LANDER – Athletes on the Big Piney High School track team came together to put up a strong showing as they competed at the 2A West Regional Track and Field meet at Lander Valley High School last weekend.
After winning numerous events and placing high among competing teams, the girls won regionals with 154 points, with Lovell finishing closely behind with 135 points. On the boys’ side, the team picked up 104 points to place third, with Lovell winning with 180 points and Rocky Mountain High School taking second with 153 points.
According to Piney coach Bill Lehr, the team’s goal all season long was to win regionals and place in the top four at state. Needless to say, he was ecstatic with how his athletes fared among the competition.
“We’ve got kids with a work ethic that doesn’t stop,” Lehr said. “I wouldn’t trade these kids for anything.”
On the girls’ side, numerous athletes placed high in a stiff field of competition to earn enough points to hold off a much larger Lovell team that was the biggest threat at the meet.
“The girls made some of the most outstanding performances in a long time,” Lehr said. “Lovell had so many girls placing third and fourth in each event – the points add up. It was a dogfight. It felt good going up against a pretty big school and getting the best of them.”
Junior Grace Tanner had a big day for the team, winning the 100 dash, 200 dash, 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles. She will move on to compete at state in all four of her events.
“It’s not often you get a young lady that wins all four of them and she did,” Lehr said.
Freshman Alda Acosta will advance to state in the 100, 200, 4x100 and 4x400 after a series of strong races throughout the two-day meet.
“We’re extremely proud,” Lehr noted. “The goal is to take as many freshmen to state and have three more years to produce. We have four freshmen girls we’re taking down to state. They rose to the occasion.”
Junior Liberty Runyan advanced to state in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 4x100 relay race and the 4x400 relay race. In other strong performances, junior McKenzi Davison took second in the 400, won the 800, placed second in the 1,600 and also advanced in the 4x400 relay event.
Fellow junior Melissa Merritt will compete at state after qualifying in the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and the 4x800 relay.
Junior Mic Butner had a big weekend, advancing to state in the pole vault, 4x100 relay and 4x800 relay. In field events, juniors Haylee Hoffman and Cadee Mager advanced in both the shot put and discus events, while freshman Chandler Jones qualified in the triple jump and 100-meter hurdles.
Freshman Janey Hunt moves on to state in both the 400 and 4x800, while fellow freshman Devan Holder moves on in the 4x800 relay. Lastly, senior Rachel Forrester will compete at state in the 4x100 relay and 4x400 relay.
On the boys’ side, junior Chancy Hunt moves on to state in the 100, 200, 4x100 relay and 4x400 relay. Lehr says Chancy pulled a hip flexor and hopes to get him well in time for state.
“He is an integral part to our boys track team,” Lehr said.
Fellow junior runner Zane Meisner moves on in the 200, 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and as a part of the 4x400 relay team. Meisner took second in the 300 hurdle finals after finishing with a time of 41.71 seconds behind Zac Pickinpaugh of Shoshoni High School.
“He just barely got nipped in the 300,” the coach noted. “He will get another shot at state.”
In other big performances, junior Adam Willoughby advanced on to state in the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, pole vault and filled in on the 4x400 team, which also advanced.
Junior Noah Lewis moved on in the 200, 400, 4x100 relay and the 4x400 relay, while senior Devin Hughes will compete at state in the 400, 4x100 and 4x400.
Sophomore Tate Hughes will compete in the high jump, 800 and 4x800 relay race at the state level, while junior Tristan Barney moved on in the pole vault, 1,600, 800 and 4x800 events.
If that wasn’t enough, sophomore Joby Banks advanced to state in the pole vault and triple jump, while fellow sophomore Hayden Bruce picked up a 40-foot jump in the triple jump, which was his best of the year.
Senior Tim Moreno competed in the 3,200-meter distance race for the first time this season to finish fifth and advance to state.
“He did an outstanding job for us,” Lehr said. “He came through.”
Senior Kaden Kranendonk will move on to state in the 3,200 and 4x800 relay, while junior Jake Pape advanced to state in the pole vault and 4x100 relay. Freshman Creeden Schell will move on to state in the 4x800 relay, while sophomore Chon Pelham set a new personal record by more than 20 feet by throwing 122 feet, 9 inches to finish sixth overall and move on to state.
The team will take 26 athletes to state this year, which is up from the 20 athletes that attended last year at state. Lehr says this is a special group of athletes and he hopes to bring home some hardware following the meet this week.
“These young ladies and men have earned the right to compete in the top 16 in the state,” he said. “With the weather we had to go through and what they had to work out in and cancelled meets, we’re where we want to be.”
Lehr thanked Terry Cain for pulling big results out of distance runners, along with Jessica Nugent for her work with hurdlers this season. In addition, the head coach thanked Sean Munger for his work with throwers on the team, along with Dr. Josh Francis for volunteering his time to get solid results out of pole-vault athletes on the team.
The state meet will begin on Thursday, May 18, at noon at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper. The meet will run through Saturday, May 20. At this point in the season, Lehr says all they can do is hope for athletes to do their best at the biggest meet of the season.
Last year, the girls took second overall at state and have never taken top honors in school history. He says the girls team has a solid shot at making that happen this year. In his tenure as head coach, Lehr says he’s been involved with five boys state champion teams and it would be nice to add a girls team to the list.
“Hopefully things go our way and we get the top spot,” he said. “As competitive as our kids are, they’re ready to go. We’re excited.”