Griz struggle at Big Sky cross country championships

Allie Parks led the Montana women with a 25th-place showing

Allie Parks led the Montana women with a 25th-place showing

Oct. 27, 2012

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The Montana men's cross country team placed sixth and the women finished 10th at the 11-team Big Sky Conference cross country championships Saturday at Flagstaff, Ariz. Neither team had an individual in the top 20.

The men's eight-kilometer race was first, and Northern Arizona wasted little time taking advantage of its home-course and home-elevation advantage. The Lumberjacks placed their top six, five of whom are underclassmen, in the top 12 overall to win with a score of 24 points.

It was NAU's sixth-straight Big Sky men's title and the Lumberjacks' 16th championship in the last 19 years.

Weber State (54) edged out Southern Utah (57) by three points to finish runner-up for the second consecutive year. Montana State (97) and Sacramento State (160) rounded out the top five.

Northern Arizona took the top three individual spots, with Brian Shrader (24:55), Matt McElroy (24:56) and Futsum Zienasellassie (24:56) all finishing within eight-tenths of a second of one another.

Redshirt freshman Mark Messmer led Montana for the first time this fall, finishing 22nd in a time of 26:16. He was the third freshman or redshirt freshman across the line. Unfortunately he was well clear of his teammates, and there was an 85-second gap between the Grizzlies' No. 1 and No. 5 runners.

Junior Jordan Collison was 31st in 26:44, freshman Matt Barker 35th in 26:51, junior Caleb Deitz 36th in 26:52 and sophomore David Norris 52nd in 27:41.

Weber State, which is ranked No. 16 in the nation, won as expected for the second straight year in the women's five-kilometer race, but the Wildcats were unexpectedly pushed by runner-up Southern Utah, which finished with 36 points to WSU's 29.

The Thunderbirds placed their top five in the top 11 overall, better than the Wildcats' top five in the top 14, but Weber State went 1-2-3 with Amber Henry winning her second straight individual title in a time of 16:59, Sarah Callister finishing second in 17:02 and Taylor Thornley taking third in 17:06.

No one else challenged the big two. Northern Arizona, which has gone without a championship the last three years after winning eight of the previous nine titles, was a distant third with 114 points. Idaho State (124) was fourth, Northern Colorado (167) fifth.

In a season defined by injuries, the Montana women's lack of depth showed up Saturday. Sophomores Allie Parks and Carly Wilczynski placed 25th and 33rd, but no other Grizzlies finished in the top 60.

Parks finished 12th in 2011 as a true freshman. She drifted back 13 spots in 2012, finishing with a time of 18:30. Wilczynski, who led Montana at its first four races, ran an 18:49.

The Grizzlies only raced five and all five counted for the team's score. Redshirt freshman Mariah Meyer was 61st in 19:58, sophomore Autumn Taniguchi 68th in 20:13 and senior Bobbi Furrer 77th in 21:28.

The lone team Montana beat was Eastern Washington.

Montana will next compete at the NCAA Mountain Regional on Friday, Nov. 9. The women's six-kilometer and men's 10-kilometer races will be held at the Collindale Golf Course in Fort Collins, Colo.



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