staying on track: How teacher Gary Little used his record-breaking collegiate track career to help students succeed on and off the field
by Sara Michell
Math teacher Gary Little stands in front of his calculus class. He cracks jokes while teaching the class, his Air Jordans softly squeak as he walks up and down the columns of desks.
Before Little was teaching at Sentinel, he was a world-traveled track athlete, competing all over Europe, including a race at the Crystal Palace in London.
But before London, Little came from Richland, Wash., where he competed in track at the middle school level.
He didn’t think of himself as a fast runner, but his career through high school ended up proving otherwise.
He broke his first records in seventh grade in the 80 meter hurdles, and the pole vault.
“I won events all through junior high. In high school I was always one of the top ones. In the state of Washington, I was the second ranked high hurdler in the state,” he said.
Little was exceptionally fast in the 400 meter hurdles.
After graduating from Richland High School in 1976, Little attended Spokane Community College on a track scholarship--with some pressure from his father.
Little hadn’t planned to attend college, but rather become an electrician.
His father, on the other hand, saw a lot of hope in his son that he didn’t want to go to waste.
Shortly into his freshman year, Little was one of the top-ranked runners in the United States.
His fastest time recorded in the 400 meter hurdles was 50.7 seconds.
Little then received offers from Division 1 schools, from the University of Washinton, Eastern Washington, and Oregon State, to University of Utah and Utah State.
Little landed on Boise State.
“It was my second choice actually. My first choice was the University of Washington,” he said. “They only gave me a three-quarter scholarship and Boise State gave me a full, so I went where the money was.”
Little said his best memory from his collegiate career was during his junior season, when he set the Boise State school record, the Boise State Stadium record, and the Big Sky Conference record all within the same year.
Those records held for a long time after Little left Boise State, and it was just two years ago that he dropped off the record boards.
He not only went on to meet the Olympic Standard, but competed at the NCAA Tournament Championships where he placed twelfth in the 400 meter hurdles.
Little’s track career brought him all over the world.
“I competed all over Europe but was never able to make it to Australia which would have been super cool,” he said.
He also raced against Edwin Moses, who was ranked number one in the world for 12 years, in Eugene, Oregon at the Prefontaine Classic.
Little took first, and said it was one of the most memorable moments in his career.
Little graduated from Boise State in 1981 with a bachelor’s of science degree in mathematics.
Little coached track for a college track team in Idaho for a season, then a high school track team in Boise for year, and that’s where he found his niche.
He became hooked on coaching at the high school level after one of his female athletes set the all-class state record in the high hurdles and a boy who was a state champion.
He then went to the University of Montana for his master’s degree in teaching mathematics, and decided to stay and teach here.
“I came to teach here because of the pay,” Little said.
Montana was the seventh highest paying teacher salary in the United States at the time.
Little started teaching at Sentinel 33 years ago, and at that time he was the head track coach as well.
He retired from the head coach position in 2004, but also helped coach the cross country and football teams.
Just last year he came back and coached hurdles for the Spartans, bringing his grand total to 24 years coaching here.
Today Little is involved in many track events throughout Montana. He has been an official at the state track meet, coached young middle school track athletes, coached high school track athletes, and also has been a big help in the Missoula Marathon.
“The sport gave me a lot, but I have tried to give back as much as I could,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine life without it.”
He said from all his years of coaching and competing, he learned to always give one hundred percent and to push others to be their best as well.
Little thinks athletics give kids a lot of valuable lessons.
He will always love track and the experiences and lifestyle that came with it.
“Kids need to do athletics,” he said. “It makes them more well-rounded and gives them a different perspective.”
Little still runs when he’s not pacing his classroom and teaching his classes. His lifestyle would not be the same if he hadn’t run track in middle school, breaking his first re
Spartan Speech and Debate finished their season in Great Falls at the National Qualifier Tournament last weekend. They have two qualifiers in Congress: Senior Taylor Gregory in the Senate, and Junior Christopher Malcomson in the House. Seniors Kelli Rosenquist and Jackson Petty are 2nd alternates in Public Forum and Junior Zach Tonnerre is an alternate for the House as well. On the Speech side, Sophomore Kade Hedahl is first alternate for Original Oratory, and Senior Magnolia Chinn had a top 6 finish in Informative.
