Big Sky Conference

Douglass, Root win gold for MSU but NAU’s late rally lifts ‘Jacks to Big Sky title


Montanan State and Southern Utah positioned for a championship. But the customary Northern Arizona avalanche of points lifted the Lumberjacks to the top of the Big Sky Conference once again.

Through 19 of a possible 21 scored events, Southern Utah had 112 points and Montana State had 109. The Thunderbirds and the Bobcats both had a pair of runners with top 10 times in the men’s 5,000 meters entering the final individual race of the Big Sky Outdoor Track & Field championships in Moscow, Idaho on Friday.

NAU, which boasts one of the premier distance running programs in the country, dominated the 5,000 and earned clutch results in the 200 meters and the 4×400 meter relay to emerge as the Big Sky champions once again.

Sophomore Tyler Day, senior Matthew Baxter and senior Andy Trouard swept the podium in the 5K, freshman Luis Grijalva and junior Peter Lomong both finished in the top seven and NAU scored 30 points in the event to vault into the lead. Southern Utah senior Mike Tate finished fourth and SUU freshman Aidan Reed, a Helena native, earned sixth to keep the Thunderbirds alive in the team race.

Meanwhile, Montana State senior Diego Leon, who entered the race with the third-best time in the conference and one of the top times in the country, could not score, instead finishing 19th. MSU junior Ty Mogan did not run in the race and the Bobcats, after chasing or holding the lead for most of the four-day championship meet, were eliminated before the final long relay.

MSU’s Drake Schneider, Christopher Lange, Mitch Horning and Jadin Casey closed the championship by winning the 4×400 relay in three minutes, 12.27 seconds but it wasn’t enough. NAU’s relay team finished fifth, giving the Lumberjacks 131 points and the championship, the 22nd in the history of the tradition-laden program. Southern Utah finished second at 122 points and MSU was third at 119.

Jasmine Malone’s gold medal in the women’s 200 meters was part of a 21-point event for the NAU women and Malone’s third of four championships this week. NAU senior Paige Gilchrist, a Missoula Hellgate alum, finished fourth in the women’s 5,000 and the Northern Arizona women’s long relay team set a championship meet record by running 3:40.71 to win the 4×400 and lift the lady Lumberjacks to the women’s team title with 128 points, the 11th title in program history.

Behind a 30-point performance in the women’s triple jump, Sac State finished second with 113 points. Weber State was third with 88.5 points. Montana State’s women finished fourth with 77 points thanks to a sweep of hurdles gold by senior Amanda Jaynes and a Big Sky title in the 5K from junior Kelsi Lasota.

Montana’s women scored 19 points in the 800, paced by Carly Smediala’s gold medal. UM finished 10th with 40 points. The Montana men finished 9th with 36 points, the highlight coming with Jensen Lillquist winning Thursday’s javelin gold.

Montana State senior Kyle Douglass

Montana State’s men assumed the team lead right away with Mason Storm and Caleb Neth’s 2-3 finish in the decathlon. Podium finishes from Kyle Douglass in the shot put, Mogan in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, Noah Martin in the pole vault and Alex Lewis in the long jump helped the Bobcats close Thursday with the lead.

On Friday, Calvin Root earned the first gold of the day for MSU by winning the hammer throw with a heave of 197 feet, four inches. Douglass made up for his second-place shot put finish — he entered the event as the top seed — with the best discus throw of his life, unleashing a throw of 192 feet, five inches to win the event for the first time in his decorated career.

“I couldn’t ask for much more,” Douglass said. “My family was here supporting me. I couldn’t have done this by myself. My teammates, they are great. I couldn’t ask for anything more here at Montana State. My teammates kept me calm to get one out there.”

Martin jumped 6-foot-11 in the high jump to take third and Casey finished fifth in the 400 meters to keep MSU out front. But Southern Utah took control behind Tre James’ sweep of the 100 and 200 meters combined with Horning’s false start in the 100, contributing to a 10-point swing in SUU’s favor.

Montana State scored 10 points in the 800 meters with Cameron Carroll finishing fourth (1:53.26), Samuel Bloom finishing sixth (1:54.14) and Chris Bianchini finishing seventh (1:54.48). But SUU matched hat with George Espino’s gold medal in a time of 1:52.08.

