ralph Dustin Haas, Kyle Kirkpatrick and James Berry will add to Havre’s depth and provide a solid foundation for the future of Blue Pony boys tennis. But the future is also now for this particular HHS team, and Ferguson has high hopes for the boys. Havre will be a strong favorite in the Central A, while on the state level, Billings Central and Polson, which shared the 2013 Class A title, will be the favorites to get there again. “I really like what I see from our boys team right now,” Ferguson said. “We have experience, we have strong singles players, and I think we’ll be able to put together strong doubles teams. We have a group of freshmen who will make things very interesting this season and beyond, and all of these kids have come into our season ready to go and they work really hard. It’s a great group and I think they are going to have a great season.” While the boys should have a great season, Ferguson thinks his HHS girls team might be in for even more success. The Ponies have finished behind Livingston at the divisional meet the last four seasons, but this year could be Havre’s year to get back on top of the Central A, and beyond. “It’s an exciting time for our girls team,” Ferguson said. “It’s been a long time since we have had a team with this much experience. We have a lot of seniors who have all played varsity from day one. And overall, we just have a really experienced team with a bunch of really good tennis players.” HHS did lose Central A doubles runners-up Lainey Chagnon and Jennifer Cichosz, but the Ponies return the third-place team of Ellery Bresler and Breck Don, who also won a match at the state meet a year ago. Also back is senior Brandy Lambourne, who DAILY NEWS Havre www.havredailynews.com Havre Daily News sports writer email@example.com It seems like every year, spring comes later and later. But that has never stopped the Havre High boys and girls tennis teams from continuing to be one of the most consistent and successful tennis programs in Class A. And though winter weather seems to be wreaking havoc yet again, the Blue Pony tennis teams are still hard at work preparing for a brand new season. Blue Pony head coach George Ferguson enters his 11th season at the helm. He’s led the Ponies to five state championships between the boys and girls teams, as well as 16 different Central A championships. A year ago, the Havre boys captured their ninth Central A championship in the last 10 seasons, while the HHS girls finished a solid second in the Central A. Both Blue Pony teams also put on a strong showing at the Class A state meet in May in Polson. But, at the beginning of the new season, Ferguson says last year doesn’t matter, and his teams are starting all over. “It’s exciting to start again,” Ferguson said. “Yes, we’re very proud of the tradition we have built over many, many years here. And we want our current teams to help carry on that tradition. But it’s a new season, and we have two new teams, so what we have done in the past really doesn’t come into play. I’m looking forward to this season, and what these teams can do.” The Havre boys should be strong yet again, especially with the return of All-State singles player Jeff Miller. As a freshman, Miller finished sixth at the state meet and won the 2013 Central A singles championship. Havre also returns three strong seniors in Ned Malone and Brian Smith, as well as Zach Hellegaard. Smith and Malone will team up in doubles this season, while Hellegaard, who is a fouryear varsity player, will play singles. Havre is also an experienced squad this spring. Also back are juniors Noah Landgraf and Wyatt Lindbloom, as well as sophomore Jerod Boles. All were on the divisional team a season ago and Ferguson said all three have improved a great deal since last spring. Junior Jamie Lieberg and sophomore Patrick Leeds also saw extensive varsity action a year ago, and should again this season. “We do have some experienced kids,” Ferguson said. “All of our seniors have played a lot of varsity tennis matches and Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Havre High senior Ellery Bresler, right, and the Blue Pony boys and girls tennis teams have already started what they hope will be a very successful 2014 season. came within one match of placing at state last season, and is another four-year varsity player. But the experience doesn’t end there either. Seniors Haley Graham and Morgan Jappe have played doubles together the last two seasons and should be a force this spring, while senior Shannon Herring and junior Tatiana Ralph give the Ponies two more quality singles players to go with Lambourne. The HHS girls also bring back a strong sophomore class, with Rainey Stoner and Madison Huebsch, both of whom saw plenty of varsity action a season ago. Also back is Alara Vogel, Ashley Hoffland and Corttney Gobin, and that group is joined by newcomer Kaylee Nash. “This is going to be a big season for our girls team, for a number of different reasons,” Ferguson said. “I think we have a tremendous amount of depth and talent, and we have a group of girls who love to play tennis, and they work really hard. We are also going to lose a lot of seniors after this season, so it’s a big season for our underclassmen too. “I’m just really excited about our girls team,” he continued. “They can accomplish great things, and I think they have the potential to go very, very far, both at divisionals and state.” As for Havre’s competition on the girls’ side, Livingston will again be tough in the Central A, while Billings Central, Corvallis and Hamilton will be tough to beat at state. But both Havre teams should be well prepared by the time the divisional tournament rolls around in May. The Ponies play a rigorous schedule, which includes top tournaments like the Class A Duals in Cut Bank, the Great Falls Invitational, the Helena Invitational and the Lewistown Invite. Havre will also be aided by the addition of two brand new courts on the campus of Montana State University-Northern, so Ferguson said there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming months. “Our schedule is always very tough,” Ferguson said. “I think it gets us really well prepared to play our best tennis at the end of the season, and that’s our goal. We want to make sure we peak in mid-May, and everything before that is a building block. Our goal is just to get better every day in practice and at every meet. “I’m looking forward to this season,” he continued. “We have a lot of kids who put in a ton of work on tennis in their free time and in the offseason, and we have a great group of boys and girls who are very fun to coach. It’s going to be a really fun year, and I can’t wait to get started.” The Ponies host the Havre Invitational April 12, while the Central A Divisional is May 1516 in Bozeman, and the Class A state meet is set for May 22-23 in Billings.