GHS qualifiers earn state hardware

by nathan oster

Greybull High School thinclads ended the season on a positive note, as all six team members who made the trip to the State 2A Track and Field Championships in Casper returned home with at least one medal.

“I think it went very well,” said Coach Jeff Sukut.

The Buffs placed 14th in the girls division with eight points and 16th in the boys division with nine.

“When you take only six kids, it’s hard to compete as a team,” said Sukut. “But my philosophy over the years has always been that it’s not always about where you place as a team. It’s about how the kids finish, and our kids improved a ton over the course of the season.”

As the only female qualifier, junior McKenna Powers represented herself and the team very well.  She was the only Greybull athlete who placed in two events, earning a fourth in the 800 meters and a sixth in the triple jump.

Powers was on top of her game in the 800 meters.  She ran a 2:30.63, a personal best and more than three seconds faster than her seed time (2:33.95). Kim Shumway of Lovell won it, finishing in 2:15.8.

“McKenna ran a really good race,” said Sukut. “She came out and ran a really good split in her first lap, and it was really close coming off the curve and down the stretch over the last 120 meters or so.  I didn’t know if she’d have enough left. But she closed well, passing a couple of girls and ending up in fourth place.” Powers beat a group of five runners to the finish line, as less than 1.5 seconds separated fourth from eighth place.

Powers also turned in her best effort of the season in the triple jump, soaring 31 feet, 11 ¾ inches, good for sixth place.  It was just three inches shy of her personal best, a 32-2 ½ turned in last year.

In her other event, Powers placed 12th in the 400 meters, running a 1:05.63, which was “one of her better times this year, but off the pace of her personal best, a 63 which she ran last year,” Sukut said.

Burns won the girls division with 98 points, nipping runner-up Lovell and its 90 points.

The highlight on the boys side was the performance of the 400-meter relay team of Calder Forcella, Kyler Flock, Alex Hebb and Dylan Brenner.  The foursome didn’t run at regionals, but it didn’t show in Casper.

“We were probably a longshot going in,” Sukut said. “There were a lot of good times, teams running 45s and 46s, and I knew if we ran in the 47 range, where we had been running throughout the season, there was no way we were going to place.”

The boys went out and left it all on the track, saving their best performance for last.  They finished in 46.05, which was their best time of the season and second only to Lusk in their heat.  Big Piney won it with a 44.87.

“We had great handoffs and that was the key,” Sukut said.

Logan Jensen collected the team’s other four points with a fifth-place finish in the discus. It capped a year of tremendous growth for the GHS junior, who last year as a sophomore threw 107 feet at the regional and didn’t even qualify for the state meet. This year, Jensen not only qualified, but uncorked a throw of 128 feet, 8 inches in Casper to earn his fifth-place hardware.

Calder Forcella, a sophomore, also competed in the discus, but didn’t place among the top eight.  His 117-foot, 10-inch effort ranked 10th in 2A and was 6 feet shy of his best throw of the season.

Alex Hebb also placed 10th in his only individual event, the long jump. His best jump was 16 feet, 6 ¾ inches.

Sukut said both Forcella and Hebb will benefit from their first experiences on the state meet stage.

Lovell was the class of the 2A boys division, collecting 127 points.  Lusk was well back in second place with 74 ½  points.

Dylan Brenner was the only senior among the six GHS state qualifiers and will be missed next season, said Sukut.

“He was with me for four years — and was a mainstay on our relay team,” said Sukut.  “It was like icing on the top of the cake for him and that team to finish fourth at state.  Dylan’s a good, coachable kid and we’ll miss him a lot.”