May 18, 2012
After finishing in the top three at all four Big Sky Conference indoor and outdoor championships in 2010 and 2011, the Montana women's track and field team slipped to fifth at February's indoor meet and sixth at last weekend's outdoor championships.
The stop the team's slide and get it back to finishing in the upper third of the Big Sky, program director Brian Schweyen knew he needed to bring in reinforcements. He started the process with the recent addition of 10 athletes who will be newcomers in the fall.
Signing National Letters of Intent since the start of the NCAA signing period in early February were Taylor Allen of Missoula; Lindsey Dahl of Auburn, Wash.; Shayle Dezellem of Spokane, Wash.; Samantha Evans of Havre, Mont.; Amanda Foley of Whitefish, Mont.; Samantha Hodgson of Billings, Mont.; and Bailee Jacka of Deer Park, Wash.
Shannon DeBacker of Bellingham, Wash.; Cassidy Koski of Gillette, Wyo.; and Jordyn Vaile of Cut Bank, Mont., have all been accepted to the University and will also join the program in the fall as nonscholarship athletes for their first year in the program.
"Our women's team was good for quite a while but now, even though we had some key redshirts and injuries this year, it feels like we're down just a touch, so we wanted to deepen our pool of talent," he said.
"We think we've added some quality kids in some areas that we really needed to address. We needed to beef up our throws, and we've got a lot of good throwers coming in. And I think the multi-event girls we're bringing in could be pretty darn good, too."
Taylor Allen, a senior at Hellgate High, and Bailee Jacka, a senior at Deer Park High, are both pole vaulters and defending state champions in Montana and Washington.
Allen won the Class AA state title last spring with a vault of 11-0. It was a mark she hit three times in 2011 and the best mark in the state all season among all classes.
Jacka, who also competes in the jumps and sprint relays for the Stags, won the Washington Class 2A title last spring at a height of 10-9. She went 11-7 last season and has a best this spring of 11-3.
Shayle DeZellem, a transfer from Spokane Community College, and Lindsey Dahl, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High, will give Montana a pair of multi-event athletes to join Lindsey Hall, the Big Sky Conference's top pentathlete/heptathlete.
DeZellem, who will be a junior in 2012-13, recently won her second straight Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges heptathlon title. The ¬¬Shadle Park High graduate scored 4,532 points at the 2012 NWAACC multi-events championships, a total that would have ranked eighth at the recent Big Sky Conference championships.
Dahl is a standout in the javelin who also has a bright multi-events future. She went 141-3 in the javelin as a junior and placed fifth in the heptathlon at the Washington multi-events championship last spring with 4,151 points.
At last May's Class 4A state meet, Dahl placed third in the javelin and eighth in the triple jump and also competed in the preliminaries of the 300-meter hurdles.
Montana's other three signees are in-state products who will contribute in the sprints, jumps and throws.
Amanda Foley, a senior at Whitefish High, is the state's top-ranked athlete in the 100 meters with her season-best time of 12.51. She also has season-best times of 26.54 in the 200 meters and 60.13 in the 400.
Foley placed third in the 100 meters at last year's Class A state meet and fourth in both the 200 and 400 meters.
Samantha Evans, a senior at Havre High, is one of the state's better all-around jumpers. She has season bests of 5-2 in the high jump, 16-9.5 in the long jump and 35-4 in the triple jump.
Evans went 5-4 in the high jump as a junior and 36-4 in the triple jump.
Hodgson, a senior at Billings West High, is the top prep thrower in the state. She currently ranks first on the state performance list in both the shot put (41-4.5) and discus (140-7).
Hodgson finished second in the shot put at the 2011 Class AA state meet and third in the discus.
Two of Montana's nonscholarship athletes will also add to the Grizzlies' depth in the throws.
Cassidy Koski, a senior at Campbell County High, won the shot put at a distance of 39-2.5 at last weekend's Wyoming Class 4A East Region meet.
Jordyn Vaile, a senior at Cut Bank High, ranks one spot behind Hodgson on the state list in the shot put at 39-9 and has a season-best discus throw of 120-5.
At the 2011 Class B state meet Vaile finished third in the discus and fourth in the shot put for the second-place Wolves.
DeBacker, a senior at Sehome High, will compete for Montana in the jumps. She has prep bests of 17-11 in the long jump and 34-10.25 in the triple jump.
DeBacker was a member of Sehome's 4x200 relay that set a new meet record at last year's Class 2A state championship. She also finished fifth in the long jump.
Schweyen expects to announce another round of newcomers later in the summer.
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