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Tons of track talent on the Hi-Line Fort Benton girls will be a Class C force again Chris Peterson

Havre Daily News cpeterson@havredailynews.com The 2017 track season was a memorable one for the HiLine, thanks to some outstanding postseason performances from local teams. Yet, if there was one team that stood out, it was the Fort Benton girls who captured the 2017 Class C state championship. While winning back-to-back titles is never easy, the Longhorns appear ready for another run at championships in the District 9C, the Northern C Division and Class C, which they swept last season. Of course, one of the big keys for the Fort Benton girls will be the health and availability of Maddy Thompson, who was a state champion in the 100-meter dash, as well as a the state runner-up in the pole vault and high jump. She was also on both the 400-meter and 1,600meter relay teams that each

placed and earned points for the Longhorns. Yet, because of a broken arm suffered in basketball, her status for the start of the season is unclear. However, the Longhorns have a lot more athletes in the stable than just Thompson. Leah Gannon, who has placed in multiple events at state, as both a freshman and sophomore, will also be a key asset to Fort Benton, along with Nicole Axtman, who placed in both the long jump and triple jump last season. The Fort Benton girls will lose some stalwarts, such as Kaitlin Bird and Coya Nack, who both racked up points at state, but under the direction of head coach Kevin Shaw, the Longhorns should flourish again. Another girls team that will be looking to build off a solid campaign a year ago are the Chinook Sugarbeeters, who will be led by Megan Molyneaux, who will be a threat in the 100 and the 200. She swept the events at the Northern C Divisional and finished third in the 200 at state. The junior also helped Chinook’s 400 relay team take fifth at state. The Sugarbeeters also have distance runner Kourtney Hanson, who qualified for

state in the 1,600. Jaye Anderson and Rochelle Chaffin are also going to be contenders in the jumping events. On the boys side of things, North Star will be looking to add another district championship after keeping their streak alive last year at the 9C meet in Havre. North Star has now won four consecutive 9C championships. The Knights don't have a lot of superstars, but they return the likes of Devon and Dylan Miller, along with pole vaulter Caden Rettig. Both Miller brothers also compete in sprinting events and Dylan Miller, like Rettig is a pole vaulter, as well as a jumper. Devon Miller also participates in throwing events. All three represented the Knights at the state meet last season. In addition to some solid teams, the Hi-Line has a number of other decorated athletes in track and field, including some state champions. One of those is Eddie Harmon of Turner, who won the 800 at the Class C state track meet. He and Cody Welsch were the driving force behind the Tornadoes fourth-place finish at the 9C last year. Harmon

also placed in the 400 at state. Welsh qualified for state in the high jump. L’Tia Lawrence of Harlem enters the season as the reigning Class B girls champion in the 1,600. The Harlem sophomore was also third in the 3,200 as a freshman. Another distance runner to keep an eye on will be Isiah Runs Above, who was third at state last season for Hays-Lodge Pole in the 3,200. He also won the Class C state title in cross country last fall. The District 9C track meet will be held in Havre May 9, followed by the Northern C track meet in Great Falls May 17. The Class C state meet will also be in Great Falls May 2526. Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Fort Benton's Leah Gannon competes in the long jump during the 2017 District 9C track meet in Havre. Gannon and the Fort Benton girls are the defending Class C state champions and will be the favorite again this season. The local track and field season has been delayed by weather, but hopefully, things start to heat up soon.


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Havre

DAILY NEWS

Spring 2018

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HHS begins a new era on the diamond

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson New Havre High softball head coach Tony Vigliotti poses for a photo during a recent Blue Pony practice at the HHS gymnasium. Vigliotti and the Blue Ponies are looking forward to the 2018 season, and Havre has set lofty goals for the new year.

Ponies hit the field running under Vigliotti Chris Peterson

Havre Daily News cpeterson@havredailynews.com For the second time in the last four seasons, the Havre High softball team will open with a new head coach. However, new Blue Pony manager Tony Vigliotti has hit the ground running and when the weather cooperates, his team is ready for 2018. Since he was hired as the head coach, Vigliotti has had his players working a lot in the offseason, utilizing the indoor batting cages at the Havre High school to work on both pitching and hitting. Throughout the years, Havre has put together some solid offensive teams, highlighted by power hitters such as Dani Wagner, Paige Henderson and Jacey McDonald. While that ability on offense has been great, it hasn’t translated to the kind of success the Ponies are hoping for. Havre has been a consistent state tournament team in Class A, but if HHS is going to take