Schneider won the 400-meter hurdles championship in 52.57 seconds, just ahead of Lange to help MSU retake the lead thanks to an 18-point event. James and Inoa Wahinehookae combined for 14 points in the 200 to retake the top of the standings for the final time. NAU’s Tyren Wolfe and Kossi Tchenawou finished 2-3 in the event, points that would prove crucial.

The 5K vaulted NAU into the lead and the relay performance ensured the dominance continued for the ‘Jacks. With the men’s and women’s title sweeps, Northern Arizona completed the calendar year sweep by winning both titles in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.


Montana sophomore Carly Smiedala, left

In her two seasons, Smiedala has had a decorated career, owning school records for the 800 meters in both indoor and outdoor. The Helena native added conference champion to her resume on Friday, something that she has narrowly missed in her first several Championships.

“I think for Carly, she’s been thinking about that one for a long time,” UM head coach Brian Schweyen said. “She ran a very, very smart race and did exactly what she needed to.”

Smiedala placed third at last year’s outdoor championships and second at this year’s indoor meet, after having the top time in the prelims.

“It’s definitely a special feeling,” Smiedala said. “I’ve put in a lot of time and it feels great to have a little bit of success. Vicky (Pounds) is such a great coach, and I can’t thank my coaches, my teammates, our trainer and weight coach enough. It’s very special.”

After entering this week as the No. 2 runner in the event, Smiedala ran a 2:13.57 on Thursday, taking the final qualifying spot. She made the most of her opportunity on Friday, improving her time by nearly 7 seconds and winning the race by close to 2.

“Yesterday I almost didn’t make the final, so today I was just hoping to put that behind me and get some good positioning,” Smiedala said. “I had to fight the whole race, but it was great for all three of us Griz girls to have a great race to end the season.”

Northern Colorado sophomore Alex Wesley / by Kobee Stadler, UNC athletics

Three Big Sky football standouts earned spots on the track podium on Friday. Alex Wesley, a standout wide receiver at Northern Colorado, showed his speed, winning the 400 meters in 47.70 seconds. Wesley blew the field away Friday, as he earned first place with a school record time of 46.22. The wide receiver had the second fastest time at 21.17 in the 200 meters. While an injury hindered Wesley from earning his third 200-meter title, he did finish the race to score for the Bears.

Northern Arizona’s Khalil Dorsey advanced to the finals of the 110-meter hurdles after clocking the fourth fastest time in the prelims at 14.25. The sophomore first-team all-conference cornerback registered a personal best time of 14.12 in the finals to capture the silver medal. Dorsey also ran the third leg of NAU’s 4×100-meter relay that placed second in the event.

Sacramento State senior wide receiver Andre Lindsey, the defending champ, in the 110-meter hurdles crossed the line in 14.09 the fastest time of the trials. He lined up for the finals of the event and placed third overall in a time of 14.13. Lindsey ran the first leg of the Hornets’ 4×100-meter relay team that placed fifth.

Northern Arizona’s standout senior Brooke Andersen got the nod as the Women’s Outstanding Performer for her Big Sky Championship record of 69-43m (227-9) in the hammer throw. North Dakota’s Molli Detloff collected several medals on the week, including a gold in the discus (50.0m/164-0), a silver in the hammer (64.28m/210-10) and a sixth-place showing in the women’s shot put (14.39m/47-2.50). For her efforts, Detloff was named the Women’s Most Valuable Athlete.

In the men’s awards, Southern Utah’s James earned both the men’s Outstanding Performer and Most Valuable Athlete honors. The sophomore secured victories in the 100m (10.19) and 200m (20.57) to guide SUU. If the time was not wind aided, the 10.19 in the 100 would’ve been the fastest time in Big Sky Conference history.

Southern Utah sophomore Tre James

“Going into it I was confident already,” James said following the meet. “Yesterday easing up and seeing how the times were, I was confident coming into today, so I just had to execute and run my race to get the gold again.”

His time in the 200 set a new Southern Utah school record with a time of 20.57.

“It’s special to me because last year I was injured, so coming back this year and working hard has been key,” James said. “I have to give a big shout out to Justin Lewis and Brandon Harley, they push me at practice everyday.”

This story will be updated. All Rights Reserved. 

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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