May 11, 2012
Montana senior Nicole Ennen, who finished third as a sophomore and second as a junior, won her first Big Sky Conference championship Friday afternoon when she won the discus at the league's outdoor track and field championships at Bozeman, Mont.
Ennen's victory produced 10 of Montana's 21 points that has the Grizzlies sitting in fifth place with one day of the championships remaining.
The Montana men are in sixth place with 28 points.
Ennen entered the championships with the Big Sky's top discus throw of 155-1. She went a career-best 159-7 Friday with one of her early preliminary throws, and it held up through finals. It also improved her school record by more than four feet.
"Nicole is probably the one I would have put money on today, just looking back at what she did at her last two conference championships," UM coach Brian Schweyen said.
"She came in today and did what she does at every conference meet: she threw her best. She has just been relentless with the time she has put into her event, and that commitment paid off today. That was a well-earned championship."
Junior Kiandra Rajala matched Ennen, not in placing but in breaking her own school record. Rajala put 29 inches on her previous best hammer throw and finished fifth in the event at 176-5.
Montana's other points came from a senior and a freshmen, both in season-best performances.
Senior Jessica Leslie ranked 10th in the long jump going in and hadn't gone over 18 feet this season, but she went 18-3 to sneak up to seventh place in the standings, making her a point-scorer at all four of her career outdoor championships.
While Leslie is wrapping up her career, freshman Allie Parks is just getting started. She took 14 seconds off her season best in the steeplechase and ran to a fourth-place time of 10:52.90.
The Montana men had six point-scoring performances Friday in five of the events that were contested as finals.
Senior Richard Brumbaugh, who was throwing on a bad left foot after aggravating a previous injury in warm-ups, highlighted the day for the men with a third-place finish in the javelin. It was the third time in his career finishing third in the javelin at the Big Sky meet, and his season-best throw of 209-4 gives him an outside shot of advancing to the NCAA West Regional in two weeks for the third time in his career.
Sophomore Justin Meyer also scored in the javelin, throwing a season-best 186-11 to finish fifth.
Senior Lynn Reynolds, who ranked No. 1 going in, finished fifth in the steeplechase in a time of 9:16.35. His performance was matched by freshman Lee Hardt, who placed fifth in the high jump at 6-6.75.
Sophomore Austin Emry, who scored six points Wednesday and Thursday with a third-place finish in the decathlon, finished sixth in the long jump Friday at a distance of 22-9.75, and freshman Brandon Forson began what will likely be a high-scoring throws career with an eighth-place finish in the shot put.
While there were a number of finals Friday, there were also six preliminary running races that fed the top eight athletes in each event into Saturday's finals.
Headlining those performances was sophomore Kourtney Danreuther, who moved on in both the 200 and 400 meters.
Danreuther ranks first in the Big Sky Conference in the 400-meter hurdles and will be a regional qualifier in the event, but Schweyen opted to enter Danreuther in the 200 and 400 meters this weekend instead to maximize her point production.
It looks like a wise move. Danreuther won her heat and placed second overall in the 400 meters in a time of 54.97, and she finished third in her heat and fifth overall in the 200 meters in a time of 24.40 that took three-tenths of a second off her career best.
When asked about his decision to move Danreuther from the hurdles to the sprints, Schweyen said, "I think any decision with Kourtney is the right decision, because she'll always make you look smart.
"She is the competitor on this squad, and she flat out does not like to lose. She's driven with something that few people are driven with. That's what makes her so special."
Montana has three other athletes moving on, including junior Anika Green, who is rapidly turning into one of the Big Sky's best hurdlers.
Green took another tenth of a second off her PR in the 100-meter hurdles. She finished second in her heat and third overall in a time of 14.01.
"You look at the chunks of time Anika has taken off in her hurdles the last few weeks, and it just goes to show what confidence and belief can do," Schweyen said.
"She now believes she can compete with anybody in this conference, that she can beat anybody in this conference."
Senior Melissa Jenkins had her second PR in eight days with a time of 55.40 in the 400 meters. She placed second in her heat and fifth overall and will race for the podium Saturday.
And freshman Autumn Taniguchi was a surprise qualifier in the 400-meter hurdles. A month ago Taniguchi had never run the 400-meter hurdles. Saturday she will score for the Grizzlies after posting Friday's seventh-fastest time of 1:04.98.
The Montana men advanced three athletes out of the preliminaries.
Sophomore Drew Owens, who finished second as a freshman, was second in his heat and third overall in the 400-meter hurdles in a season-best time of 52.99.
Senior Max Hardy advanced in the 800 meters with a season-best time of 1:54.11, and freshman Andrew Monaco continued his season-long improvement in the 400 meters. He finished eighth and broke 49 seconds for the first time, crossing the line in 48.97.
Saturday will be moving day for all nine teams. Eight field events and both relays will be contested, and there will be eight running event finals.
Leading the team standings on the men's side is Montana State with 80 points. The Bobcats are followed by Idaho State in second with 52 points and pre-championships favorite Northern Arizona in third with 48.5.
Favored Sacramento State holds the early women's lead with 63 points. Weber State, with 45 points, is second, Northern Arizona, with 44, is third.
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