the next step and contend for conference or state championships, the pitching has to be better and early on, that has been a big focus for Vigliotti and his staff. “We have had some really great athletes in the program,” Vigliotti said. “But we haven’t had that really dominant pitcher that teams that win state championships seem to have. So that’s really our focus. That’s what we are working to develop.” When it comes to the 2018 season, the Ponies will be relying on two pitchers, who both have plenty of experience. Alex Barkus will probably be the No. 1, which is no surprise since she has been a regular starter on the team the past few seasons. Sophomore Sam Oliver should be another regular starter on the mound. Both players will also play in either the infield or outfield when they aren’t pitching. Certainly, pitching is key, but scoring runs is also a big part of winning ball games and in Camryn Huston, the Ponies still possess a big-time bat in the middle of their lineup. With athletes like Janae Boles at the top of the order, as well as others like Payton Brown and Barkus, Havre some viable offensive threats, capable of get-

ting on base for Huston, who hit multiple home runs last season and is a strong bet to lead the team in home runs and RBIs. Another key player on offense will be Kinzee Peterson, who will likely see time behind the plate this season. But more importantly, she will be a fixture in the lineup after putting together a strong state tournament in 2017. “Right now, we are still trying to figure things out,” Vigliotti said. “We don’t really know who is going to play where or where they are going to be in the lineup. We have some ideas, but we are going to try out some different combinations.” The Ponies opened the season in Great Falls March 30, in a pre-season invitational tournament. Within the Central A conference, the Ponies will play home-and-away games against Belgrade, Livingston and Lewistown. HHS will do the same thing in the non-conference against Glasgow. The annual Havre Invitational will be May 5. Havre will also host the Central A Divisional Tournament this year, which will be May 19. That will be followed by the Class A state tournament in Frenchtown May 24-26.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Above: Havre's Alex Barkus is a veteran returning pitcher and hitter for the Blue Pony softball team. The Ponies are getting their season started under new head coach Tony Vigliotti. Left: Havre junior Lauren Kato hits during an HHS softball game last spring at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field. The Blue Ponies are looking forward to a brand new season.


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Havre

Spring 2018

DAILY NEWS

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Blue Pony thinclads anxious to hit the track

Chris Peterson

Havre Daily News cpeterson@havredailynews.com The weather has done its best to put a damper on the start of track season for the Havre Blue Ponies, but head coach John Ita has his own way with dealing with the weather. “We are just trying to get through it with humor,” Ita said. “You just have to try to be positive about it.” Preparation for track can always be tricky in Montana, but this season, with record amounts of snowfall, it's been even more difficult. For the first couple weeks the Ponies were limited to indoor workouts or conditioning and form work at the pool. “We can work a lot of the form stuff in the pool,” Ita said. “It can help runners with their stride. And our throwers have done a lot of the same footwork stuff they would normally do the first two weeks.” The past few years, the Ponies have been building, but still scored only a few points at the state meet a season ago. However, the girls team should have a solid chance to build on a promising season a year ago. Two key performers who return are Logan Huebsch and Ireland Coyne. Both have scored points in the hurdles at state and each have a chance to contribute in the relays. Last season, Huebsch placed sixth in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. Huebsch also teamed with Coyne, Katie Wirtzberger and Jessa Chvilicek to take sixth in the 400-meter relay. With a number of talented sprinters such as Wirtzberger, Chvilicek and Grace Loftus, the Ponies should be strong in the relays again. Havre also has a bevy of contenders in races like the 100, 200 and 400 with Wirtzberger and Chvilicek especially. Wirtzberger was eighth at state in the 200 a year ago. Chvilicek and Huebsch also contribute in the jumping events, another area Havre will look to score points. Sarah Faber is another Pony watch in the jumps, while Loni Waid should also be a consistent point getter in the pole vault. In the distance events and 1,600 relay, Kaylee Nystrom, a standout in cross country who will run for Montana State UniversityNorthern, should also be a strong contributor. When it comes to the Havre boys track team, there is more work to be done. While the girls team managed at least a few points at the state tournament, the boys were shut out at state. The team also is still very young, with few experienced veterans returning from last year’s team. One who will return, is Ivar Aageson. However, due to a shoulder injury, he may not be able to compete in the pole vault, where he has had success in the past. He should contribute in the jumps and relay events. Havre does have some experience in the sprinting events with Cole Watson and Brandon Shaw both back in the fold. Both Watson and Shaw competed in the 400-meter relay at state for HHS last season. In the distance events, the Ponies will be looking for another strong season from Jakob Keller. Mason Rismon is also a name to watch this season. The track season is scheduled to get underway for the Ponies April 7 in Lewistown. The Havre Lions Invitational is set for April 14 and the annual Cal Wearley Track Meet, is supposed to take place April, 18. That will also be in Havre. The Eastern A Divisional will be May 18-19 in in Glendive, followed by the Class A state meet in Laurel May 25-26.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Above: Havre High's Ireland Coyne, left, and Logan Huebsch, far right, race in the 2017 Havre Invitational track meet. The Blue Ponies are off and running this season under veteran head coach John Ita, though winter is still preventing Havre from getting on the Havre Middle School Track. Below: Havre's Cole Watson is one of Havre's veteran returning track and field athletes on the boys side this season. The Ponies were set to open their season late last month, but winter has delayed the start of the new year.


