Allie Parks was 12th at her first Big Sky championships
Oct. 29, 2011
Senior Lynn Reynolds ran to his third straight top-five finish and the Montana men's cross country team placed fourth Saturday at the Big Sky Conference championships at Pocatello, Idaho. Reynolds finished a career-best fourth, improving upon his fifth-place finishes as a sophomore and junior.
The Montana women, the defending champions, were expected to challenge for a top-three spot, but the Grizzlies placed just one runner in the top 20 and finished fifth.
Northern Arizona, behind individual champion Diego Estrada, won its fifth straight team title, a Big Sky Conference record.
Weber State won its first women's championship since 2006 and its fifth overall. WSU's Amber Henry ran her way to the individual title.
A year after finishing eighth, the Montana men sliced 71 points off their team total and jumped up to fourth.
Reynolds, who covered the eight-kilometer course in 24:52, was as steady as ever, and his four scoring teammates all came in within the top 35.
"It was a good day for the guys. They really worked hard on a tough course," UM coach Courtney Babcock said.
"It wasn't a great day, because we thought we could have challenged Montana State for third, but we had a couple of guys really step up the last kilometer to make sure we held off Sacramento State."
Northern Arizona placed its top five runners in the top 11 overall to win the team title with 26 points. Weber State was second with 42 points, followed by the Bobcats with 86 and Montana with 122.
Sacramento State rounded out the top five with 131 points.
Estrada, who ran a 24:15, and Jordan Chipangama, who crossed the line in 24:38, gave the Lumberjacks a 1-2 finish.
Weber State's Brett Hales was third in 24:44. He was followed by Reynolds and NAU's Tim Feriks, who was five seconds back of Reynolds in 24:57.
Reynolds was among some of the nation's best runners by finishing among the top four. Estrada, Chipangama and Hales have all been all-Americans.
Estrada was 16th at the NCAA cross country championships in 2010, Chipangama was fifth at the 2009 national meet, and Hales was fifth in the steeplechase last June at the NCAA outdoor championships.
"Lynn was second at one point and showed again that he can compete with some of the best runners in the country," Babcock said.
"This should be good motivation for regionals in two weeks."
Despite losing four seniors from last year's championship squad, Babcock was hoping her team could remain among the Big Sky's elite once again.
But only freshman Allie Parks, who was 12th with a five-kilometer time of 18:28, was among the top 20. Montana's next four scorers all placed between 24th and 31st.
"It was a rough day for the girls. We laid it all out there, and that's all you can do," Babcock said.
Sophomore Keli Dennehy, who was fourth at last fall's Big Sky meet and in the top six at Montana's first three meets this season, finished 24th Saturday in a time of 19:17.
The team's bright spot was Parks, who finished just five seconds out of the top 10, the cutoff for All-Big Sky Conference honors.
"Allie had a great day. For her to be up there as a freshman was really impressive," Babcock said.
"She is a real fighter when she races, and it's fun to watch. She's not always up there in practice, but she is able to put it all out there when she races."
Weber State's Amber Henry ran a 17:30 to win the women's title by a comfortable margin.
Idaho State's Bradi Hutchison was second (17:43), Northern Arizona's Kortnee Burton third (17:46), Montana State's Heather Haug fourth (17:52) and WSU's Sarah Callister fifth (17:56).
Weber State scored 40 points in winning the team title. Idaho State scored 50, Northern Arizona 82, Montana State 89 and the Grizzlies 116.
The NCAA Mountain Regional will be held Saturday, Nov. 12, at Orem, Utah.
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