Rounding out the top 12:
Senior Kiersten Spear: 8th place Informative Speaking
Senior Doug Stobie: 10th place Informative Speaking
Stobie and Senior Grant Wyland: 10th place Duo Interpretation
Junior Kincaid MacDonald: 11th place Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking
by Nathan Hangas
The 501 Lounge was empty. It was just Iron Horse Brew Pub owner Tami Ursich and me along with her golden retriever, Scout. She sat across from me all bundled up. Dressed in a black sweater, with black yoga pants, and a thick black headband made to keep her hair up along with keeping her ears warm. Her nose was bandaged from a battle lost with a hard concrete sidewalk. She stared aimlessly at me with drink in hand waiting for me to ask my first question. She was sitting straight up with her legs crossed. She looked prepared and eager, ready to tell me about her success.
“With me being a drinker, everyone wants to see me fail,” Ursich said.
Ursich said the hardships of being a small business owner in a competitive 21st Century economy have taken a toll on her, but she must have “thick skin.”
As a Montana State University graduate with a degree in physical education, Ursich did not think she would one day be the owner of one of the most successful restaurants in Missoula. She wanted to be just like her dad and take hold of a profession in teaching.
“It wasn’t going to cut it for me, it was not the profession that was on the rise in the moment. The bar and restaurant was where the money was. It was all about tips,” Ursich said as she stirred her drink, which was a light shade of pink in a small glass accompanied by two straws.
She was a waitress through college and at 29 she fell in love with a coworker. She said that she was young and felt as if she had the world at her feet. She and her boyfriend had the ambition and the money they needed to open up the first microbrewery in the state in 1989 before she moved on and decided to open up the Iron Horse by herself in 1991.
“I was excited and full of energy. I knew I could make it work,” Tami said confidently as she leaned back in her chair as if to tell me, look. I did make it work.
There were plenty of naysayers. One would think that being a female entrepreneur in the 1980s would be difficult due to her gender, but Ursich said no, her gender has never been an issue when it comes to doing business with others. When she talks about hardships her employees came up frequently.
“I’m responsible for them. I am the one that signs their paycheck, supports their family and if the bar is not doing well, they are not doing well,” Ursich said as she shrugged her shoulders and reached to take another sip of her drink.
Ursich tries to keep her relationship with her employees at strictly the professional level, but she said it can be difficult.
“It’s hard when I know them and their family so well. I see them as friends outside of work so I see them as friends in work as well,” she said.
Ursich said regardless of friendship the business does come first and she has to do what is best for it and everyone involved, if that means letting one of her friends go, or even some of her family that works for her, she will.
When it comes to the hardship of letting one of her employees go Ursich said it is really up to them.
“I can provide them with the tools to do their job. It is up to them to use them and be successful,” she said.
As Ursich took the final sips of her drink she went behind the bar to make another one and I asked her what she would tell hopeful Missoula business owners.
“Good luck,” she said without hesitation.
She followed up with, “Not good luck. It is harder than you think.”
Ursich went on to say that one does not know how to run a business or the challenges of it until they do it. She encourages younger generations to follow their passion because opportunity is out there
“The world is an oyster. Find your place and work hard. Everybody wants something for nothing, but that is not how the world works,” she said.
Ursich said she does not plan to throw in the towel on the Iron Horse anytime soon, but she does have some regrets.
“I am 54 and not a quitter. However, I do wish I could downsize,” she said.
She feels as if maybe she has done too much to expand the Iron Horse and as it grows the cost expands as well, as it becomes greater and greater with every new addition.
However, as the interview came to an end along with her second drink, Ursich ended it on a positive note.
“This is all I know how to do and I love it,” she said.
