Big Sky Conference

Five Big Sky athletes clinch NCAA Championship bids


Paced by standout performances in each the men’s and women’s 10,000 meters, five Big Sky Conference track and field athletes finished in the top 12 of their respective events and punched tickets to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon next month.

Northern Arizona saw three athletes qualify and Idaho added two more stellar showings to help each respective athlete advance to the highest level of collegiate track. NAU distance running dynamo Futsum Zienasellassie, steeplechase specialist Caleb Hoover and throwing standout Adam Kennan earned spots on the podium to punch their tickets to Eugene. Idaho’s Kinsey Gomez just missed the podium in the 10K while Arphaxad Carroll just made it inside the top 12, each sealing spots at nationals as well.

A day late – the NCAA West Regional championships in Lawrence, Kansas were completely postponed Thursday due to inclement weather – did nothing to deter Zienasellassie. The reigning multiple-time Big Sky cross-country, indoor and outdoor champion continued his standout junior season. Zienasellassie entered the regional meet with one of the top qualifying times in the NCAA. In a heated race with Oregon’s Edward Cheserek, the NAU junior barely missed out on a regional championship. Still, his time of 29:50.77 came in five seconds behind Cheserek to finish with a silver medal.

NAU long distance runners

NAU long distance runners featuring Futsum Zienasellassie (1)/by NAU Athletics

In the first event of Friday’s action at the Kansas University track, Gomez battled down the stretch, missing the top of the podium by just four seconds. The former Oregon State transfer ended up placing fourth with a time of 34:24.97. Arkansas senior Dominique Scott ran 34:20.35 to win.

In the first field event of the day, Keenan popped the throw of his career, hurling the hammer 230 feet, one inch. Oklahoma State’s Nick Miller blew the competition out of the water with a throw of 252-04, the longest in the nation this spring by more than six feet.

Hoover entered the meet ranked No. 1 in the region in the 3,000-meter steeplechase while owning an All-America finish in the event in 2014. He competed in the first heat and established comfortable position in the top three, easing to a time of 8:44.05. Hoover finished third overall.

Carroll surpassed a career-best with a long jump of 24 feet, 8.5 inches to place 11th in the men’s long jump, one spot ahead of the cutoff for qualifying for the national meet. Arkansas’s Jarrion Lawson soared 26 feet to win the regional championship.

Of the 74 Big Sky athletes who qualified for the West Regional, the 10,000 meters held the most participants. NAU’s Corey Glines and Tyler Day just missed the podium, placing 14th and 15th in times of 30:05.15 and 30:07.16 respectively. NAU’s Matt Baxter placed 21st in a time of 30:13.60. Southern Utah’s Hayden Hawks place d41st in 31:01.34.

Four women’s runners joined Gomez in the women’s 10,000. Weber State’s Hailey Whetten was the top Big Sky finisher, coming in 27th in a time of 35:41.72. EWU’s Sarah Reiter was 34th in 36;14.24. Portland State’s Amanda Boman was 35th in 36:21.78. NAU’s Paige Gilchrist, a Missoula Hellgate product, was 39th in 36:44.Five Big Sky men qualified in the men’s javelin but none advanced to nationals. Montana’s Jensen Lillquist. The Griz standout placed 14th with a throw of 219-06. Texas A&M’s Ioannis Kyriazis threw 248-04 to win and 12th place was Garrett Snow of Oklahoma’s throw of 223-11.

Montana State’s Tanner Gambill, the Big Sky champion last spring, ended his career with a throw of 209-09, good enough for 23rd. The Joliet native has throw as far as 223 feet in his career and his throw of 211-08 at this spring’s Big Sky championships placed third.

EWU’s Joey Payne placed 34th by throwing the javelin 197 feet, four inches. Idaho’s Derek Haas took 41st with a throw of 187-06 and UM’s Daniel Jones was 44th with a throw of 180-03.

Montana State’s Zach Sharp, the runner-up to Keenan in the hammer at the Big Sky Championships, threw 188-09 to place 40th in the last hammer throw of his career.

Montana State senior Kaylee Schmitz placed 29th in the 800 meters in the final outdoor race of her career. Her time of 2:10.05 placed sixth in the first heat. The reigning BSC indoor 800 champion will have one more indoor season to defend her title next winter.

Five Big Sky women qualified in the women’s hammer, led by BSC champion Kaytlyn Coleman of EWU. The senior threw 194-08 to place 20th in her final meet. Weber’s Natasha Powell threw 182-11 for 34th, Montana’s Hana Feilzer threw 179-01 for 40th, North Dakota’s Jayd Eggert threw 175-01 for 43rd and NAU’s Tiana Hatler-Stefick threw 159-07 for 46th.

Jones, Feilzer and Lillquist are three of 10 Grizzlies who qualified for the West Regional meet, the second-most of any Big Sky school behind NAU’s 21 qualifiers. Sterling Reneau placed 41st in the men’s 400 meters (48.31). Lindsey Dahl threw 137-09 for 46th in the javelin. Matt Quist no-heighted in the high jump. The other four Grizzlies will compete on Saturday.

Other women’s participants on Friday included: Eastern Washington’s Katie Mahoney with a 16th-lace finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:18.05); Weber State’s Ellie Child with a 26th-lace finish in the steeplechase (10:35.66); EWU’s Paula Gil-Echevarria with a 41st-place (11:03.92); Sac State’s Stephanie Blumm with a 24th-place finish in the 400 hurdles (59.31); Portland State’s Genna Settle with a 25th-place finish in the 100 meters (11.74); NAU’s Nicole Fotinos with a 33rd-place finish in the 400 (55.57); NAU’s Ashley Taylor with a 40th-place finish in the 400 hurdles (1:01.13); EWU’s Paula Gil-Echevarria with a 41st-place finish in the long hurdles (1:03.92); and Idaho State’s Bailey Bars with a 43rd-place finish in the javelin (140-04).

Other men’s participants on Friday included: EWU’s Jeremy VanAssche with a 27th-place finish in the 100 (10.53); Idaho’s Ben Ayesu-Attah with a 32nd-place finish in the 400 (47.61); Portland State’s Spenser Schmitdt with a 34th-place finish in the long jump (23-02); Southern Utah’s George Espino with a 37th-place finish in the 800 (1:52.14); NAU’s Tim Cummings with a 37th-place finish in the 3,000 steeplechase (9:19.53), five spots ahead of Idaho State’s Tyler James (9:23.53). EWU freshman Larry Still placed 32nd at his first regional meet in the pole vault with a jump of 16-04.

The women’s discus, the women’s long jump and the women’s pole vault were all still in progress as of the printing of this story. The men’s discus, which Montana State’s Kyle Douglass will compete, was moved from Friday to Saturday morning.

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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