Griz men close gap, have breakout meet

Allie Parks was seventh overall Friday

Allie Parks was seventh overall Friday

Oct. 15, 2011

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The Montana men's cross country team had its best performance in over two years, and the Griz women knocked off Washington State and took second at Friday's Inland Northwest Classic at Spokane, Wash.

Senior Lynn Reynolds paced the men's team, finishing seventh overall on the eight-kilometer course in a time of 24:33.

Sophomore Keli Dennehy led the women, which had four in the top 11, with a sixth-place finish in 17:24 over the five-kilometer course.

After a year and a half of races with Reynolds finishing well ahead of any of his teammates, Friday his teammates stepped up and closed the gap.

Sophomore Jordan Collison, freshman David Norris, junior Max Hardy and freshman Sam Willis all finished in the top 34 in the nine-team race and all four finished within 61 seconds of Reynolds.

It's the kind of grouping that can produce a top-three finish at the Big Sky Conference championship, the team's goal for two weeks from Saturday when the Grizzlies compete at Pocatello, Idaho.

"The men had a much better race today. We had some guys step up and make that lead pack much tighter, and that's what we've been looking for," UM coach Courtney Babcock said.

"I think we should be right there once conference comes around."

Collison was 28th in 25:18, Norris 30th in 25:22, Hardy 31st in 25:26 and Willis 34th in 25:34.

The men's team placed fourth overall. No. 20 Washington State had four of the top five and six of the top nine to run away with the team title with 17 points.

Gonzaga, with 73 points, was second, Lewis-Clark State, with 93, was third. Montana scored 103 points.

Andrew Kimpel (24:00) and Jono Lafler (24:01) gave the Cougars a one-two finish. Kyle King of Eastern Washington, who was competing unattached, was third in a time of 24:09.

The Montana women had even better front-pack grouping, but theirs only went four deep.

Dennehy was followed by freshmen Allie Parks, Carly Wilczynski and Ani Haas. The foursome finished within nine seconds of one another.

Parks was seventh in 17:25, Wilczynski ninth in 17:27 and Haas 11th in 17:33.

Senior Kesslee Payne was next in 26th place in 18:38. Sophomore Annie Moore (29th, 18:45), junior Emily Eickholt (34th, 18:55) and freshman Autumn Taniguchi (35th, 18:59) followed.

Eickholt's time was an 80-second PR for a five-kilometer race.

"To beat Washington State was great, and to see our pack up front was really good. For the most part the girls had a great day," Babcock said.

"We'll get that number-five runner up there by conference."

Gonzaga's Lindsey Drake, who was second at the Montana Invitational two weekends ago, ran to the individual title in a time of 17:17. She edged out Madeline MacDonald, who was competing unattached for the University of Calgary, by one second.

Gonzaga used Montana's gap between its fourth and fifth runners to sneak away with the team title with 51 points. The Grizzlies had 54, Washington State 61.

The day's good weather and competition made for record-breaking times in both races. The top 14 finishers came in under the previous men's course record. The top 13 women also broke their course record.

"It was a good day all around for us," Babcock said. "It was a fast course, so it was good to get out and get some confidence going into conference."



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