Dale Kennedy has helped Montana State facilitate many, many track and field meets during his nearly four-decade long career as MSU’s head of track and field. He’s never been a part of organizing an event quite like this weekend’s Big Sky Conference Indoor Championships.
Montana State has regularly hosted the indoor championships throughout the years as Brick Breeden Fieldhouse still serves as one of the top indoor venues in the conference. This winter, the University of Idaho was supposed to play host to the indoor championships but a conflict with a tradition-laden jazz festival that has made its home in Moscow for more than two decades caused for reconsideration.
Four months ago, MSU was awarded the right to host this season’s indoor finale.
“We said yes we would but one of the things we knew right away is that we have two basketball games going on here in the middle of the Big Sky Championships,” Kennedy said on Tuesday. “That has really stretched our sports facilities staff, our administrators. Everyone has really gotten together and worked together on this to make it happen.”
The Big Sky Indoor Championships begin on Thursday morning at 9 a.m. with the first events of the women’s pentathlon and the men’s heptathlon. The full pentathlon and the first half of the heptathlon will wrap up by late afternoon in time for Montana State’s women’s basketball team to host Weber State for an 8 p.m. contest.
Following the first basketball game, facilities workers will remove the Brick Breeden basketball court completely and set up the infield of the track for Friday morning’s field finals, including the men’s and women’s weight throw and the men’s high jump. After the men’s 4×400-meter relay at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, workers will then reinstall the basketball court in preparation for MSU’s women’s game against Idaho State at 8 p.m.
“We think we can pull it off,” said Kennedy, who has been a part of the MSU track program since 1980. “We are really proud to run really great track and field competitions at Montana State. We think we do it better than everybody else. We aren’t going to let the student-athletes in the Big Sky Conference down. We are going to do it right.”
Part of 2014’s $3.2 million renovation to the Fieldhouse included the installation of a state of the are $1 million Mondo Super X Performance track surface. MSU sophomore sprint standout Mitchell Hornig said he loves the track, adding that “it has a ton of give and is good for your legs.” Kennedy said he is excited to show the renovated venue off to the rest of the Big Sky.
“We really take some pride in the presentation out there,” Kennedy said. “We think we have a great facility. We are really proud of the facility. We are excited to have athletes from the Big Sky Conference to come and have an opportunity to compete in that venue. It really is a terrific venue.”
Although moving the event from Moscow to Bozeman puts added logistical stress on Montana State, the Bobcat athletes are happy the meet returning to the Gallatin Valley.
“Compared to some of the other places we could run, yes, this is an advantage,” said MSU junior Kaylee Schmitz, the reigning Big Sky women’s Track Athlete of the Week. “This is the nicest facility and we aren’t at a crazy high elevation like Northern Arizona. I’m excited. The thing I’m looking forward to most in Bozeman is I get to keep my routines the exact same.”
“I have a lot of family coming in,” added MSU sophomore shot put thrower Kyle Douglass said. “My grandparents are all from the state and my parents are coming in from Missoula so it will be fun. I’m definitely trying to defend the house so to speak.”
Montana State’s track is a 200-meter flat track is different from other venues. Some have 300-meter tracks, some have 200-meter banked tracks.
“Almost all indoor tracks are different,” Hornig said. “It is nice being really familiar with ours being a flat 200-meter track that is fairly uncommon.”
Montana State is projected to finish in the middle of the pack in both the women’s and men’s team competitions. The Bobcats could get an immediate boost from its multi-athletes.
Montana sophomore Erika McCleod enters the meet with the top pentathlon score, a mark of 3,705 points set earlier this month in Bozeman. She is just ahead of MSU junior Jessica Chrisp, who posted a score of 3,590 in Bozeman to open the indoor season on January 4. That same meet, MSU senior Danielle Rider scored 3,574 points, the fourth-best mark in the league. Rider earned second place at the outdoor championships in the heptathlon last season.
MSU sophomore Mason Storm earned a fourth-place finish at the outdoors in the decathlon in the spring. The Great Falls product enters the indoor championships with a qualifying score of 4,908, the fifth-best in the league. Idaho State junior Kyle Searle posted a score of 5,141 at the Mountain State games earlier this month.
“The multis have always got it started for us,” Kennedy said. “That’s our tradition. I think those three kids are ready to go.
“Some kids will really be moved by being here at home. We are hoping all of our kids will be really moved by that. Emotions should be high but not so high it inhibits performance as well. I just want every kid to be the best they can possibly be at the championships. The whole thing is to come in and perform better than you have all season.”
Photos courtesy of Montana State Athletics. All Rights Reserved.