Big Sky Conference

Schiel bookends difficult year with second straight outdoor 800 crown

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Christie Schiel knows one thing for certain about game-planning for a race.

“It never goes how you think it will go,” the Montana State junior said shortly after winning her second consecutive Big Sky Conference outdoor 800 meter championship. “I knew (the race) could be pretty aggressive, so if someone went out fast I just wanted to keep contact with whoever was leading. I was  able to do that.”

Instead, the early pace was “about what we expected it to be,” said Bobcat distance coach Lyle Weese, himself a multiple-time Big Sky champ for the Cats. And that played right to Schiel’s strength.

“Coach Weese feels that I’m a pretty strong finisher,” Schiel said, “and that really came true in this race. When one of the girls ahead of me started to make a move, I knew I could go with her.”

Schiel ran with the pack for about the first 300 meters, then moved toward the front, pacing with teammate Kaylee Schmitz, who advanced through the prelims in school-record time. At about 500 meters Schiel and Eastern Washington’s Katie Mahoney grabbed the lead, then 150 meters or so later Schiel took over.

“In middle distance and distance races, when you take the lead you do everything you can to hold it,” said Bobcat head coach Dale Kennedy. And Schiel did. “She was challenged by a couple different girls.”

Mahoney made the first run at her, in the last turn, then Idaho’s Marquita Palmer, who finished second, chased Schiel down the straightaway. But on blustery, windy, cool afternoon, no one could catch Schiel. The Bobcat from just up the road in Cheyenne, Wyo., has trained in such conditions her whole life.

“Yeah,” she said with a laugh, “I guess being from Cheyenne the wind doesn’t bother me much. When you line up to run in a championship you don’t even think about the weather.”

What Schiel was willing to think about briefly in the moments after her exhilarating triumph was what she’s overcome to reach the top step of the podium. “It was a hard year,” she said simply, the emotion audible.

“It’s really been a battle for Christie,” Kennedy expounded. “She sat out the whole fall with injuries, and just got back to running after the indoor season started. She used indoor to get going again. It’s been a real test of perseverance for her, it’s been emotional, as you’d expect, and there were times it didn’t seem like she’d be able to compete (in 2016).”

She made it as far as Greeley, though, and when she arrived she saw a lot of familiar faces. “Oh, yeah, I have a whole lot of family here cheering for me,” Schiel said. “It’s pretty cool because a lot of them have never got to see me run college track.”

They witnessed quite a performance. Schiel’s winning 2:09.95 stands as her personal best, shaves nearly a second off her winning time from last year’s meet (2:10.76), and takes on a historic tone by making her the first Bobcat to win back-to-back titles on the track since Holly Stanish in the 1500 (1997-980, and the first Big Sky athlete to take two straight 800 m outdoor crowns since NAU’s legendary Ida Nilsson won three straight (2003-05).

The victory also caps a calendar year to remember for Schiel. Since winning the Big Sky Outdoor Championship last spring, she overcame a series of season-threatening injuries and capped it by winning a race in challenging conditions as close to her hometown as she can come in the Big Sky.

“Perseverance,” Kennedy said, putting a bow on Schiel’s triumph. “That’s really the only word to describe Christie. Perseverance.”

Press release courtesy of Bill Lamberty – Montana State Sports Information. All Rights Reserved.

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