Seven athletes make NCAA regional cut

May 17, 2012

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The Montana track and field teams will send seven athletes to Austin, Texas, next week for the NCAA West Regional. The NCAA released the final declaration lists Thursday morning of the 48 athletes who advanced in each event.

The Grizzlies will be represented by seniors Richard Brumbaugh in the javelin, Katrina Drennen in the 5,000 meters and Lynn Reynolds in the steeplechase, sophomores Kourtney Danreuther in the 400 meters, Austin Emry in both the high jump and long jump and Drew Owens in the 400-meter hurdles and freshman Allie Parks in the steeplechase.

The West Regional will be held next Thursday through Saturday at Texas's Mike A. Myers Stadium. The Grizzlies will have athletes competing all three days of the meet.

The most notable storyline out of this year's qualifiers is their collective experience competing at the region level. Only Parks will be making her first trip.

Drennen, who has advanced to nationals in cross country and both indoor and outdoor track, is making her fourth regional appearance, though her first in the 5,000 meters since 2009. She competed in the 1,500 meters in 2010 and 2011.

Brumbaugh and Reynolds are both making their third trip to regionals. Brumbaugh competed in the javelin in 2009 and 2010, Reynolds in the steeplechase in both 2008 and last spring.

The three sophomores advanced as freshmen as well. Emry, who redshirted last season, advanced in the high jump in 2010, and Danreuther and Owens both competed in the 400-meter hurdles last May at Eugene, Ore.

"Everyone who made it this year has been there before, except Allie, so this won't be a new thing for them," UM track and field program director Brian Schweyen said.

"Some of them barely got in, but it doesn't matter how you get there. What matters is what you do once you're there.

"I think we have kids who are going to be excited about getting down there and seeing what they can do."

Brumbaugh, Danreuther, Drennen, Emry (in the high jump) and Reynolds -- with performance-list rankings in the top 48 in their events -- were already regional locks before today's declaration lists were announced.

The others needed help, and both Owens and Parks got it by the slimmest of margins. Owens was sitting 53rd on the final region performance list but got the 48th and final spot in the hurdles due to either injuries to other athletes on the list in front of him or entry decisions made by other schools.

Parks was ranked 52nd on the final performance list and also moved up to the final 48th spot in the steeplechase. Emry moved up from 55th to 45th in the long jump to advance in a second event.

The two Montana athletes closest to advancing who did not make the cut were senior Nicole Ennen and freshman Lee Hardt.

Ennen, the Big Sky champion in the discus, was ranked 55th in that event prior to Thursday's declarations with her school-record throw of 159-7 at last weekend's Big Sky championships. The final distance to make the cut was 161-2.

Hardt was even closer. The final height to make the cut in the high jump was 6-11. Hardt -- along with eight others in the region -- had a season-best jump of 6-10.75.

Montana's Big Sky champion and record-setting 4x400-meter relay team of Danreuther, senior Melissa Jenkins and juniors Emily Eickholt and Brittany Schroeder was also close to advancing to one of the 24 spots available to relay teams.

The Grizzlies' altitude-adjusted time of 3:41.42 was within a second of Kansas State's cut-line time of 3:40.64.

After competing in the 1,500 meters the last two outdoor region meets, Drennen, who earlier this season broke the school record in the 5,000 meters with her time of 16:12.60 at the Stanford Invitational, will be returning to the distance she used to first advance to regionals back in 2009.

She finished 14th in the 5,000 that year at the Midwest Regional at Norman, Okla., in a time of 17:11.44 in an era when there were four regions and the top five finishers in each event from each region automatically advanced to nationals.

She ranks 13th in this year's field, the highest ranking of any of Montana's athletes traveling to Austin.

Drennen competed in the 1,500 in both 2010 and 2011 and moved on to nationals both times. She was an honorable mention All-American last spring, and her season-best time of 4:24.46 from the Mt. SAC Relays would have ranked her 33rd on this year's 1,500 meters entry list.

"Katrina has been in some big races this year and throughout her career, so I don't think there is anything that could surprise her at this point," Schweyen said.

Like Drennen, Danreuther could have been a two-event qualifier. Her season-best 400-meter hurdles time of 59.25 would have ranked 29th in that event, but Schweyen opted to enter Danreuther, who swept the 200 and 400 meters at last weekend's Big Sky meet, in the open quarter.

She ranks 17th with her altitude-adjusted time of 53.32 from last Saturday afternoon at Bozeman. Her raw time from that race -- 53.21 -- broke the Montana school record.

"Time will tell (if this is the right decision), but I think Kourtney is going to do great," Schweyen said. "I think she's very comfortable and excited about going down to race the 400. That's a zero-stress race for her, whereas in the hurdles a lot of things can happen.

"I think she can go in there, run a couple of smart races and get to nationals."

With only two regions -- East and West -- and the West Region encompassing every school west of a line that includes the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas, Danreuther will be competing in the deeper of the two regions when it comes to the 400 meters.

The West Region has both better top-level speed than the East Region and a deeper pool of sprinters. The top 13 on the West Region's start list have all gone faster than 53 seconds this spring.

"I think Kourtney will feed off that environment," Schweyen said. "I think she'll have more adrenaline stepping into the blocks than she had last week (at conference.) That will be a big benefit to her as long as she stays relaxed."

Reynolds, who sits 22nd in the steeplechase, and Emry, 29th in the high jump, both have higher rankings, but Schweyen first mentions Brumbaugh, who ranks 40th, when asked about which of the men have the best shot at making nationals. The NCAA championships will be held June 6-9 at Des Moines, Iowa.

Brumbaugh opened his season in late March at the Al Manuel Invitational with throws approaching 220 feet. They all landed just wide of the sector, and that was the last meet he's thrown without an injured left foot, a critical appendage for a right-handed thrower.

A semi-healthy Brumbaugh went a season-best 209-4 to finish third at last week's Big Sky championships, and his foot has only been getting stronger.

"This week Richard said his foot has felt as good as it's felt all year, and that is giving him a lot of confidence," Schweyen said. "Getting that block with your left foot is critical to your throw because that's how you get your transfer.

"All it is going to take for him to get to nationals is having confidence in his foot and hitting his positions. He has shown he can throw far enough to get to nationals, so it's not like he has to pull something out of a hat."

A more in-depth preview of the regional will be coming out early next week.



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