Fast Times At Glasgow High
Track Season Begins As Head Coach Is Recovering From Surgery
As the track and field season enters its second week, many of the athletes on the team are used to having to battle the elements at the beginning of each year.
This year, the team also has another hurdle to overcome as long time track and field coach, John LaBonty is recovering from a procedure he went through recently at a medical facility in Kalispell.
According to assistant track coach Tim Phillips, LaBonty's wife Sharon called Phillips to let him know that LaBonty had a medical episode in which needed to be taken care of.
LaBonty went under the knife to have a kidney removed and is recovering comfortably. He has another appointment with a doctor set for Wednesday where they will learn the progress of his recovery and discuss other pertinent information regarding the operation.
Phillips said that LaBonty is hoping to be home later this week if all goes well and that he could make a cameo appearance this week to visit his team.
"His heart is with these kids and I know he's going to be back as soon as he can in some form or capacity," Phillips said. "It's hard to know how soon he can come back as head coach because the body is a tricky thing to predict after recovering from surgery."
Fellow track coach, Wade Nelson, who coaches field events such as discuss, shot put and javelin, said that while situation with LaBonty has been tough to deal with, he made sure the kids weren't thinking about it too much.
"I challenged them," Nelson said. "I challenged them to not only go out and compete for themselves, but to also go out there and compete for John."
Nelson, who began coaching track at Glasgow the same year LaBonty did, said that he would tell John regularly throughout their career that when LaBonty decided to hang it up, Nelson would be right there with him.
Both Phillips and Nelson see a ton of potential on this year's squad.
"We have a great core of athletes returning from last year that we're expecting big things from this season," Phillips said.
Phillips went on to say that Glasgow should be at or near the top in both boys and girls running.
"Our goal is to always win Districts and Divisionals in running," Phillips said. "That may not always happen, but that's what we strive for each and every year."
On the field side, Nelson also pointed out that he had a good core of returning throwers.
Coupled with the additions of Harley Eliason and Jared Smith, who both have experience with track and field when they were younger, Nelson sees the sky being the limit.
"They're both naturals at shot put, because they're big, strong kids," Nelson said of Eliason and Smith.
Nelson said that due to weather conditions the first two weeks of practice, Eliason and Smith have only been able to go outside and throw once. When they went out to throw, Nelson was optimistic about their season this year.
"They both have a background and know what they're building on, but they're now just bigger, faster and stronger and will compete well," said Nelson.
While the team prepares for their first meet coming up, their minds are undoubtedly still on coach LaBonty.
As of right now, the coaches and team are hoping to see LaBonty out on the field at some time this weekend if everything works out.
They realize that the recovery process is going to be long and that LaBonty won't be able to return right away, but just the sight of seeing their coach back will be paramount for the kids.
Phillips said it best when explaining to the team how LaBonty should be welcomed back upon his return from surgery.
"We don't have to have a group get together to welcome him back, but when you see him just tell him it's nice to have him back," Phillips said.
"Now, [John's] not exactly the Rock of Gibraltar, so when you do that, don't be surprised if he turns away to wipe his eyes. Those won't be tears of sadness, but happiness because I know he wouldn't want to be anywhere else but out there with you guys."
The Scotties' first meet is on April 5 when they host the Glasgow Invite.
Glasgow will then have meets at Cal Wearley on April 9, and Havre on April 12 before participating in the Glasgow Triangular meet on April 17.