I turned the recorder off and she put her glass in the dishwasher. We both got up and Scout––lying at our feet the whole time, was quick to follow.
I thanked her for her time as we headed down the stairs and she began to talk about the hopeful future of our country with Mr. Trump becoming president.
by Kinsey Douglas
Breakfast: cereal with almond milk. Lunch: rice. Dinner: fruit, vegetables, nuts. No meat, no eggs, no dairy. This is what Alexis Hegedus, vegan and student, eats in a day.
In a country full of fast food, GMOs, and obesity, Hegedus is taking care of her body in the most basic way where most Americans abuse it. Instead of eating whatever she wants and then buying products to reverse the effects, she treats her body as a temple and reaps all the benefits from it.
“One of my favorite quotes is ‘The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.’ I always keep this in mind when deciding what to put into my body,” Hegedus said.
“I follow a vegan diet, which means I don’t eat any animal products or byproducts,” Hegedus said.“Before I was vegan, I ate anything that I wanted and was pretty unhealthy. I was borderline anorexic and decided I wanted to watch what I eat in a healthier way.”
Hegedus first became interested in veganism as a sophomore in high school. While on YouTube she came across a video by YouTube vlogger Freelee The Banana Girl and it taught her about veganism. Hegedus heard about how it’s impacted Freelee’s life and became more interested and began researching on other Internet platforms. She decided she wanted to try it.
After a week she wasn’t sure if it was for her. It was hard to find good food that followed the diet. She then found videos of animals from dairy and chicken farms being tortured and she committed to veganism because of her love for animals.
Most of sophomore year she was fully vegan but fell off in the spring. She was vegetarian but ate products with dairy in them.
“I talked to myself and said, ‘What are you doing? Dairy doesn’t make me feel good,’” Hegedus said.
Then she cut it out completely once again and has been vegan for about two years.
Hegedus has been vegan for a long time for two reasons, the first being the health benefits that come with it.
“I’ve noticed a change in my digestive health and an overall good feeling,” Hegedus said. “Since becoming vegan, school has made a lot more sense and I’ve had more energy and motivation.”
Some vegans instead experience a lack of energy, known as ‘burn-out’. This is the opposite of Hegedus who says that as long as you eat a lot of the right stuff you won’t feel tired. Hegedus eats a lot of brown rice, spinach, apples, and other high energy foods to avoid getting tired.
The second reason Hegedus keeps her vegan diet is animal rights. She explains that she doesn’t think people deserve to eat animals that they didn’t kill themselves, but since dairy cows aren’t killed and need to be milked anyway, we’re just helping them, right? Hegedus explains that the dairy industry is actually more torturous than the meat industry.
“The cows live in a constant cycle of impregnation, birth, and milking. With only a few months of rest in between, the cows are treated like objects rather than living beings. The calves being born are ripped away from their mothers only to become another dairy cow,” Hegedus said. “Chickens are kept in too small of cages with too many other chickens, while the roosters are killed because they can’t produce eggs and are useless. Free range animals are a way better alternative because the animals actually get a life, but the health effects on your body are still there.”
Hegedus is very passionate about veganism, although she does have moments where she thinks about going back to a regular diet,
“I have moments where I’m like, so what? Whatever? What is one person going to do,” she said.
Hegedus combats these thoughts by remembering what made her become vegan.
“I go watch animal torture videos and come back to reality. I just can’t stand the thought of those animals feeling the way they do all for a glass of milk.”
Although vegans are doing something admirable for the sake of animals, they often get a bad rap from people who don’t understand what they are doing. They are seen as pushy and are often remembered as always bragging about their lifestyle.
“People are often ignorant about veganism and rude towards vegans. They think we’re pushy and annoying,” Hegedus said.
Vegans are stereotyped a certain way: assertive, annoying, arrogant. Hegedus combats the stereotyping by not talking about veganism unless she is asked about it.
