MISSOULA — Ridger Palma capped his high school track and field career in a big way at the State B meet in Great Falls.
The Missoula Loyola product won the 100-meter and 200-meter races for the second straight year, and in the 200, he set a Class B record at 22.06 seconds.
"I finished my 200 race and I didn't even know that I had a state (record) and I walked back to my tent and I'm getting all watered up and my dad comes over and says, 'Hey, you just broke a state (record) and I'm like, 'Oh OK.' I was pretty happy," Palma recalled.
He also won the 400-meter, and ran a leg on Loyola's state championship 1,600-meter relay, and the Rams took second as a team.
It was all in a meet's work for the now graduated Loyola senior who entered with a target on his back as a multi-defending state champion and was challenged by some of the state's best.
"A lot of it is just telling myself I can do it because if I tell myself I can't, then I'm not going to do it," Palma said. "So during the races I tell myself I'm going to run a certain time in that race I just hope and pray when I cross that finish line, I'll look up at the time and that's what it was."
It's been an explosion of success for Palma the past two seasons, as he's worked his way into making track and field his standout sport.
"Track is kind of my thing," Palma said. "I just kind of wanted track to be, 'Oh yeah, that's Ridger, he does track.' And I just wanted to not only help myself stay focused in athletics but I know when I stay focused in athletics it's going to help me stay focused in academics."
Now, he'll head to the Division I level and compete at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, where he'll be a preferred walk on to continue his athletic career.
"I wanted to go to GCU with or without track but track has been a huge part of who I am so I constantly emailed the coaches about it," Palma said. "So when I finally heard back I was pretty darn happy and so if I can go to my dream school and then do my dream sport, I'm beyond thankful."
And Palma couldn't ask for a better ending to his high school career after bringing individual and team hardware back to Loyola.
"I thank the Lord everyday for it, thank the Lord that he's helped me become a leader, helped me have the drive to do this and it's been fun," Palma said.