Big Sky Conference

Five Griz expected to contend for gold at outdoor championships


Montana has steadily been building throughout the spring to find its peak performance, which for many will come this week at the 2018 Big Sky Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Moscow, Idaho. Action begins on Tuesday with the multi-events, with the remainder of the meet being held Thursday and Friday.

The Montana women – which finished runner-up to Northern Arizona a year ago – are not expected to make a run at the title again, but will perform better than many presume, head coach Brian Schweyen believes. The one-year rebuild will be quick, with Montana once again expected to be in the thick of the heat next spring.

“I like where we’re at right now,” Schweyen said. “I think we’re in a good spot mentally and physically, and I think we’ll surprise some people with what we’re able to do.”

The Grizzlies are young. Of the 18 events Montana’s women have competed in this spring, 14 of the top performances have come by freshmen or sophomores. On the men’s side, that number is 11 of 19, including seven by freshmen alone.

Additionally, Montana is redshirting several of its go-to point scorers from the past. Among those redshirting this spring are Erika McLeod – a six-time scorer and the 2017 champion in the heptathlon; Hana Feilzer – a two-time NCAA Regionals participant in the hammer, winning a conference title and setting a school record in 2017; and Jansen Ziola – who as a true freshman this winter won the indoor pentathlon in her Championship debut.

“We’re a very young team, and we knew that,” Schweyen said. “We were young to begin with, and we made ourselves younger with who we decided to redshirt. It’s all part of the process, and I think it will pay off.”

Jensen Lillquist/ UM athletics

While Montana may not be able to put up the team totals it has in the past – or will again in the near future – several athletes are right in line to content for individual titles. Sophomore Zena Smith enters the week as the top women’s javelin thrower (156-6), while Jane Booth (women’s high jump), Holly Houston (women’s discus), Jensen Lillquist (men’s javelin) and Carly Smiedala (women’s 800 meters) are each in line to reach the podium, ranked second or third in their respective events.

The Grizzlies are sending 46 athletes to Moscow. Below is a look at each athlete competing for the Grizzlies, and what to watch for this week. The number in parenthesis represents each athlete’s current Big Sky ranking in the event. The top eight marks will earn points for their teams.

