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A dream come true: 3 Helena High Bengal teammates sign with D-1 programs

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Helena signing

Carly Ryan, shown left, Odessa Zentz and Kylie Hartnett are pictured Wednesday as they sign their national letters of intent with Montana, NAU and Utah. 

National signing day is always a special day for high school athletes across the country, as they make their dreams official.

For football players, that day doesn't come until December, but for a number of other sports, national signing day opened on Wednesday with an early signing period, one which three Helena High track/cross country athletes decided to take advantage of.

Helena's Kylie Hartnett, Carly Ryan and Odessa Zentz each verbally committed to the Universities of Utah, Montana, and Northern Arizona, respectively, during the fall and sitting next to each other Wednesday, they went from commitments to signees.

And it was a dream come true.

"It's really exciting," Hartnett said. "After four years of wanting to run in college, it's nice to sign with a school and have another team to look forward to. I really love the coaches and the team (at Utah), so it just worked out."

On sharing the moment with her teammates, Hartnett had this to say: 

"It was really cool. We have been running together for years and we have just been through so many ups and downs with injuries and everything, it was cool to finally sign and do it together."

Hartnett won the Class AA state cross country girls championship in 2019, before taking second in 2020 and 2021. She was also instrumental, as were Ryan and Zentz, in helping the Bengals win a state trophy for the first time in 34 years back in 2019, as well as another in 2020.

"We have been talking about this for years and years," Ryan said. "It's just really cool to see it all coming together finally."

While Ryan, who took part in her first track season in 2020 and earned all-state in the 800 (3rd) and 1,600 relay (2nd), will be heading to Montana to compete in cross country and track, as well as Hartnett to Utah, Zentz will be train for cross country, but the five-time state champion will be focused more on track and field.

And she also happy to share the moment with her teammates and friends.

"I feel like we have grown up together in this sport," Zentz said. "We have pumped each other up the entire way. Team is one of my core values in running and being able to share this with my close friends and teammates is really special."

Zentz is a two-time all-state performer in cross country and will be coached by Mike Smith who is the reigning Big Sky Men's and Women's track and field coach of the year. NAU has also won five of the last six outdoor track and field championships in the Big Sky, as well as three of the last four indoor championships. 

Hartnett will also be joining a solid program in Utah, especially in women's cross country which is currently ranked 7th in the NCAA. The Helena senior who has won seven all-state medals in cross country and track will take part in both sports for the Utes. She was also the Montana Gatorade Player of the Year for girls cross country in 2019. 

"I feel at times like we were just one big family," Helena High girls track and cross country coach Jesse Zentz said. "So this is a special day and what really makes it special is how these three have come up and done this together. I know they always talk amongst themselves about how important they each are to each other and so now they are going their separate ways. It's hard to believe that they are moving on, so it is bittersweet but we are glad we get them for another track season. We are just beyond excited for all three of them."

Chris is the sports editor and lead preps reporter for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmpetey406

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