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DAILY NEWS

Spring 2018

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Pony netters poised for great things Havre High tennis teams will be tough to beat again Chris Peterson

Havre Daily News cpeterson@havredailynews.com One would never know it by looking, but high school tennis season is here, and for the Havre Blue Ponies, it's really here. Even with piles of snow still resting on the ground all over most of Montana, the Blue Ponies, of 17-year veteran head coach George Ferguson, have spent the last month shoveling the Bill Vaughey Memorial Tennis Courts, and now, the Ponies are hitting the courts in spite of the weather. Yes, even though Havre has spent just as much time shoveling as it has practicing, the Blue Ponies are excited to finally play some real tennis matches. "Obviously, we're behind," Ferguson, who has led HHS to five Class A state championships, and three times that many Central A titles, said. "But we're excited. We're fired up. I'm so proud of how hard the kids have worked to get to this point. "It's been a grind to get here," he continued. "The kids have shoveled, and practiced on the gym floor, and shoveled some more. The weather hasn't cooperated much, it's been pretty awful so far. They haven't gotten the start to the season they would in a normal spring. And yet, their attitudes have been so great. They've stayed positive, they've worked really hard, and they're ready to go." And where Havre hopes to go is, bringing more trophies home from divisionals and state. Those tournaments, though, are a ways off still so right now, Ferguson said, his teams are focused on fundamentals, on improving, and just getting back into form. "Even in a normal year, I would say the same thing," Ferguson said. "The beginning of the season is all about getting the rust off, finding our form, and then advancing that form. That's what the first few meets will be about, and that's what every day in practice is about. We're building towards something, and every single day, whether it's practice or a competition, that's another step in that process. So we don't look ahead. We focus on what we're doing that day and that day only." Havre's early schedule included the opening trip to Cut Bank, as well as the Havre Invitational April 6-7, and a return to Cut Bank for the Class A Duals April 13-14. Ferguson said that's always the first step in what is a long season, and the first turning point will come with the Central A Invite April 21 in Lewistown. From there, Havre has trips to Great Falls, Glendive and Helena, before returning to Lewistown for the Lewistown Invitational. "I break the season into three parts," Ferguson said. "Right now, we're barely into part one. But by the time we go back to Cut Bank for the Class A Duals, that's when I want to see that major step forward, the progression that we are working towards every day. And then, the Lewistown Invitational, that's another big step, because that is the final meet before divisionals. So, we have these goals we're working towards, and again, we're just getting started. But at the same time, it's an exciting process. As a coach, it's so much fun to see where you start, and then where you end up." And Ferguson has teams that could end up doing big things come the end of May. He returns a veteran girls team, with all three of his 2017 doubles teams intact. Seniors Katie and Alex Donaldson, and Megan Lindbloom and Baylee Miller will team up once again, along with juniors Marcee Murphy and Devyn Solomon who

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Havre High senior Trey Murphy smacks a forehand during a Havre Invitational doubles match last spring at the Bill Vaughey Memorial Courts. The Blue Ponies have spent much of the start of the 2018 season shoveling off their courts, but now their season is underway, and head coach George Ferguson said both his boys and girls teams should be very good and very exciting to watch this season.

played No. 1 for Havre last season. But it isn't just the doubles teams that are returning. The Ponies didn't have a single senior on their roster last season, when they finished third in the Central A. Senior Paige Nelson, a two-time state qualifier is back, as are juniors Kadyn Acor and McKenzie Tommerup, and sophomore Cassidy Acor. But Havre's depth doesn't end with the 10 players who made up the HHS varsity last season. Senior Marca Herron returns after missing last spring with an illness, while juniors Teagan Fee, Brynn Nault and Tiffany Ralph are all accomplished players and will certainly push for varsity time. "We are pretty loaded with our girls team right now," Ferguson said. "We're in a situation where we'll have multiple players who would be on just about anyone else's varsity but will have to really fight for spots in our lineup. That's hard because all of those girls are very good tennis players, but at the same time, depth is not ever a bad problem to have either. We have a ton of experience, a ton of players who are very skilled and very talented, and they are going to keep getting better. "So I'm really excited about that group," he continued. "The thing I really love about all of them is, they love to play tennis. It's something they're very passionate about. They work hard at it, they ask questions, they put in extra time, they want to be good at it. As a coach, you can't ask for anything more than that. So, it's going to be a big year for our girls team." In the Central A, Ferguson