Montana Grizzlies Outdoor Championship qualifiers

  • Women’s 100 meters: Alanna Vann (19) – The senior is a three-time Championships scorer, in three separate events. Her top time of 12.39 is 0.36 off the pace to finish in the top eight, but her PR of 11.93 would currently rank fourth in the Big Sky.
  • Men’s 100 meters: Rhett Streeter (20), Courtlynd Brown (27) – The pair of freshmen will make their Championships debuts this week. Streeter has a top time of 10.91 while Brown is at 10.97 – both set two weeks ago in Missoula. A time of 10.75 would currently rank in the top eight.
  • Women’s 200 meters: Alanna Vann (24) – Vann’s holds a top time of 25.46.
  • Men’s 200 meters: Rhett Streeter (47) – Streeter will also compete in the 200 meters. He has a PR of 22.62.
  • Men’s 400 meters: Colton Hess (31) – The freshman has ran a sub-51-second race in five consecutive meets, winning the event at the Trudnowski Open in mid-April.
  • Women’s 800 meters: Carly Smiedala (2), Emily Cheroske (7), Madeline Hamilton (15) – This is the track event that the women have the most depth in, with all three competitors currently ranked in the top 15 in the Big Sky. Cheroske, a senior, ran her fastest race of the season in her most-recent meet, and her PR of 2:08.56 would currently rank fourth. She’s a two-time scorer in the event, advancing to regionals in 2017. Smiedala holds Montana’s record for the 800 meters in both indoor and outdoor and finished third at the Championships last spring, also advancing to regionals. The sophomore’s biggest competitor will come against current leader, Ashley Taylor of Northern Arizona (2:04.36).
  • Men’s 800 meters: Jacob Lamb (7), Karsten Pease (8), Noah Kells (14), Noah Adams (15) – On the men’s side, the Grizzlies have four athletes ranked in the top 15. Lamb, a freshman, and Pease, a junior, are both in line to score. As a sophomore, Pease placed eighth in the event.
  • Men’s 1,500 meters: Jonathan Eastwood (10) – The junior currently ranks 10th and is just three-tenths of a second off of a top-eight pace. He placed 13th in the event as a freshman and 12th as a sophomore.
  • Women’s 5,000 meters: Samantha Engebretsen (21) – The sophomore has a top time of 17:23.74, set last month in California.
  • Men’s 5,000 meters: Jonathan Eastwood (26), Paden Alexander (47), Dillon May (49), Kyle Peterson (56), Nathan Wellington (58) – Montana will have a team-high five athletes compete in the distance event, led by Eastwood, who has a top time of 14:46.73.
  • Women’s 10,000 meters: Samantha Engebretsen (7) – The sophomore will also compete in the 10,000 meters, where she currently ranks seventh (37:15.95).
  • Men’s 10,000 meters: Paden Alexander (12), Kyle Peterson (14) – Alexander (31:35.06) and Peterson (31:50.31) both had season-best performances in Spokane. The No. 8 runner currently has a time of 30:35.90.
  • Women’s 100-meter hurdles: Hannah Coburn (16) – One of her four events, Coburn has a top time of 14.65.
  • Men’s 110-meter hurdles: Chase Armstrong (15) – The sophomore hopes to build off of his sixth-place finish at last year’s Championships. His career PR of 14.65 would currently rank eighth.
  • Men’s 400-meter hurdles: Chase Armstrong (13) – He set a PR of 55.02 last month in Missoula.
  • Men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase: Dillon May (10), Nathan Wellington (16) – May had a PR of 9:23.50 last month in California, just 4 seconds off of the current No. 8 ranking. Wellington won the event at last week’s Tom Gage Classic with a season-best time of 9:45.86.
  • Women’s 4×100 meter relay: Alanna Vann, Jaree Mane, Mattison McAnally, Hannah Coburn (10)
  • Men’s 4×100-meter relay: Courtlynd Brown, Colton Hess, Rhett Streeter, Chase Armstrong (11)
  • Women’s 4×400 meter relay: Jaree Mane, Madeline Hamilton, Emily Cheroske, Carly Smiedala (8)
  • Men’s 4×400-meter relay: Colton Hess, Jacob Lamb, Karsten Pease, Chase Armstrong (6)
  • Women’s high jump: Jane Booth (2), Abby Dodge (9) – Dodge will make her Championships debut this week with the opportunity to score. The freshman has cleared at least 5-3.25 in four consecutive meets. Booth, a sophomore who finished third last spring and advanced to regionals, is beginning to find her form. She has set season-best marks in back-to-back meets, tying a PR of 5-9.25 last week. The height is a half-inch off of Abbigael Brecht’s (Weber State) conference-leading height.
  • Men’s high jump: Grant Whitcutt (14), Parker Spadt (17), Josh Riley (23), Charlie Bush (24) – Whitcutt is Montana’s top performer on the season, clearing 6-4 in the season-opening meet. Spadt and Bush have competed in the event consistently throughout the spring.
  • Women’s pole vault: Chloe Seferos (18) – The sophomore has a PR of 11-6.5 and a season-best mark of 11-3.75.
  • Men’s pole vault: Charlie Bush (6), Grant Whitcutt (15) – Bush’s season-best mark of 15-2.75 was set last month in California. He has a career-best height of 15-5. Whitcutt has participated in the event in each of the last two meets, clearing 14-5.25 last week.
  • Women’s long jump: Jenna Dukovcic (21), Hannah Coburn (27) – Two veteran Griz athletes, both have competed in this event before at the Championships.
  • Women’s triple jump: Madison Neufeld (11), Rachel Lewis (20) – Neufeld will be competing at the Championships for the third time in her career. Her mark of 37-8.5 last week was two inches off of her career PR. As a freshman, Lewis has a top jump of 36-1.25.
  • Women’s shot put: Mariah Harvey (12), Holly Houston (20) – Harvey won the Montana Open with a PR of 42-11.75. The sophomore will make her Championships debut with the opportunity to move into scoring position (2-2.75 off the current No. 8 spot).
  • Men’s shot put: Brent Yeakey (9), Oliver Grajeda (19) – Just freshmen, both Yeakey and Grajeda have improved their marks in four consecutive meets. He is just a half-inch short of currently being ranked in the top eight.
  • Women’s discus: Holly Houston (3), Kayla Holmes (13) – Houston had a career-best performance last week in Missoula, throwing the discus 161-11, which currently ranks No. 3 in the Big Sky. Molli Detloff (North Dakota) is the current leader, and while she has a top mark of 176-7, she has reached that distance just once and has consistently been in the 150s, where Houston has been as well.
  • Men’s discus: Brent Yeakey (15) – His mark of 156-3 last week was the second-best of his young career.
  • Women’s hammer throw: Mariah Harvey (14) – The sophomore had a career-best throw of 169-9 two weeks ago in Missoula. She is currently 7-6 off of the No. 8 spot.
  • Men’s hammer throw: Nick Jackson (10) – Jackson will compete in his fourth Championship. He finished 11th as a sophomore in 2015 and his PR of 188-11 would currently rank fourth.
  • Women’s javelin: Zena Smith (1), Darby Henthorn (6), Maddie Foulk (12), Kimberly Earhart (19), Jaree Mane (24) – This will likely be one of the main highlights for the Grizzlies. Smith surpassed Montana State’s Carley Vonheeder in last week’s meet, setting a PR by nearly 10 feet (156-8). She is the favorite to win the event, but won’t be the only threat, with Henthorn, Foulk and Earhart each surpassing 138 feet.
  • Men’s javelin: Jensen Lillquist (2), Luke Hilmes (6), John Beckers (7), Will Jones (8), Brady Coffman (17) – Like the women, the men have plenty of depth in the javelin. In addition to Lillquist, Montana has a trio of additional throwers who are in line to score with marks above 189 feet. Lillquist currently ranks second in the Big Sky, and while he trails Southern Utah’s Skyler Porcaro by 11 feet, Lillquist had a 10-foot improvement just last week.
  • Women’s heptathlon: Jaree Mane (8), Hannah Coburn (9), Jenna Dukovcic (N/A) – Montana has two athletes in or near scoring position, but both athletes have only competed in the event once this season. Both have steadily improved on many of their marks since that point.
  • Men’s decathlon: Morgan Eitel (8), Grant Whitcutt (12), Josh Riley (13) – Eitel has the top performance this season by a Griz athlete while Whitcutt is the only one of the three to complete two decathlons.

Press release written by Nic Hallisley, UM athletics. All Rights Reserved. 

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