“I try not to talk about it because there are certain connotations that come with being vegan. Unless people ask me about it and are genuinely interested I don’t make a big deal out of it. I used to try and get people to be vegan or even vegetarian but most people don’t want to change their diet so it’s pointless,” Hegedus said. “I’ll tell people the reasons I’m vegan and the benefits of it, if they ask, but I don’t try and recruit them.”
When people question her diet/beliefs, Hegedus doesn’t get angry, rather she feels excited to explain why, and give them insight and information on the subject.
“I think everyone should try it and decide for themselves,” she said.
Hegedus doesn’t think everyone should adopt this diet because some people feel tired and don’t get enough nutrition through it. She does think everyone should try it and decide for themselves. Clear skin, weight loss, and less bloating are all benefits that Hegedus has experienced from going vegan.
“Seventy-five percent of people are allergic to dairy, so when you cut it out of your diet it can drastically change the way your body feels. Dairy is in a lot of food products and if it’s not dairy, it’s the protein whey, that is made from milk to add to the nutritional content,” she said. “Many people have a hard time not eating dairy because of its prevalence and they like the taste. But once it is cut out, people will have a better time with digestion and overall feeling.”
For Hededus being vegan is the best decision she’s ever made.
The advice she has for all aspiring vegans is, “Eat a lot. Don’t stop eating, it is so important to get as many calories as you can. And the more food you eat the less non-vegan food you’ll crave. Don’t give into cravings, if you can get over the first three weeks of cravings, you can do it.”
by Sara Michell
Math teacher Gary Little never thought of himself as college athlete material, but before he knew it, he was much more.
Little is now 59 years old and has been married for 37 years while raising three children in Missoula, Montana.
In his middle school years he wasn’t known for being a fast runner, nor did he himself think he was a fast runner. He was just the average boy running track for something to do in the springtime.
Little was born in north Idaho, but grew up in Richland, Washington in the Tri Cities. He participated in track at the middle school level and continued to compete when he got into high school, as well as participating in football and basketball.
Little said, “No one talked me into it, I just did all sports because that’s just what you did, but track was probably my best sport. I never thought I was very fast until I got into high school.”
When he was in high school, was when he, as well as others, started to realize that he wasn’t just the average boy coming out to run track to show off for the ladies. He was actually very fast--exceptionally fast at the 400 meter hurdles.
Little said, “I won events all through junior high. In high school I was always one of the top ones. In the state of Washington, I was the second ranked high hurdler in the state.”
After graduating from Richland High School in 1976, Little attended Spokane Community College to run track--with a great amount of pressure from his father. Little hadn’t planned to attend college, but rather become an electrician. His father, on the other hand, saw a lot of hope in his son that he didn’t want to go to waste.
He attended Spokane Community on a track scholarship and shortly into his freshman year, he was one of the top-ranked runners in the United States. He was most well known for his record times in the 400 hurdles. His fastest time recorded was 50.7 seconds. He then began to receive many different offers from Division 1 schools such as University of Washington, Oregon State, University of Utah, Utah State and Eastern Washington for him to continue running track at the higher, more competitive level.
Little said, “I picked Boise State. It was my second choice actually, my first choice was the University of Washington. They only gave me a three-quarter scholarship and Boise State gave me a full, so I went where the money was.”
While running at Boise State, Little made an even bigger name for himself. He says his best memory from his collegiate track career was during his junior season when he set the Boise State school record, the Boise State Stadium record, and the Big Sky Conference record all within the same year.
Also within that year, he went on to meet the Olympic Standard, and compete at the NCAA Tournament Championships where he placed 12th in the 400 meter hurdles.The three records that Little held stood for a long time after he left Boise State but are not still standing today. But it was just two years ago when he dropped off the record boards at Boise State.
Little broke his first record when he was in the 7th grade in the 80 meter hurdles and also in the pole vault. Then his first big time college record was when he broke the 400 meter record for the Northwest Junior College Conference.
Little is now very happy his father had pressured him into pursuing track as well as Spokane Community College, because that is where he met his wife, Daryl, who was also attending on an athletic scholarship for cross country. She finished out her schooling at Spokane Community College then moved to Boise to be with Little.
