SSHS students qualify for Junior Olympic Games
July 22, 2021
SEELEY LAKE - Seeley-Swan High School students Sariah Maughan and Kyla Conley are heading to Houston Texas later this month to participate in the National Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games for track and field. They will both compete the first week of August.
Maughan competed in a qualifying competition in Boise, Idaho from June 11-12 where she qualified in the 800-meter, 4x800 relay, and 4x400 relay events. She also traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada from July 9-11 where she competed with her teammates from Spokane Speed Academy (SSA) where they qualified in their relay events.
She said she is looking forward to competing in all of her events with her teammates.
"The team this year is really fun," she said. "The girls that I run with are super nice. I'm just hoping that we can perform really well, because there's going to be a lot of college scouts there. ... [This experience] really helps ... shows me what I can actually run with harder workouts. Just qualifying for Nationals and making it to Nationals, it gets my name out a little more. And then if I place at Nationals, then that automatically puts my name on radars for college scouts. And then if you win at Nationals, then you can basically pick [any Division 1 school]."
Conley is also running through SSA and qualified for the high jump and 400-meter hurdle events. She has participated in track since fifth grade and this is her first time competing at a national level.
"[I'm looking forward to] traveling and seeing new places," she said. "It feels pretty good [to qualify] especially because I wasn't expecting to go this far. And now that I have, it's kind of opening doors for me and [making me rethink] what I want to do for college."
She also competed in Boise and Las Vegas. She originally intended on qualifying just for high jump but while there she also managed to qualify in the 400-meter hurdles.
"Boise, I feel like I did ... my [high jump] technique a lot better than I have been in the past," she said. "And then Vegas, I did [the 400-meter hurdles] for the first time ever. I felt like I did good, especially with the heat. ... So I really just have to focus on mentally preparing for ... Nationals."
Conley is an incoming junior and does not have any specific universities on her radar yet. She does intend to go to an out-of-state school however.
Maughan is an incoming senior and will begin applying to colleges this upcoming school year. She is currently interested in Gonzaga University because SSA Head Coach Cecil Jackson knows the running coach and believes that she would be a good fit for their program.
"They have a strong distance program for track, not so much the sprinting program," she said. "So my mid-distance will really help them out. And he just says that our personalities would mesh well together."
Athletes have the option of competing without a club team or "unattached" but Maughan preferred to go through SSA so she could compete on relays and receive coaching. She got in contact with the team through her cousin, Teagun Holycross, who lived in Idaho and ran with them.
In 2019 he asked her and her siblings, Emily and Caleb, if they wanted to run for a summer club and they agreed. Conley came into contact with the organization this year through Maughan. She joined the team after Jackson had seen her perform during the regular season. This year the duo are the only two athletes from Montana competing on the team.
During the 2021 track season, Maughan set a new school and state record in the 800-meter with a time of 2:14.86. She also took first in the 400-meter at state with a time of 58.32 seconds. In addition, she was a part of the 4x100 relay team that broke SSHS's record along with Klaire Kovatch, Emily Maughan and Hannah Ayers who came in at 50.24 seconds.
Maughan's goal for this summer season is to drop her 400-meter time to 56 seconds and her 800-meter time to 2:10. Her fastest times so far this summer are 58.31 seconds for the 400-meter and 2:17.12 for the 800-meter. Her 4x400 SSA relay team's best time was 3:58.45.
Conley's season highlight was winning state in the 4x400 relay with Kovatch, Sariah and Emily with a time of 4:06.35. Her summer 400-meter hurdles time was 1:14.16 and her best high jump result was 4'8".
This is not Maughan's first time attending the national competition. In 2019 she qualified for the same events through USA Track & Field which is another branch of the Junior Olympics.
TJ Moulton is Maughan's coach for the 800-meter and Conley's coach for the high jump. As part of Maughan's training, she does a revolving series of exercises five days a week including split 400-meters, ladders and long distance running of various intensities. These are either done at Cheney High School in Washington or at SSHS.
Both girls expect the heat to pose the biggest challenge for them.
"It was super hot in Las Vegas and our team performed really well so we're not as worried, but just staying hydrated and out of the sun is going to be our main problem," Maughan said.
While Maughan's food, lodging and event fees are already covered by sponsors, she is fundraising to cover her travel costs to Texas for Nationals. She has raised $1,000 to date and has $2,000 to go. Conley said she does not have an exact goal for her fundraising efforts but she estimates that she will need around $700.
To help fundraise, Maughan and Conley are holding a car wash outside of Lindey's Prime Steak House from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m Friday, July 30. Community members can also donate via cash or check by contacting Maughan at firstname.lastname@example.org or Conley at (406) 754-3036. Their fundraising deadline is Aug. 1.
Both students said SSHS students and staff have been supportive of their achievements.
"My coach Dave Cahoon has been excited about Kyla and I competing," Maughan said. "We have been giving him updates all summer. A couple of teammates have been tracking [our] progress. Everybody has been super excited and proud of how well we have done so far. All of Seeley has been super supportive and excited to hear about our accomplishments. It has been really cool representing Seeley and Montana because it shows that even small town kids can compete at high levels."
"[My classmates] think it's really cool and they've supported me the whole time," Conley said. "My family has sacrificed a lot of money for me to do it, so they're super stoked that I can go. And my basketball coach [David Cahoon] has always been keeping up with Sariah and I [by] asking how we've done. So he's been there every step of the way too, which is cool."