March 29, 2014
Despite starting the day in chilly, wet conditions, the Montana track and field teams opened their 2014 outdoor season in impressive fashion Saturday at the Al Manuel Invitational at Dornblaser Field in Missoula.
The Grizzlies won three of four duals against Montana State and Eastern Washington and picked up 11 Big Sky Conference qualifications from nine athletes in 10 events on the women's team and nine qualifications from nine athletes in five events on the men's team.
All on a day that started out in the miserable category and never improved beyond manageable.
"Considering the conditions, I think today went pretty well," said UM coach Brian Schweyen. "When we started off this morning, it was cold and wet and tough for anyone. But as the weather got better, I think some of our performances got better.
"There wasn't anything that really jumps out and was fantastic, but at the same time, there were a lot of really good performances."
The Montana women won nine of 19 events and easily swept both the Bobcats (115-80) and Eagles (122-69). The Griz men won four events. They defeated EWU (122-57) and fell to MSU (111-91).
Montana's standout performances Saturday were spread out nicely, from the hurdles to the distance events on the track, from the jumps to the throws on the field.
Redshirt senior Lindsey Hall, who is coming off a fantastic indoor season and is embarking upon her final season of eligibility, had three of the 11 Big Sky qualifications for the UM women's team.
She was dominant in both the 100-meter hurdles (14.31) and long jump (18-7.75), finished second in the high jump (5-5) and came within two feet of adding a fourth qualification in the javelin, an event held during the morning's worst weather.
Sophomore Stephanie Wells and junior Allie Parks both disregarded the early rain and posted their own qualifying performances. Wells won the javelin at 135-9, and Parks ran an altitude-adjusted 10:57.25 to place fourth in the steeplechase, the day's first running event.
The Montana women's team is coming off a third-place finish at the Big Sky indoor championships, and because of its fifth-year seniors is a threat to win a title at the outdoor meet at Flagstaff, Ariz., in mid-May.
Providing the thunder to Hall's lightning is fifth-year senior Kourtney Danreuther, who opened her day anchoring the Grizzlies to a victory in the 4x100-meter relay, then added wins in both the 200 meters (25.37) and 400-meter hurdles (1:00.04).
Danreuther's hurdles time was her fastest season-opening clocking in the event of her career, a good sign considering her 2011 and 2013 outdoor seasons ended with her competing in the 400 hurdles at regionals.
"That's as smooth as she's ever gone over the hurdles, so that was exciting to see," Schweyen said. "She is putting more time into that event and is really starting to like it."
Two of the men's team's Big Sky qualifications came from the same event, and redshirt junior Drew Owens had the same type of start to his season as Danreuther.
Owens, who redshirted the 2013 outdoor season, ran a 53.08 to win the 400 hurdles. It was more than half a second faster than he's opened in the event in his career, and he made regionals in the hurdles in both 2011 and 2012.
Coming in close behind Owens was sophomore Dylan Reynolds in a qualifying time of 53.45.
The men's team had a pair of qualifiers in three different field events.
Junior Lee Hardt (6-8.75) and redshirt senior Austin Emry (6-6.75) went 1-2 in the high jump, redshirt senior Keith Webber (16-4.75) and senior Kaleb Horlick (15-5) went 1-3 in the pole vault, and senior Lukas Scherer (200-6) and freshman Jase Buche (187-0) went 2-6 in the javelin.
Junior Ben Williamson, who finished fourth in the 1,500 meters in an adjusted time of 3:51.40, was the Grizzlies' ninth Big Sky qualifier. Emry was the men's team's fourth event winner with a time of 14.98 in the 100-meter hurdles.
Sophomores Sammy Evans and Samantha Hodgson both won their events Saturday with qualifying performances. Evans, the Big Sky indoor champion, won the triple jump with a mark of 38-4. Hodgson won the discus at a distance of 154-5.
The other event winner for the Montana women was redshirt senior Anika Green (12.46) in the 100 meters.
Montana will compete next week at the Montana State Open in Bozeman.
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