Layne Lantis finishes his high school career in distance running on a high note
with his first place wins in the 1,600 and 3,200 at the Class C state track meet.
By Norm Clarke Special to the Tribune
Layne Lantis’ remarkable high school career had more twists and turns than a Montana road map.
The Terry track star capped his long, improbable journey in dramatic fashion with a sweep in the 1,600 and 3,200 at the Class C track and field championships in Laurel on May 23 and 24.
It’s one of Montana’s more amazing sports success stories: small-school wrestler agrees to join big-school cross-country program thinking it would help him get a wrestling scholarship in college.
A meeting three years ago with Glendive cross-country coach Jim Temple changed everything. Temple liked what he saw from Lantis and his sister, Caitlin on the track.
“He drove down to Terry one day. He said he needed a few more people on his team,” recalled Layne.
“First he had to explain what cross-country was,” said Lantis. “I thought maybe they just ran across a field or something.”
Lantis agreed to join the Red Devils program mainly “because I thought this would be a good way to get in shape for wrestling.” He had wrestled for 13 years and ended up placing at state three years in a row, including a runnerup finish in the 135-pound weight division.
Lantis spent as much time on the road as he did on a track. He commuted between Terry and Glendive for wrestling and cross-country, while continuing to compete in football and track with Terry. According to his mother, they racked up more than 18,000 miles for wrestling alone, counting the commuting and meets.
His sophomore track season at Terry had started disastrously.
“I tried pole vaulting and in the very first meet I broke an ankle.” Sidelined for the rest of the season off he recovered in time to win the mile and two mile at the district meet.
It was at the 2011 state meet in Missoula where his rivalry with Bainville’s Chance Hyatt flamed up.
“The ankle wasn’t good and I ended up not placing (in the mile),” he said. Afterwards, Hyatt rubbed it in, saying “Finally gotcha Terry. See you in the two mile.”
Lantis remembers thinking, “It’s the first time you beat me and I’ve got a broken ankle. I kind of used that as motivation for the 3,200.
“The next day the ankle wasn’t feeling any better and I started off about sixth place. I mentally told myself this is the last one of the year so coming around on the last leg I ended up outsprinting him for second.”
Last year at the state meet Lantis narrowly lost to Darby’s Doug Raymer in the 1,600 and 3,200.
After battling through some cross-country slumps, the long hours of training in the Badlands north of Terry with his sister paid off. The turning point was a big win in the Williston cross-country invitational last fall. The field included the No. 2-ranked cross-country runner in North Dakota.
Proving it was no fluke, Lantis added to his growing resume with the impressive Class A cross-country title at Helena. This time the runnerup was Laurel sensation Ty Mogen, who went on to win the state Class A 1,600 and 3,200 last month.
But Hyatt had Lantis’ number in 2013. The Bainville standout had won all but one of their mile meetings going into the state meet. In the 3,200, Hyatt won ‘em all. Entering the state meet, he had the best Class C times in the state in both events.
Lantis got an extra jolt of motivation just before the state meet when someone showed him a phone camera photo image of Hyatt standing next to a locker. Taped on the locker was a clipping of a Billings Gazette story about Lantis.
“Big rival stuff,” said Lantis. “I refocused on what had to be done.”
On the day of their much-anticipated mile showdown, the rivalry reached the boiling point when elbowing started with one lap to go. At one point, while jockeying for position in the bruising race, “we collided pretty hard,” said Lantis. He out-kicked Hyatt for a one-second margin of victory.
The fierce rivalry helped push Lantis to a 4:24.22 clocking, the fifth best time among all school classifications in 2013. All the more remarkable considering the two rivals took turns knocking each other off stride.
To put it into perspective, Terry’s first state champion in the mile, Calvin Strobel, THS 1960, set a Class C record with a 4:47.8 effort in 1959.
After his hotly-contested mile, Lantis said he “wanted to let everything go and I shook his hand. He goes, ‘If I hadn’t been sick all week with strep throat…’”
Lantis predicted an even tighter race the next day in the 3,200.
It was a blowout. Lantis beat Hyatt by more than 100 yards, a margin of 24 seconds.
“I’m really glad it was that big,” he said, “because his people were making a stink about the mile collision. I’m glad I could show it didn’t matter.”
The double also gave Lantis family bragging rights. His mother’s second cousin, Tom Buckingham, was a THS standout 40 years ago in the mile and two mile and won the 1973 C state cross-country title.
“My inspiration came from my family,” said Lantis, who plans to continue his career Montana State University-Billings. “My mother competed for Terry. Uncle Neal (Buckingham) always pushed me and I just really wanted to represent Terry and get us back on the map.”
Published June 5, 2013