Griz earn No. 12 Mountain Region ranking

Paden Alexander was the men's team's No. 3 runner Saturday

Paden Alexander was the men's team's No. 3 runner Saturday

Sept. 23, 2013

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After defeating a pair of ranked teams and finishing fourth at the Montana State Open on Saturday at the Bridger Creek Golf Course in Bozeman, the Montana women's cross country team has earned its first USTFCCCA Mountain Region ranking of the season.

The Grizzlies enter the poll at No. 12 this week. They are one of five Big Sky Conference teams sitting in the top 12 in the region.

Running Saturday without injured redshirt junior Keli Dennehy, who won the Carroll Early Bird Open two weeks prior, Montana had just a 35-second split from its No. 1 to No. 5 finisher and placed its top six in the top 40 overall in a race that included more than 115 runners.

"I felt like it was a step in the right direction," said Vicky Pounds, one of UM's cross country coaches. "The plan was not to go out too hard and stay as a group as much as they could and run with confidence, and they executed it perfectly."

The Grizzlies dominated the small Carroll Early Bird Open on Sept. 6. Saturday they faced a bigger field and more challenging opponents.

"It was a much bigger race than Carroll, both in terms of numbers and level of competition, but I don't think it got to them in any way. Everybody performed better than they did at Carroll and did what they were supposed to do," Pounds added.

Freshman Reagan Colyer, who finished behind Dennehy and junior Carly Wilczynski at Carroll, had the breakout race Pounds hinted at last week. Colyer finished 12th overall, covering the three-mile course in a time of 17:59.

Wilczynski (18:06) was seven seconds back, and junior Heather Fraley (18:08), who was fifth on the team at Carroll, came in third, two seconds behind Wilczynski.

Redshirt freshman Sarah Hastings (18:25) was fourth, junior Allie Parks fifth (18:34).

"Reagan had a breakthrough race, and I believe she'll keep rolling," Pounds said.

Montana defeated both Utah Valley and Idaho State on Saturday, teams that were ranked 10th and 12th in last week's poll.

Colorado, New Mexico and BYU are atop this week's poll. They are followed by Big Sky Conference teams Weber State in fourth, Northern Arizona in fifth and Southern Utah in sixth.

Montana State was also unranked going into the weekend. After finishing second behind only Utah State at their home meet, the Bobcats jumped up to 10th in Monday's poll.

"I'd hate to put a limit on this group," Pounds said. "I think it they stay positive and healthy and get in the work, I see great things for them."

The Montana men's team finished fifth Saturday and remains unranked. Northern Arizona leads the Mountain Region, followed by Colorado and BYU. Three other Big Sky teams -- Montana State at No. 8, Weber State at No. 9 and Southern Utah at No. 13 -- are in this week's poll.

Redshirt sophomore Mark Messmer led Montana on Saturday, running the five-mile course in a time of 26:08, a 13-second improvement over his time on the same course from 2012.

He finished 26 seconds ahead of his nearest teammate and less than a minute off the winning time of Montana State's Cristian Soratos, who ran a 25:09 to win the race by six seconds.

"Mark has a tendency to compare himself to other runners he's competing against -- Well, I should be there because so-and-so is there -- and we're trying to get him to focus on himself and the race he needs to run and what's best for him," Pounds said.

"He did that Saturday. He didn't get caught up in going out too fast, and that allowed him to look great the second half of the race."

Redshirt freshman Adam Wollant, who won the Carroll meet, was Montana's No. 2 runner, coming in 26th overall in a time of 26:34.

Freshman Paden Alexander (26:41) was third, sophomore Matt Barker (26:56) fourth and redshirt freshman Cody Curtis (27:14) fifth.

"Again, it was a step in the right direction in terms of really listening to the race plan and executing it," Pounds said.

"We have a few runners who are on the cusp of having a breakthrough race, and I think we'll have that later in the season. That's when we want them to compete with the best."

The Grizzlies will be back in action when they host the Montana Invitational at the UM Golf Course on Friday morning, Oct. 4.



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