Little graduated from BSU in 1981 with a bachelor’s of science degree in mathematics.
After Little’s glory days as a track star he decided to become a teacher. He came to the University of Montana to get his master’s degree in teaching mathematics. He decided he wanted to teach in Montana because at the time Montana was the 7th highest paying teacher salary in the United States.
“I came to teach there here because of the pay,” said Little.
In between competing and working as a teacher he also coached track for a college track team in Idaho for a season, then a high school track team in Boise for year, and that’s where he found his niche. He became hooked to the high school level after one of his female athletes set the all class state record in the high hurdles and a boy who was a state champion.
When Little first started teaching at Sentinel 33 years ago, he was also the head track coach for the Spartans. He retired from the head coaching job in 2004, but during that time he also helped coach the Sentinel cross country team as well as the football team. He coached Sentinel track for a total of 24 years including last year when he came back to coach the hurdles at Sentinel.
Little said, “The sport gave me a lot but I have tried to give back as much as I could. I couldn’t imagine life without it.”
Today Little is involved in many track-related events throughout Montana. He has been an official at the state track meet, coached young middle school track athletes, coached high school track athletes, and also has been a big help in the Missoula Marathon.
When looking back on his collegiate track years, he says he wishes he would have worked harder. He claims he never felt the need to work super hard because it just came easy to him. But thinking back one of his goals was to make the Olympic team. He now feels as though he could have accomplished that goal if he would have put in a little more time and effort.
Little also has some very fond memories from his competitive years that he will cherish forever. He said racing against Edwin Moses (who was ranked number one in the world for 12 years) in Eugene, Oregon in the Prefontaine Classic where he placed first was most likely his most memorable moment.
He also mentioned how he will never forget the time he raced in London at the Crystal Palace.
Little said, “I competed all over Europe but was never able to make it to Australia which would have been super cool.”
Now as a high school math teacher, Little explains that it is important for kids to get involved in athletics at a young age because it widens your social group of friends and gets you out of your comfort zone.
Little said, “Kids need to do athletics. It makes them more well-rounded and gives them a different perspective.”
Little will always love track and the experience and lifestyle that come with it. He says his now very healthy lifestyle of running and eating healthy and his social life wouldn’t have been the same if he’d not run track starting in middle school.
“From all my years of coaching and competing, the biggest thing I think I learned was to always give 100 percent and to push others to be their best as well.”
by Darren Faughn
On November second, the streets and shops of downtown Missoula were filled with spooky skeleton faces and smiles all around. The coffee shops and diners were filled with the anticipation for the Festival of the Dead.
Then it began. The streets flooded with painted faces, giant skeletons, crafts, and carts. Bands from the U.M. and Stevensville played. Businesses promoted themselves while holding signs. People showed their support for certain things and some people protest. The crowd was full of wondering faces, young and old, looking upon the parade for their first or last time.
The Day of the Dead is a three-day festival in Mexico. For three days families and friends all around gather to remember loved ones who have passed on. They go to their graves and clean them, pray, and sometimes put shrines in front of them. Even though the tradition originated in Mexico, it is now celebrated all around the world. Countries include Belgium, France, New Zealand, Australia,
by Tenzin Karchungtsang
This year Sentinel revived the traditional semi-formal fall school dance Fireside, hosted by Sentinels own student government, and with the help of Lisa Anderson and Erika Martin. Sentinel hadn’t had Firesides in a couple years but the student government really wanted to bring it back since students at Sentinel are excited for school dances this year. Fireside was a huge success and student government was able to raise a good amount of money from it. The money will be distributed around the school, it will be used to sponsor families for christmas, buy all the supplies for the pep assembly, and put on other dances such as homecoming.
Chlöe Andrews a Senior at Sentinel said “It was a lot of fun, I got to see a bunch of my friends that don’t usually go out and do stuff, but since it was our senior year we all went out and had fun together.”