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May 28—The weather should be excellent, and so should the times at this weekend’s state track and field championships, split between Missoula and Laurel.

The Flathead Valley team with the best chance at a title is the Whitefish girls’ squad, which heads to Laurel with a nice complement of sprinters and leapers.

MIkenna Ells and Brooke Zetooney are capable of huge points in the 100, 200 and 400, Hailey Ells can score big in the hurdles and jumps and Erin Wilde, in addition to running a leg on the Bulldogs’ relay teams, is a threat in the high and long jumps.

As for trophies — a top-three finish in the team standings — don’t sleep on the Columbia Falls girls.

“It definitely is a possibility,” said Wildkats’ coach Jamie Heinz. “If we can peak at the right time, and get our best performances at the state track meet, do what we’ve done all year long, I like our chances for sure.”

Host Laurel figures to be in the hunt for the team title, while Butte Central and Corvallis are threats to earn a trophy. A lot of Columbia Falls’ hopes rest on the tandem of Lara and Siri Erickson. Lara, a senior, is a threat to sweep the three distance races; Lara and Siri sit 1-12 in Class A in the 1,600.

“We’re excited for them,” Heinz said. “I think they’re looking forward to having a great track meet, and especially Lara, it being her senior year. She’s worked so hard, and put in so much time since cross country. I’m excited to see what she and her sister do this weekend.”

Here’s an overview of the rest of the state meets:

State A boys, Laurel

Hamilton, with the dynamite distance crew of Colter Kirkland, Colter Purcell and Lane Cole, is the favorite. Dillon, Laurel, Hardin and perhaps Frenchtown will be in the hunt for a trophy.

Libby’s Jay Beagle is a factor in all three sprints and especially the 400, where he’s the lone Class A athlete to break 50 seconds.

Whitefish’s Bodie Smith can score in both hurdles, as could Caden Williams of Libby in the 110s; the Bulldogs have a top thrower in Talon Holmquist, who is one of two people in Class A to break 50 feet in the shot put.

Ronan’s Payton Cates is a favorite in the high jump, having cleared 6-5, tops in the class.

State AA, Missoula

Missoula Sentinel and Billings West, West and Sentinel. That’s how the team races shape up for the boys and girls at MCPS Stadium this weekend.

Glacier’s boys and Flathead’s girls project to middle-of-the-pack, with several athletes from both schools at the top of their events.

Leading the way for the girls is Flathead thrower Rebecca Eacker, who marked 125 feet in the discus at divisionals. She’s also a threat in the shot put.

Bravettes Hannah Perrin and Lilli Rumsey Eash can score in a very deep field of distance runners that includes Helena’s Odessa Zentz in the 800; Zentz also leads the 400 and is among AA’s best in the 100 and 200.

Flathead’s Skye Thompson has a similar challenge with the talented hurdles fields, led by Sentinel’s Brooke Stayner. Tali Miller is capable of big points in the javelin for the Bravettes.

Glacier’s main threat is Taylor Brisendine in the 300 hurdles and long and triple jump. Her 37-foot jump last week won the Western AA Divisional, in a field that included Sentinel’s Audrey McEmurry, who marked 38-3.5 three weeks ago.

And let’s not forget Glacier’s Kenzie Williams, who is the defending state champion (2019) in the javelin. She threw 125-6 to win it as a sophomore; her best throw this season is 120-8. Belgrade’s Gracy Carter has marked 144-5.

Glacier’s boys have a state favorite in the 300 hurdles in Caleb Bernhardt, though he was edged at last week’s Western AA by fellow junior Drew Klumph of Sentinel. Bernhardt should be able to score in the 100 hurdles as well.

The Wolfpack’s Jeff Lillard has the fourth-best 400 time in the field going in; teammate Sam Ells is third among the 1,600 meters hopefuls.

More Glacier points may come from Tate Kauffman (triple), Xavier Stout (high jump) and Erik Junk (javelin).

Flathead’s best bet to score is Dylan Zink in the triple jump. Kauffman and Zink went 2-3 (behind Butte’s Christian Hansen) at the Western AA; Kauffman went a career-best 42-7.

State B, Laurel

Bigfork’s boys are salty, but the Vikings may have a hard time catching defending champion Huntley Project and Boulder.

Missoula Loyola, in fact, is also a threat to trophy since Ridger Palma’s sprint points hold up in this bigger field.

The Vikings’ fortunes ride on distance runner Jack Jensen, hurdler Isak Epperly, high jumper Wyatt Duke, vaulter Seth Osborne and their relay teams. If Joseph Farrier can crank out another 11.29-second 100 — his time from April 3 still leads Class B — that would help greatly.

Meanwhile Duke will be duking it out with Project’s Noah Bouchard in the high jump, where the duo has cleared 6-9 and 6-10.

Bouchard is also the fastest man through the 110 hurdles in the state, but Boulder’s Braden Morris, Joey Visser and Dylan Root form a formidable hurdles group of their own.

Eureka has a dangerous sprinter in Joshua Butts, and Joseph Kindel is capable of scoring big in a balanced javelin field. Colter Casazza, a senior, spent much of the spring with the best pole vault in Class B (13-3), and now sits third.

Mission’s Andrew Rush and Thompson Falls’ Justin Morgan are threats in the distances, with Morgan the only B athlete to break 10 minutes in the 3,200. Thompson Falls’ Cody Burk is a favorite in the shot put and discus.

Big Timber looks to be the girls’ favorite, with Southern B power Manhattan not far behind.

Bigfork has scoring threats in hurdler Ashlyn Savik and vaulter Allie Reichner; both relay teams could place.

Eureka has an excellent high jumper in Remmi Stanger, where Big Timber’s Emily Cooley leads the field having cleared 5-4. Other Herders that should clean up: sprinter Alyssa Boshart and distance runner Natalie Wood.

State C, Missoula

Seeley-Swan’s girls are loaded for bear, and Klaire Kowatch is among the nation’s leaders in the discus with a heave of 159-2. She’s also been running on the Blackhawks’ short relay.

Among those in the hunt for a trophy are Belt, Manhattan Christian, Fort Benton and Charlo — and in the case of the Vikings they could sail along with one athlete named Carlee Fryberger.

Fryberger’s times in the sprints, hurdles and triple jump project to 42 Charlo points, second only to Seeley-Swan’s total.

Belt also projects to 42 points, mainly through Lindsey Paulson’s work in the distances.

Fort Benton is a prohibitive favorite in the boys over Seeley Swan and Belt.

Other regional athletes to watch are Noxon’s MacKenzie Morgan in the girls’ distances, and Noxon’s Cad VanVleet in the boys’ throws.