Bobcats win twice but Grizzlies closing the gap
Oct. 4, 2013
Montana State won both the women's six-kilometer and men's eight-kilometer cross country races Friday morning at the Montana Open at the UM Golf Course in Missoula and had the individual winners as well in Heather Demorest and Trevor Polson.
Montana was second in both races, as was expected given the Bobcats defeated the Grizzlies just two weeks earlier at the Montana State Open in Bozeman. But what had first-year coach Collin Fehr fired up after the race was how his and coach Vicky Pounds' teams are starting to close the gap.
"MSU is a pretty good gauge for us, because they are one of the top teams in the conference," Fehr said. "We knew we probably wouldn't be that close to them at Bozeman, but by the time we got to this race we wanted to be a lot closer.
"Today is exactly what we wanted and what we expected. We're closer and were much more competitive with them. The plan is to keep moving in that direction and be even more competitive with them at conference."
In the women's race, junior Allie Parks had a 55-second six-kilometer PR and finished third overall. She was the Grizzlies' top runner for the fourth time in her career.
Demorest ran away from the field and won the race in a time of 21:10. MSU's Rachel Atwood was second in 21:54, Parks was third in 22:01.
Parks was Montana's sixth-place finisher at the season-opening race at Carroll and the Grizzlies' No. 5 runner at Montana State two weeks ago. Yet ...
"That was totally expected from Allie based on what she did Tuesday when we previewed the course," Fehr said. "Her fitness has improved each week, and she's a great racer.
"She's incredible to watch race, because she's so strong-willed. Today her fitness caught up with that will power, and she had a great race."
Montana was without redshirt junior Keli Dennehy, arguably the Grizzlies' top runner who is out with a minor calf injury, but they still put three runners in the top eight.
Freshman Reagan Colyer was sixth (22:24), redshirt freshman Sarah Hastings was eighth (22:29).
Junior Carly Wilczynski was questionable leading up to the race because of a recent illness, but she competed and came in 19th in a time of 23:12, just 16 seconds off her PR.
"Carly was really impressive today because she's been sick," Fehr said. "The fact that she gutted it out and still raced as well as she did says a lot about her mental strength."
In the men's race, Montana State claimed the top four places and had six in the top nine. But that doesn't mean the Bobcats dictated the race.
Griz freshman Paden Alexander led the race for the opening 2.5 miles, and he had sophomore Matt Barker right with him.
"Those two set the tone for everybody else in the race," Fehr said. "They made it an honest race.
"If we didn't have Paden go out there and push like that, MSU could have sat back and let the race evolve, and it would have been a lot slower. But those two guys really made it an honest race."
Barker was Montana's top finisher, coming in 10th overall in a time of 26:03. It was a 3-second PR, which sounds modest, but his previous PR came on a totally flat course at the Inland Empire Classic in Spokane last fall, and Fehr had Friday's course measured at 8.12 kilometers.
"One of Matt's goals at the beginning of the season was to visualize himself as one of the top runners, not just an okay runner who hangs on," Fehr said. "He wants to see himself as one of those top runners, and today he did it."
Redshirt freshman Adam Wollant came in 11th in 26:04, and Alexander held on to finish 13th in a time of 26:12.
"Paden's from St. Ignatius, so he had a whole bunch of support from people who came down to watch him," Fehr said. "I think he got pretty excited about that and felt really good.
"And he didn't fall apart. He has the ability to maintain that early pace if we can keep improving his fitness level."
Redshirt freshman Cody Curtis ran a 26:31 to finish 15th, and redshirt sophomore Mark Messmer came in 21st in a time of 26:54. It was nearly a minute off Messmer's eight-kilometer PR, but there are days when even that can be a victory.
"Mark was a little bit off today," Fehr said. "He didn't quite have it physically, but mentally he pushed through it even though his body wasn't giving him everything it had. I think he came out with a mental victory today with that."
Montana will have one final race before the Big Sky Conference championships when the Grizzlies compete in two weeks at the Santa Clara Invitational. The Big Sky meet will be held on Saturday, Nov. 2, in Bozeman.
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