Griz prep for Big Sky meet at Spokane Friday


Carly Wilczynski has been top 10 at Montana's first two races this fall

Carly Wilczynski has been top 10 at Montana's first two races this fall

Oct. 12, 2011

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The University of Montana cross country teams will compete for the final time prior to the Big Sky Conference championships Friday afternoon when the Grizzlies race at the Inland Northwest Classic at Spokane, Wash.

The race is being held at Spokane Falls Community College and is being hosted by the Community Colleges of Spokane.

The women's five-kilometer race starts at 5 p.m. (MT). The men's eight-kilometer race begins at 5:45 p.m. (MT).

The presence of Washington State, among others, gives the race plenty of cachet. The WSU men are ranked No. 20 nationally.

Montana will be represented by nine men and nine women. Four athletes who are redshirting this year will also compete unattached.

What the teams have been working on since Sept. 30: The Griz women finished second to Montana State at the Montana Invitational, held at the UM Golf Course on Sept. 30, and the men were third behind MSU and Gonzaga.

Most of the teams' losses in the final standings at that race came over the final mile.

"After our home meet I'm trying to stress that we train for the last mile, not the first mile," UM coach Courtney Babcock said.

"Our gap on both our men's and women's side was quite a bit bigger at the finish than it was with a mile to go. So we're really focusing on that part of our workouts and that part of the race."

The last time out: In the men's race at the Montana Invitational, senior Lynn Reynolds won his first collegiate race, covering the eight kilometers in 24:44. No other Montana runners cracked the top 20.

Junior Max Hardy (21st, 26:18), sophomore Connor Williams (22nd, 26:19), freshman Sam Willis (24th, 26:24) and freshman David Norris (28th, 26:38) rounded out the team's top five.

The women's team had two in the top 10 and placed its top five in the top 17 overall.

Sophomore Keli Dennehy was fourth in 18:05. She was followed by freshman Carly Wilczynski in ninth (18:24), redshirt freshman Ani Haas in 11th (18:43), freshman Allie Parks in 15th (18:54) and senior Kesslee Payne in 17th (19:11).

Yet to come: Montana will compete at the Big Sky Conference championships Saturday, Oct. 29, at Pocatello, Idaho. The women's five-kilometer race will start at 10 a.m., the men's eight-kilometer race at 11 a.m. Both races will be run on the Centennial Course.

The Grizzlies will compete at the NCAA Mountain Region championships Saturday, Nov. 12. Those races will be held at the Cascade Golf Center in Orem, Utah.

Haas makes splashy debut: First-year runner Ani Hass, a redshirt freshmen in eligibility status, raced for the first time Sept. 30 at the Montana Invitational. Not for the first time this fall or the first time in her collegiate career, but ever on a cross country course.

Haas, a Missoula native, is a 2005 graduate of the Winter Sports School in Park City, Utah, and was a former member of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team.

She was a student at Montana last year and this year is competing in cross country and indoor and outdoor track.

When asked how she is enjoying her cross country experience, Haas doesn't hesitate to say, "Loving it!

"If just feels really good to be competitive again. I really like the intensity of the workouts and the girls. I feel like I've really found some friends that I'm going to have for the rest of my life.

"That's what I'm most grateful for."

Haas finished 11th at the Montana Invitational.

"It was really fun," she says. "It was a good day and really good to be with the team. We've been training so hard, so to finally be able to race really kind of validated all the hard work we've been putting in.

"The only goal I had that day was to keep Keli (Dennehy) and Carly (Wilczynski) in sight. Just try to stay as close to them as I could, just like I do in practice."

"Ani did great, because from her background she's a competitor," Babcock said. "This whole thing is a learning process for her, so it's amazing how well she's doing.

"Right now she is just learning how to run a race. How to stay in control for the first half, then push more the second half, or whatever it is that is going to work for her. We'll kind of learn that as we go.

Can Lynn Reynolds make nationals? Montana has not had a men's athlete qualify as an individual for the NCAA championships since Antony Ford advanced in 2003.

Babcock and senior Lynn Reynolds, who has placed fifth at the last two Big Sky championships, both think it's doable for Reynolds when Montana competes at regionals in early November.

Needing to crack the top 25 at regionals is the first mandatory step, before any other factors come into play. Reynolds was 39th last November at Salt Lake City, 40th in 2009 at Albuquerque.

Reynolds says this fall he has two things going for him: A summer of injuries and a stronger team around him.

"Just the team being what it is makes everything completely different (this fall)," he said. "Last year the team wasn't as good, for lack of a better term.

"It seems like this year in practice there is always somebody there - and it's a different person every day - pushing me to make me stronger."

A summer spent sidelined may also come back to actually help Reynolds, who had a huge base to fall back on when he started running again one week before the team started training in late August.

That late start has him feeling fresher than he ever has in mid-October.

"I don't necessarily feel stronger, but I probably have fresher legs at this point of the season because (of the time off). I'm not quite as worn down.

"Maybe that's the difference, but I definitely feel like I could run a lot faster race than I could have at this time last year."

 

 

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