First-time winners claim Montana Invitational titles

Keli Dennehy was fourth in a time of 18:05

Keli Dennehy was fourth in a time of 18:05

Sept. 30, 2011

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Men's results Get Acrobat Reader

Montana senior Lynn Reynolds won the men's eight-kilometer race and Montana State senior Heather Haug won the women's five-kilometer race Friday morning at the Montana Invitational at the UM Golf Course. Reynolds and Haug both won cross country races for the first time in their collegiate careers.

Montana State had four runners in the top nine and won the men's race with 38 points. Gonzaga had 10 of the top 20 runners overall in a surprising performance, but the Bulldogs couldn't match the Bobcats' numbers at the top of the standings and finished second with 49 points.

Montana had Reynolds' victory, but the Grizzlies did not place any other runner in the top 20 and finished third with 77 points.

The men's individual race came down to Reynolds and Lyle Weese, 10 years different in age but sharing a common bond of growing up in the Wayside Acres trailer park in Dillon.

Weese, a former Montana State runner who now coaches the Bobcats' distance runners, was competing Friday unattached.

Reynolds, who was 20 meters back for much of the race, started closing on Weese in the final mile and took advantage of his knowledge of the course to cut the gap even more.

"When we got to 800 meters to go, there is kind of a tricky corner where you're going through a bunch of trees," Reynolds said.

"Lyle made a mistake and went around some trees when he should have cut inside of them. He noticed it too late, and that allowed me to close the gap a little more.

"I'm pretty sure I would have caught him anyways, but that was a big blow to his mental state, and it definitely helped me out."

The pair came into sight of the finish line shoulder to shoulder, and Reynolds pulled away in just the final 50 meters to claim his first collegiate cross country title.

When asked what was on his mind over the final 200 meters, with the finish line and his first victory in sight and Weese at his side, Reynolds said, "I wasn't thinking, I've got this in the bag. It was more, Work your (butt) off and hope it turns out for you this time.

"And it did. It's definitely a big confidence boost."

Reynolds finished in 24:44, Weese 24:46. Montana State's Jacob Kirk (25:20) and Seth Grossman (25:24) finished third and fourth. Eastern Washington's Graham Vaux (25:35) came in fifth.

Montana had hoped to get its Nos. 2 through 5 runners closer to Reynolds, but his gap on his teammates stayed more than a minute and a half.

Junior Max Hardy was the Grizzlies' next finisher, coming in 21st in 26:18. Sophomore Connor Williams (26:19) finished 22nd, freshman Sam Willis (26:24) 24th and freshman David Norris (26:38) 28th.

Montana State's women's team performance was the story of the day. Picked sixth in the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches' poll, well behind first-place Weber State and second-place Montana, the Bobcats put four in the top 10 Friday to pull off a surprising victory over the Grizzlies, who struggled on their home course.

Four weeks out from the Big Sky Conference championship, which will be run at Pocatello, Idaho, on Oct. 29, Haug saw her team's performance as a big stepping stone toward upsetting the standings at that meet.

"We're really excited as a team coming out of this meet," she said. "Knowing we were able to beat the Griz and also Eastern Washington is going to give us a lot of confidence.

"We're really excited, especially with four of us in the top 10."

Haug, a mile (indoor) and 1,500 meters (outdoor) Big Sky Conference champion, was in a lead group that included Gonzaga's Lindsey Drake, Sue Huse, who was competing unattached, Montana's Keli Dennehy and Lauren Bergam, who was competing unattached for Gonzaga.

Haug pulled away over the final few hundred meters to finish in 17:46, three seconds ahead of Drake and 13 seconds ahead of Huse.

"It was brutal and tough to hang on, but it was good," Haug said. "I wasn't really expecting to win.

"I tried to think of my team out there. I told myself that they are working hard too, so I'd better step it up for them so that they have something to look up to.

"I'm really excited. Normally I have it in my head that I'm a miler, so when I can win a 5k, it adds to my confidence for other meets."

Montana was expecting to place its top five in the top 10 overall, but only Dennehy and freshman Carly Wilczynski made it.

Dennehy was fourth in 18:05, Wilczynski finished ninth in 18:24.

Freshman Ani Haas (18:43), running in her first cross country race, was 11th, freshman Allie Parks (18:54) was 15th, and senior Kesslee Payne (19:11) was 17th.

Montana next will compete at the Inland Northwest Challenge at Spokane, Wash., Friday, Oct. 14.



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