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Prep focus: Zetooney gives 'em a shot

Apr. 25—The Whitefish girls track and field team has been blessed with sprinters through the years, going back at least as far as Marlow Schulz, so it should surprise nobody the Bulldogs have some serious speed in 2024.

Like any dominant program, they also have "the" one sprinter. Brooke Zetooney is a three-time State A 100 meters champion who's helped Whitefish finish second, first and second at the last three state meets.

The goal is clear in 2024: Zetooney and the Bulldogs want to catch the defending champion Corvallis Blue Devils. It starts on the track, where Zetooney has earned 10 gold medals, including five in the relays.

It could end in the pit.

Not many athletes have tried the spring combination of sprints and shot put; Boulder's Adam Cordeiro, a 215-pounder who played defensive end at Montana State in the early 2000s, is one Montanan who comes to mind.

But Zetooney is apt to breeze through a 100 meters, anchor a 400-meter relay and then wander over to the ring and glide out six throws.

"I threw shot in middle school," she noted Tuesday, after she and her teammates set records at the Pilcher Top 10 meet. "And it's kind of one of my chill events. I like to do it, and there's not as much pressure, I guess."

She has finished second both times she's thrown this spring, and last year at the State A she was fourth. That added four more points to Whitefish's total.

"I feel like the shot put is kind of a little vacation for her sometimes," said Matt Beckwith, the Whitefish girls coach. "We're always looking for those opportunities where an athlete can score a point or two where you don't expect it. Brooke was a great experiment there. And she's not an experiment any more."

That's not to say there aren't adjustments to be made as April turns to May. Zetooney nearly swept the sprints last year and anchored both relays at State; what happens in Laurel on May 23-25 is to be determined.

"We're hoping to get her qualified in everything," Beckwith said. "There's a lot of pieces to that puzzle."

First, there is the Whitefish A.R.M. Invitational on Saturday. It's another chance to go low — that is, the meet record 12.37-second 100 Zetooney ran Tuesday in Missoula is still above her career-best 12.24, run in last year's State A prelims.

Always fast, she strikes the balance between strength and smoothness and has the results to prove it.

"There's some weight training, and I also have a personal trainer that helps with my form and running with strength," she said. "And I do winter track, and summer track. I'm kind of doing it year-round."

"Brooke was on our radar from the time she was in middle school," said Beckwith, who has taught and coached in Whitefish for 14 years. "I remember the junior high coaches being really excited about her. And the high school coaches were excited to have her as a freshman.

"She's just continued to work hard and exceed everyone's expectations."

Her expectations are another team title in Laurel. A year ago Hailey Ells, the Robin to Zetooney's Batman, fought a leg injury all season. Ells, who was second in the 300 hurdles on the first day, ran a fast 200-meters prelim but the decision was made to scratch that event and keep her healthy for the relays.

Whitefish won both — including the final event, the 1,600-meter relay. But when Corvallis finished (a distant) second, the Blue Devils had one more team point.

"I think we're on a good track to catch them," Zetooney said. "Last year Hailey was hurt so she couldn't do all her events or run her normal times."

There is a lot to like besides those two. Maeve Inglefinger and Kellie Klepper in the 800. Freshman Hannah Boysen in the relays. Norah Schmidt in the pole vault and fellow senior Bailey Smith in the javelin.

Beckwith marveled that junior Rachael Wilmot ran on the Bulldogs' record-setting short relay and then turned around and ran the 400 in a minute flat.

"She ran 60 seconds with basically no rest," he said. "That's pretty impressive."

Through it all Zetooney shines the brightest, and it's far from over. She'll run track for the University of Montana.

"It was between them and the Cats (Montana State), but it kind of came down to who was closer to home," she said. "I had to go with my gut. I prayed a lot about it."

The Griz are getting a good one, to hear Beckwith tell it.

"Absolutely a special athlete," he said. "A generational-type of kid. It's a coach's hope that they get to work with a kid that is that athletic, and easy to coach."

All that's left is to run the races — and, quite possibly, make a dent in the pit.

"Hopefully I can throw farther in the shot," Zetooney said.