said his team will certainly contend for a divisional title, though he expects every team, especially Livingston to be tough again. In all of Class A, Ferguson said Corvallis, Polson, Billings Central and Hardin will be tough teams to beat. But Havre should be in that mix, too, and not just this season. Thanks to a host of newcomers, however, Ferguson isn't just building his team for a run this season, but well beyond, with the likes of Sylvia Wilting, Sydney Marchion, Carsyn Vogel, who played last season, Kadia Miller, Tamera O'Leary, Kobi Burchard, Kate Morehouse and exchange student Auturgan Ainakulova. "I couldn't be more more excited about all the freshman and sophomore girls that came out for tennis this season," Ferguson said. "All of them have so much potential. They're picking it up really quickly, and just like our veterans, they are really enthusiastic about learning this sport and getting good at it. So thanks to all of those kids, and hopefully more in the future, I really like where our girls program is at right now." While Ferguson is pumped about the direction of his girls team, he also has yet another stellar boys team on the courts. Havre is coming off its umpteenth straight Central A championship in 2017, and while the Ponies lost four senior stalwarts in Jake Sedahl and Nate Korb, who were Class A runners up in doubles last spring, as well as singles players Dustin Haas and Trey Hansen, the Ponies appear ready to make another deep run in the postseason. "We lost some very good

players," Ferguson said. "But the thing I've always been so proud of is our boys program has just remained very consistent. We're always strong, and I expect us to be again this year. We'll have some new faces, and guys in different spots in the lineup. But come May, our boys team is going to be very tough. I know that." Tough would describe Havre's top doubles duo in seniors Trey Murphy and Kennedy McKay. The tandem, which has played together since their freshman year, reached the state tournament a season ago, and Ferguson noted that they plan on going much farther this spring. Also back from last year's divisional championship team are senior Brady Ophus and junior Tommy Brown. The duo played doubles together a year ago, but, they will likely land in singles, or in Ophus' case, possibly be paired with a new doubles partner. "Those are some things we have to figure out with our boys team," Ferguson said, "Where everybody fits best. We know exactly what we have with Trey and Kennedy, and I think Tommy is going to do really well in singles. Brady is a good player we can really put anywhere. But overall, we're going to have to try some different things with our lineup, and see what works." Fortunately, the Ponies have some firepower in reloading their lineup. Ferguson said that seniors Vander Swensen and Kendall Holden will play key roles this year, while a group of sophomores is ready to emerge as well. Tyrel Kjersem made the varsity lineup at the end of last season, while Jake Huston

and Reese Bulkley played No. 4 doubles as freshmen. Joey Bender is another sophomore who could have an impact, as could John South and Troy Powell. Junior Jack Johnsrud is another player Ferguson said will be fighting for varsity time. Varsity time is also something that several newcomers will be competing for as well. Given the shakeups in Havre's lineup this season, Ethan Roberts, Mick Chagnon, Josh Warp, Austin Ratliff and Riley Kilgore could all compete for varsity spots. "We have some veteran older guys that we know what they can do," Ferguson said. "But really, our boys team is kind of wide open. We could see a lot of rotating throughout the season, and that's a good thing. That means we have a lot of young talent, and those kids are all doing really well. They're eager to learn, and they're working hard. It's going to be fun to watch our challenge matches unfold all year and see where we end up because literally everybody on our roster has a chance to have an impact." And no matter how Havre's lineup looks come May, Ferguson said he expects his boys team to once again be the favorite in the Central A and be strong once it reaches the state tournament. He lists Lewistown as the main contender in the Central A, while Billings Central, Glendive, Hamilton and Whitefish should be very strong at state. "Our boys team, overall, might be kind of an unknown right now," Ferguson said. "But they are a really good group, they work hard, and we have really good leadership. We

have some talented young kids nobody's seen yet, so as we go through this process, our boys are going to get better and better. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch their progress." And fun is something Ferguson preaches the most. Havre loves to compete, and the Pony tennis teams have won, and won a lot, over the years. But Ferguson, also make certain that playing tennis for the Blue Ponies is fun, and while the weather thus far has been anything but fun, Ferguson said, he's going to make sure, this season is. "This is my world, my life," Ferguson said. "I love coaching these kids. I love coaching tennis at Havre High. I was telling my wife the other day, I can't remember what I even used to do in the spring before I started coaching. I can't imagine doing anything else. So I'm super excited for another season, and the great kids we have in our program, they make it that way. They are great to work with, great to coach, and it's going to be a blast again this year. "We're going to work extremely hard, we're going to challenge and push these kids," he continued. "And we're going to compete. And at the end of it all, it's going to be a great experience for them, and as long as it is a fun, great experience, as long as they work hard and compete to the best of their abilities, then that's all a coach can ask for. And I know they'll do that, and this season is going to be a ton of fun, and a successful one, too. I just can't wait to get started." The Havre tennis teams opened their season at the Cut Bank Invitational.

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