Nov. 13, 2013
The Montana cross country teams will conclude their 2013 season Friday when the Grizzlies compete at the NCAA Mountain Regional at Schneiter's Riverside Golf Course at Riverdale, Utah.
The men's 10-kilometer race will start at noon, the women's six-kilometer race will begin at 1:15 p.m.
The Montana women, who finished sixth at the Big Sky Conference championships two weeks ago, will start the same seven who ran at Bozeman: juniors Keli Dennehy, Heather Fraley, Allie Parks and Carly Wilczynski and freshmen Reagan Colyer, Sarah Hastings and Lauryn Wate.
The men, who were ninth at conference, will be represented by junior Ben Williamson, sophomores Matt Barker and Mark Messmer and freshmen Paden Alexander, Cody Curtis, Micah Drew and Adam Wollant. Sophomore Reid Longley will make the trip as an alternate.
The top teams in the region will be racing for automatic spots to the NCAA championship, which will be held Saturday, Nov. 23, at Terre Haute, Ind. The Grizzlies, who are under first-year coaches Vicky Pounds and Collin Fehr, have more modest pre-race goals.
"I would be happy if we walked away and everybody had given it their all and raced to the best of their abilities on that given day. That would be success," Pounds said.
Over time, the team's definition of success will change to something more results-based.
"Whether it's cross country or track and field, the whole idea is to get to nationals," Pounds said. "That's not the focus for us this year. It's going to take us a few years to get there, but that's the goal."
Montana enters the women's race ranked No. 13 in the region. The top five are New Mexico (No. 8 nationally), Colorado (No. 10 nationally), BYU, Weber State and Northern Arizona. WSU and NAU finished 1-2 at the Big Sky championship by a healthy margin over the rest of the conference.
Colyer, a true freshman who was 18th at the Big Sky championship, has finished as the Grizzlies' No. 1 runner the last two races and three of the last four. Hastings, a redshirt freshman, was fourth at the season's first two meets, then third, then second at the two most recent races.
"I feel like the women responded really well to the training this year," Pounds said. "They had a nice progression through the fall."
The men enter Friday's race ranked 15th in what is a stacked region. The top three teams, Colorado, Northern Arizona and BYU, are ranked first, second and fifth nationally. New Mexico, fourth in the region, is 11th nationally. Southern Utah is fifth in the region and 27th nationally.
Like the women, Montana's most consistent men's runners have been freshmen. Wollant, a redshirt freshman, has finished in the team's top two at all five fall races. Alexander, a true freshman, has been in the top three the last four races and led Montana at Santa Clara.
Montana's other runners have been less consistent in their results.
"Some of the men haven't responded to the training like we'd hoped, so we'll be making some adjustments, and hopefully we'll see better indoor and outdoor seasons from them," Pounds said.
The women's regional race is six kilometers, the same distance covered at both Montana's and Santa Clara's meets. The men will be racing 10 kilometers for the first time this fall.
"There will be a few of our guys, like Mark, Paden and Adam, who that will benefit," Pounds said. "For some of our mid-distance guys, like Ben and Cody, it's going to be a little harder for them."
Montana's indoor track and field season will begin in less than a month, when the Grizzlies travel to Eastern Washington for the two-day Candy Cane Invitational the first weekend of December.
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