Chiefs, Maidens ready for Missoula County track meet

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Ronan Chiefs, Maidens’ track coach Brian Labbe has turned adversity into opportunity.

Thus far, the Chiefs, Maidens have been unable to compete in a MHSA-sanctioned track meet because of inclement weather throughout the region of Western Montana that has brought a cluster of snow, rain and unseasonably cold temperates that has made it difficult on competition across the board.

Labbe and his team have made the most of their opportunity to teach his young team the technical nuances of track & field.

“I feel like we are getting ready for the winter Olympics,” Labbe joked referring to the unfavorable conditions his team has practiced in thus far this season. “Our team has been going pretty good and we are getting the kids interested by kind of keeping it fun at practice and working hard at the same time.”

Thus far, Ronan has been more fortunate than most teams, only missing two outdoor practices because of bad weather.

“The nice thing about having our facility, turf and track is that it is clear enough for most of the season to practice on,” Labbe said. “There is a good chance this could be the type of weather that we face at the MHSA Class A state meet and so our competitors have had a chance to get acclimated to it early, which will prepare for them for anything.”

So far, Labbe has witnessed some significant strides in practice, though he said it’s hard to quantify improvement without participating in an actual meet.

“It’s kind of hard to see times, measurements or anything,” Labbe said. “No one player on our team pops out in my mind as being a head or shoulder above another competitor on our team. However, the kids are working hard and I couldn’t ask for much more out of them.”

Labbe, who has young competitors on both the boys and girls side, said his team is “buying in” and they are continuing to work hard in practice.

“I am really proud of our younger kids,” Labbe said. “The kids are getting a lot of practice and putting in some good work. They are focusing on the conditioning and fundamentals of running and they are starting to understand what it takes to give yourself that extra edge in the race. They are learning how to strategize and strategically plan how to run in certain races.”

Labbe’s team is very fortunate to be practicing. Labbe said he spoke with Jim Benn, former Ronan coach now at Malta, and he mentioned that his teams have hardly gotten any opportunity to practice at this juncture.

“I spoke with Benn and he said they’ve only been outside once,” Labbe said. “I think dealing with conditions is a mental thing that a kid has to deal with. We have the facilities to go outside when it is 35 degrees and run an 800. Our kids have given it their 100-percent effort.”

Labbe has stressed the positive attitude he’s seen and the early-season poise his team has already developed as they prepare for the Missoula County Track Meet at 10 a.m. Saturday in Missoula.

“They are a great group to work in track and in general,” Labbe said. “Track isn’t an easy sport and usually the kids are going out for it knowing they are going to go through some tough times. Our team is still showing up.”

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