MALTA HIGH SCHOOL:A Force to be Reckoned With
Malta High School implements the BFS Total Program with all of its teams both boys and girls, and now has 12 School State Championships.
By Reed Sainsbury
Published: Spring 2001
Great coaches produce great teams. In the spacious state of Montana, there is a high school located in the small town of Malta, which has an enrollment of 214 students. Make no mistake about it, this school is small in numbers, however, athletes that play for Malta compete like mighty conquering armies of old. They have fought many battles and worked very hard for their successes.
This small farming and ranching community has a few more secrets than just breeding good cows. They have found the secret success formula to breed state championship teams, and no it doesn’t come in a fancy bottle with a pretty label. The formula is the same as it has always been--dedication, hard work, commitment, team unity and the incorporation of the BFS basic training principles. In the last six years Malta has achieved many state titles in girls basketball, boys basketball, football and girls track, giving them the right to be called, “one of the best.”
Since strength and conditioning coordinator, Pat Sargent, implemented the Bigger Faster Stronger program in 1994, Malta High School has won 12 state championship titles! Coach Sargent has organized a class offered to 9th-12th grade athletes of all sports which teaches how to stretch properly, how to train explosively on weights, and plyometrics & speed. When it comes to strength and conditioning at Malta High, all coaches stand together. It just doesn’t matter whether they coach volleyball or football, all coaches encourage their athletes to participate in the unified BFS workout program. This is very convenient and less confusing, since many athletes play three sports at Malta.
Head football coach, Scott King, reports that Coach Sargent has done an outstanding job in helping athletes get bigger, become faster and attain explosive strength. From looking at the statistics it is very obvious that Coach Sargent’s implementation of BFS has helped Malta’s athletic programs soar to the top and become champions. Let’s take a closer look at some of the individual teams and players successes.
If you’ve ever seen a raging forest fire sweeping across thousands of acres, burning everything in site, then you have caught a glimpse of what Malta’s Girls Basketball team has been doing for the last several years. Like an unstoppable fire, this high-spirited team led by outstanding head coach, Del Fried, has been ignited and is raging to championship titles. In the last ten years the Malta M-ettes have swept and burned clean six state titles, a 2nd, two 4ths, and a 5th place finish. Coach Fried reached a milestone in high school coaching during this last year Class B State Tournament, when he captured his 401st win as head coach of the Malta M-ettes. Even more impressive is the fact that he has taken his teams to 15 state tournaments and has had a winning record in 19 out of 20 seasons. Sixteen of his players have gone on to compete at a collegiate level.
For most high school athletes just getting to state is a once-in-a-life-time experience. Juliann Keller has helped win three state championship titles while at Malta and was named MVP of two state tournaments. This last state championship game, she shot 16 of 16 from the foul line. During the season, she averaged 21 points and eight rebounds per game. She earned All-Conference honors three times and All-State honors twice. This talented young lady signed to play for the University of Montana on scholarship next year, where she will join her older sister Cheryl. She has also earned All-Conference honors in volleyball, and oh yes, she even runs track. Where does she find the strength to compete? She very soberly replies, “You have to work hard in the off season. I love to train especially on the bench and power clean.” Keller has a 150-pound max on the power clean.
Trying to stop Malta’s track team would be equivalent to an ant trying to stop a bowling ball at the King Pin bowling alley. They have won the last three state championship titles.
Mariah Guilfoyle was as hot as a fire and as fast as a speeding bullet at the state championships. The two-time defending champion exploded into the tournament with a spectacular 43.34 second opener in the 300 meter hurdles, shattering the previous 19-year-old state and all-class record of 43.54. That was only the beginning. Next, she crushed another record in the 100-meter hurdles, with a 14.78 time. Then she went on to capture the 100-meter championship. Before putting out the coals and calling it a day, she ran a 25.01 in the 200 meter hurdles, setting a new state record. The previous year she set the state record in the 200 during her 10th race of the meet! What an awesome record for the University of Montana bound sprinter who has laid claim to ten individual state championship titles and was a member of Malta’s winning 400-meter relay team in 1998! Head Track coach, Tad Shye, commented that he hasn’t seen anyone better in his eight years of coaching the M-ettes. “She’s established herself, for this decade, anyway, as the premier track athlete in this state.” Altogether, in the last three state meets Guilfoyle has scored 122 points. All her hard work on the BFS program has paid off. So what is the secret to her blazing speed? One secret is explosive weight training. Guilfoyle has squatted 205 pounds in the gym for a max.
In the field events, LeeAnn Pekovitch also played a large role in the M-ettes victory. She won the state championship title in the discus and placed second in both the javelin and shot put.
Head football coach, Scott King, has much to be proud of. Out of 130 games played while coaching at Malta High, his ferocious Mustangs have been victorious 104 times. The Mustangs have won two state championships, earned a 2nd place, and made it to the semi-finals three years. Out of 214 students at Malta High School, 80 turned out for football this last fall. The mustangs have found out how to win and not very many kids want to miss out on it.
Malta’s football season was filled with exciting moments, as they fought their way to capture the state crown. First Team All-State Quarterback, Cody Oxarart, led the Mustangs on offense. In a quarterfinal game against Fort Benton, All-State defensive tackle, Lance Spencer, shined in the limelight to help his team advance in the playoffs. In double overtime, Spencer snagged an interception and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown, leading the Mustangs to a 35-34 win. They went on to beat the Cut Bank Wolves 20-7 for the state championship title. Reflecting on the win, Coach King said, “When I think about these kids in the future, I will remember a group of unselfish athletes. That’s a characteristic that title teams have.” Jesse Brown, Josh Roberts and Ty Salsbery were all named All-State.
Malta’s Boys Basketball team won the state title in 1996 and 1998. Coach Bernie Wasser taught his players what it takes to become champions. His team listened and played as a unit. Through a lot of hard work, they rose to the top. All-State key player, RJ Tollefson, led the Mustangs in their quest to be the best.
What is the key to Malta’s high level of achievement? Simply put, all athletes, regardless of sport, train on the same program. The remarkable thing about this successful athletic program is that most of the great competitors are three-sport athletes. For example, in wrestling, Lance Spencer placed third in state last year in the 189-pound class and also ran a leg on the 1,600-meter relay team that won the state title. All-State quarterback, Cody Oxarart, helped win a state championship in football and basketball and was also on the 1,600-meter relay track team that won state. What an awesome accomplishment to be able to call yourself a three-sport state champion! LeeAnn Pekovitch has achieved All-State status in track, volleyba