Feb. 18, 2012
The Bobcat Open, the small, last-chance meet hosted by Montana State on the eve of the Big Sky Conference indoor championships each February, was treated as anything but a minor event by the Montana track and field teams Friday at Bozeman.
The Grizzlies produced their best meet of the season, adding eight new Big Sky qualifiers -- four for the men, four for the women -- and posting nearly two dozen season or career bests.
Montana's performance comes at just the right time. The Big Sky Conference indoor championships take place next Friday and Saturday at Flagstaff, Ariz.
Senior Courtney Kosovich and junior Gwenn Abbott are two of the best in their events in the conference and have four All-Big Sky indoor and outdoor finishes between them, so when they come through with lifetime bests it's a GoGriz.com rule that it leads the recap.
Kosovich went 12-9.5 to win the pole vault and Abbott went 5-7.75 to win the high jump. Kosovich's mark moves her up to No. 3 on the Big Sky performance list, Abbott into a three-way tie for first.
Two of Montana's new qualifiers came in the women's 400 meters, where juniors Melissa Jenkins and Brittany Schroeder join junior Kourtney Danreuther, who leads the Big Sky in the event, as qualifiers.
Jenkins ran an altitude-adjusted 56.77, Schroeder a 57.44. Jenkins' time puts her No. 6 in the Big Sky and should give next weekend's event a Treasure State feel. Five of the Big Sky's top six quarter-milers are from Montana and Montana State.
Junior Anika Green, who ranks sixth in the Big Sky in the 60-meter hurdles, added her first indoor qualification in the sprints. She won the 55 meters in an altitude-adjusted time of 7.28 to finish right on the qualifying standard.
As could have been predicted given her season-long ascent up the Big Sky performance list and descent down the two-minute time ladder, freshman Ani Haas became an automatic qualifier in the 800 meters.
Her times this season entering Friday's meet: 2:25, 2:20 and 2:17. Friday she ran a stunning altitude-adjusted 2:14.05 to finish third and open the question: With this kind of improvement, what's possible during the outdoor season?
Redshirt freshman Keli Dennehy produced a top-five time in the Big Sky in the mile with a winning and altitude-adjusted effort of 4:56.49. It took nearly four seconds off her previous best time in the event.
In other women's news, senior Jessica Leslie went over 18 feet for the first time this season and won the long jump (18-0.25), junior Lindsey Hall won the triple jump (38-5.5), and senior Nicole Ennen placed third in the weight throw (51-9) with a career-best performance of more than two feet.
After a slow start to the season, the Griz men's team, which won't be the factor next weekend that the women's team will be, is starting to show more of the promise that program director Brian Schweyen believes will make the team a pleasant surprise by the end of the outdoor season.
The best news Friday from a Big Sky meet point-scoring perspective was that sophomore Kaleb Horlick improved his season best in the pole vault from 15-5 to 16-0.75, which matches his career best from last spring.
He finished third, but more importantly it gives Montana -- Horlick, along with junior Keith Webber -- two of the Big Sky's five athletes who have reached 16 feet this season.
Adding their names to Montana's list of qualifiers were two seniors and a pair of true freshmen.
Senior Donny Lisowski, competing for just the second time this season, finished second to senior teammate Don Danns and qualified in the 55 meters with an altitude-adjusted time of 6.52.
Senior Christian Segota won the triple jump with a season-best distance of 46-2. That moves him from No. 9 to No. 4 in the Big Sky.
Willis's ascent has mirrored Haas's in the 800. The last four weeks he's gone 4:25, 4:18, 4:14 and Friday an altitude-adjusted 4:10.65 to move into the top eight in the Big Sky.
Freshman Lee Hardt, who has a season best of 6-11, joined Danns and Segota as Montana's event winners Friday with an effort of 6-10.25 in the high jump.
Next week's Big Sky Conference indoor championships will open Friday morning at NAU's Walkup Skydome with the men's heptathlon and women's pentathlon.
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