Bobcat women finish runner-up at Big Sky

RIVERDALE, Utah — The Montana State cross country teams completed action at the Big Sky Conference Championships on Saturday at Riverside Golf Course with standout performances on both sides. The Bobcat women’s squad earned its best team performance at the meet since 1999 by finishing runner-up to Northern Arizona, while the Bobcat men placed fifth in the team standings.

The MSU women scored 83 team points in the 5-kilometer race – the lowest total the Bobcats have put together since a third-place finish (72) at the 2004 Big Sky Conference Championship. Montana State’s runner-up showing is its best effort since finishing in that same place with 65 points at the 1999 conference meet.

“It was an exciting day for us,” Montana State head coach Lyle Weese said. “It’s been quite a few years since we finished second so that was an exciting jump up for us. I think the biggest thing today was that everybody was working together as a team. It really allowed us to build on what we’ve done up to this point this season.”

Junior Kelsi Lasota and senior Caroline Hardin became the first Bobcats in four years to earn top-10 finishes at the Women’s Big Sky Championship. They also became the first tandem to place in the top 10 for MSU since 2011 when Heather Haug and Keely West earned fourth- and seventh-place finishes, respectively, en route to earning all-conference honors.

Lasota crossed the line in 17 minutes, 32.7 seconds, for fourth place overall. It was the highest finish at the meet by an MSU runner since Heather Demorest’s second-place showing in 2013. Hardin joined her by taking 10th in a time of 17:51.1, holding off Idaho’s Kara Story who finished less than a second behind her.

“I kind of came into the race trying to stay with the top group, but didn’t pick out any specific goals,” Lasota said. “I usually have a hard time focusing on specific goals, but (Coach Weese) told me if I could try to run with the top group and try to finish with them, that would be a good start looking towards regionals. So, it was kind of a surprise for me to finish that high, but during the race I felt comfortable.”

Freshman Trisha Carlson came in quickly behind Hardin to take 12th with a mark of 17:54.5. Her finish was the highest among all first-year runners at the meet, which earned her the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year award. Freshman Samantha Kelderman finished 25th in 18:11.3, while sophomore Anna French rounded out the Bobcats’ scoring lineup by taking 32nd with a time of 18:20.7.

MSU freshman Joby Rosenleaf, a Butte High graduate, ran alongside French at the finish and took 33rd overall (18:21.1). Senior Chiara Warner finished 41st (18:32.4) and freshman Jaycie Schmalz placed 47th (18:48.1) for the Bobcats.

“As a team we were pretty hyped,” Lasota said of the team performance. “We definitely knew we wanted to place pretty high and knew we had the ability to do so. I think we’ve been working up to this during the season and knew exactly what we wanted to do. Our team mentality and running as a pack has really helped us achieve that.”

The Bobcat men scored 145 points for fifth place in the men’s cross country team standings. First-ranked Northern Arizona won the Big Sky title with 24 points and was followed by Southern Utah (36) in the 8K race. Weber State (82) and Idaho (123) finished ahead of MSU, but the Bobcats were able to outpace Idaho State (159).

“Idaho State beat us at our home meet this year and Eastern Washington beat us at the Montana Invite by pretty large margins,” Weese said. “Beating those two schools today was pretty exciting. We also placed one spot higher than we did last year which was a great sign because we have only one junior (on the men’s team), then everyone else is freshmen and sophomores.”

Freshman Brandon Hough continued his individual success this season by earning a 13th-place showing by crossing the line in 24:55.9, the second-best effort among freshmen at the meet. It was the best overall finish for a Bobcat men’s runner at the Big Sky meet since 2014 when Jake Turner took seventh.

“It was definitely a fun experience,” Hough said. “I went out there and had absolutely no idea how the day was going to go. I thought ‘I’m going to go out there and do my best and see what ends up happening.’ I definitely am proud of the performance. I had a fun day and I know we had a few guys who had good days overall. So, fun day overall and glad that we were able to come out here to compete.”

Freshman Collin Buck followed Hough by placing 26th in a time of 25:29.0. Sophomore Cameron Carroll finished 31st (25:29.0), junior Anthony Schmalz took 39th (25:58.3) and freshman Riley Collins rounded out Montana State’s scoring lineup by finishing 40th (26:01.6).

Sophomores Gannon Chamberlain (26:54.7) and Andrew Vandine (27:08.6) finished 69th and 73rd, respectively for the Bobcats, and Chris Bianchini ran in his first Big Sky meet and took 82nd (27:50.8).

The Bobcats will travel back to Utah for the DI Mountain Region Championships in Logan which begin on Friday, Nov. 10, for a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships in Louisville on Nov. 18.

— MSU Sports Information