Manhattan Christian’s boys 1,600-meter relay team knew what was at stake.
The Eagles sat in first place after the first day of the Western C Divisional in Missoula and remained there as the meet neared its conclusion Friday.
Christian needed to finish first or second in the final race to take home the title. But due to a restriction on how many events someone could compete in, the Eagles swapped Caleb Bellach for Jakob Boscha to run the first leg.
Leading up to the race, runners were “pumped up” because they understood its magnitude, Christian head coach Laura Arthun said.
All season, six athletes competed to run in the relay. So the change atop the lineup didn’t alter much. The Eagles finished second and claimed the divisional crown.
“It’s amazing when you have a team have that champion mentality that everyone wants to be a part of that 4x4 relay,” Arthun said. “It’s one of the pinnacle events of track and field because it can be the difference between winning the state meet and not. It can come down to a half a point or a point. You have to be willing to give it your all.”
After the meet, Arthun planned to research how long it had been since the Eagles won a divisional title. All she knew is that it had been several years.
“They were all just so excited and thrilled,” Arthun said.
In the 800, Ben Morrison (2 minutes, 3.93 seconds), Matt Kenney (2:04.25) and Grant Van Dyken (2:05.04) finished in third, fourth and sixth and all three set personal records. Arthun described it as a shining moment of the day.
As the trio finished the race, they embraced each other and celebrated each other’s success.
On the girls’ side, Shelby Walls came in fifth in the 1,600 in 5:44.12, a personal record building off her strong performance Thursday.
“I don’t have enough to say about her,” Arthun said. “This whole weekend, she’s PR’d in every event she’s run. The 1,600 today was basically just icing on the cake for her.”
As Arthun reflected on the meet, and the all-important boys 1,600 relay, she said she expects next week’s state meet to again come down to the end as the Christian boys seek their first state title in school history.
“This is a really special group of kids,” Arthun said.
Eagles led the field after Day 1 of meet
Toward the end of the 1,600 meters, Matt Kenney made a move toward the front of the pack. Before the finish, the sophomore was passed. But Manhattan Christian head coach Laura Arthun called it a learning moment.
Kenney still set a personal record Thursday at the Western C Divisional in Missoula. He finished seventh in 4 minutes, 49.78 seconds and rounded out four Eagles in the top seven. Arthun calls the group of Riley Schott, Ben Morrison, Grant Van Dyken and Kenney “the fantastic four.”
They helped the Christian boys sit in first place halfway through the two-day meet while the Eagles’ girls are in fifth.
In the 1,600, Schott took second (4:45.47), Morrison took third (4:45.57) and Van Dyken took fifth (4:47.47).
“One will be better one day and another one better another day,” Arthun said, “but they’re a tight group and they just always bring out the best in each other so I think that’s the best thing about them. It’s pretty inspiring.”
Landon Liudahl, David Aamot, Jakob Boscha and Caleb Bellach combined to take second in the 400 relay in 44.96 seconds.
Bellach finished second in the 400 in 52.33. He jumped out to a quick start with the wind behind him but slowed later on as he turned and faced it. Despite falling short of first, Arthun said his strategy of pushing hard early was smart. Bellach also took second in triple jump with a personal record 42-6.
Shelby Walls and Faith Shepard led the Christian girls as Walls placed third in both the 800 (2:28.15) and 3,200 (12:58.08), both personal records.
“It’s a lot of how much pain you can withstand in a lot of these races that are distance,” Arthun said. “We’re really excited for her. Shelby’s a stud.”
Shepard took second in pole vault by clearing 8 feet. Shayla Ard set a personal record with a discus throw of 98-8.
“We’re just looking forward to the second day,” Arthun said. “Hope we can get some more qualified (for state) and have some more great performances, see some PRs.”
Ennis’ Jourdain Klein won high jump (5-4) and triple jump (35-2.5). In the girls’ 3,200, West Yellowstone’s Averi Parker (11:54.04) took first, Kaitlin Jackson (12:32.19) took second and Julia Everest (13:06.76) finished in fourth.
Complete results: https://www.athletic.net/TrackAndField/meet/358069/results