MISSOULA — If school-record performances are an indicator of postseason readiness, consider the Montana track and field teams ready for the Big Sky Conference championships.
Three school records — two on the track, one in the throws — fell Friday and Saturday at the Montana Open at Dornblaser Field, as the Grizzlies moved within two weeks of the Big Sky championships, which will be held May 14-17 at Flagstaff, Ariz.
“I think this performance actually started last week in Bozeman,” said UM coach Brian Schweyen. “That was our best meet of the year in the worst conditions. To do that, then have the weather we had this week, everyone had better practices and better moods, and it showed today.
“This was a fantastic meet. Moving forward we can’t help but be excited by what we did today and where we are.”
Junior Caitlin Caraway started the assault on the record book Friday afternoon when she went 190-4 to win the hammer throw by more than 30 feet. Her mark moves her into the top 35 on the NCAA West Region performance list and should make her a lock to advance to regionals later this month.
It was the second time this season Caraway has topped her own record after breaking Kiandra Rajala’s standard in early April.
The buzz surrounding Caraway’s performance remained until seniors Lindsey Hall and Kourtney Danreuther took down the Montana records in the hurdles early Saturday afternoon.
Hall, who had a previous PR of 13.70, crushed the 100-meter hurdles record of 13.69 that Suzanne Krings set in 2003 by running a 13.57.
Danreuther, who ran a 58.09, set a new record in the 400-meter hurdles, sneaking under the time of 58.10 run in 1989 by Kris Schmitt, one of the iconic names of Griz track history.
Hall moves into the top 30 on the NCAA West Region performance list, Danreuther into the top 10. But which one was more impressive?
“That’s a tossup,” answered Schweyen. “I’d say Lindsey’s just because of the chunk of time she took off the old record. But then again, Kourtney’s previous best was 58.92, so that was a huge chunk off her PR.
“I guess they were both impressive in their own way.”
The women, who were third at the Big Sky indoor championships, will be the stronger of Montana’s teams at Flagstaff, and they had the look of a championship contender Saturday, even without the records.
The Grizzlies won all but five of the individual events, had seven improvements upon previous Big Sky qualifications and likely took over the top spot on the league’s performance list in three events where Grizzlies didn’t hold the top spot entering the weekend.
Hall’s and Danreuther’s hurdles times should move both from second to first, and freshman Reagan Colyer, the Big Sky indoor champion, won the 800 meters Saturday in an altitude-adjusted time of 2:09.93 that vaults her from fifth to first.
Hall and sophomore Samantha Hodgson were both two-event winners Saturday. Hall added a victory in the long jump (18-9.25) to go along with her hurdles victory. She also finished second in the high jump at a height of 5-7. Hodgson won the shot put (45-9.25) and discus (154-4).
Junior Shayle Dezellem, who pulled the plug on a possible big PR in the heptathlon Friday to prepare for Saturday, showed she made a wise decision when she ran a 1:02.85 in the 400-meter hurdles. That was Montana’s lone new Big Sky qualifier on the women’s team.
Sophomore Lindsey Dahl had a nearly five-foot PR in the javelin, finishing second at 148-5, sophomore Sammy Evans broke 40 feet in the triple jump for the second straight weekend, winning at 40-0.75, and senior Gwenn Abbott, a Butte High graduate, broke out of a 5-5 funk in the high jump to win at 5-7.
Montana’s other track winners Saturday were senior Anika Green in the 100 meters (12.14), junior Heather Fraley in the 1,500 meters (adjusted 4:37.01) and sophomore Sarah Hastings in the 5,000 meters (adjusted 17:21.47).
The Montana men’s team does not have the range of talent the women’s team currently enjoys, but the Grizzlies have their areas and athletes of strength.
Senior Austin Emry and junior Lee Hardt are two of those headliners, and they both had important meets Saturday. Each posted a pair of victories.
Emry had a nearly two-foot season-best breakthrough in the long jump, winning at a distance of 23-9, and he broke out of his 6-6.75 rut in the high jump with a second-place performance of 6-8.75.
He also won the 110-meter hurdles in a season-best time of 14.44. He needed every thousandth of a second of his effort to hold off junior Jacob Leininger, who was credited with the same time, a career best.
Hardt, who has long been competing with a painful shin injury, went 7-0.25 to win the high jump. It was his first time clearing seven feet in more than a year. Hardt also become a Big Sky qualifier in the triple jump with a winning distance of 45-7.25.
Sophomore Cody Curtis was also a new Big Sky qualifier, in the 1,500 meters. He came from behind with a strong push in the final 250 meters to win in an altitude-adjusted time of 3:51.65.
Junior Drew Owens, the Big Sky leader in the event, finished second in the 400-meter hurdles, his raw time of 52.24 matching his career best, and he helped the Grizzlies’ 4×400-meter relay team to a winning time of 3:14.74, a season best by more than two seconds.
Freshman Dominique Bobo ran the relay as well, shortly after winning the 200 meters with another season-best performance. He ran in the 21s for the third straight meet, crossing the line in a raw time of 21.59.
Also posting victories for the men’s team were junior Ben Williamson in the 800 meters (adjusted 1:54.47) and senior Lukas Scherer in the javelin (197-6).
Montana will host the last-chance Tom Gage Classic Friday afternoon at Dornblaser Field.
— Montana Sports Information