FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Earlier this year the Big Sky Conference released the preseason poll for outdoor track and field and the Bobcats were nowhere to be seen in the top three in both the men’s and women’s polls. If that wasn’t motivation enough, the women were picked seventh and the men fifth going into the 2014 outdoor season. That motivation is what’s driven Montana State all spring and now they’re ready to get out and prove those critics wrong at the Big Sky Championships May 14-17, in Flagstaff, Arizona.
With the decathlon and heptathlon already underway at host Northern Arizona’s track and field complex, they’ve already begun to set the tone for the four-day meet, marking one of more pivotal points of the outdoor slate.
With a roster of 26 women and 23 men, MSU is in a strong position in several events to make a splash in Flagstaff.
Chris Wilson and Michael Tobin will run the 100 and 200, seeking the year-long dominance they’ve exerted all season, this time at the conference level. Wilson, in his final season of competition, has four sprint titles and seven All-Big Sky nods to his name. Tobin is making his first outdoor championship appearance after being a part of two indoor Distance Medley Relay Championship teams.
In the 400, Rory Bauer will make his outdoor debut, as well.
Bauer, Wilson and Tobin will be joined by senior Nick Melone for the 4×100 relay, which won the league title back in 2012. Melone will make his lone individual appearance in the 400 hurdles. Bauer, Melone, and Tobin will pick up a different fourth in the 4×400 when John Daubert will look to help his team to an all-conference finish.
The women’s sprinters will be led by Chantel Jaeger who has seen tremendous success in 2014. The junior from Yakima, Washington is slated for four events. She holds the seventh best time in the 200 and the fifth in the 400 and will also be a part of both relays for the Bobcats. Jaeger enters this weekend with 14 first place finishes this spring and her first individual all-conference performance following the indoor Big Sky Championships.
Iris Hardarson and Sonia Antar are rostered in the 400 and 4×400, as well.
Chelsea Bourque and Paige Squire, MSU’s hurdle regulars are set in the 100 and 400 hurdles (Squire only) and the sprint relays.
One of the areas the Bobcats possess solid depth, the distance runners are also primed for success at NAU. Beginning with the men’s 800, MSU already has three ranked in the top-five including Grant Grosvenor with the fastest time in the league, followed by Matthew Tex, Tex won the event in 2013, and was the indoor champion this year. Grosvenor came in second to Tex last season and won the title his freshman year in 2012. Not to be overlooked is Cristian Soratos in his first outdoor championship. He holds the fifth rank in the event.
Soratos’ meet doesn’t end there, as he holds the fastest time in the Big Sky in the 1,500. Grosvenor and Tex are also set to compete in the event, with fourth and sixth seeds, respectively.
Trevor Polson will proudly compete in the 3,000 steeplechase, and then again in the 5,000. Michael Asay will join him in the 5K in hopes of staying with the pack and getting his first individual Big Sky award.
The women’s 800 features Kaylee Schmitz and Lierin Flanagan. Schmitz and Flanagan both have all-league honors from previous meets and are in search of one more to add to their resumes. Schmitz, like her male counterparts is entered in the 1,500, as well. Distance standout, Heather Demorest is ranked seventh, to Schmitz’s sixth seed in the event.
Demorest will also compete in what can be described as her true calling. Already setting the program record twice in the steeplechase, she holds the best time in the conference and her up and coming teammate Jenette Northey, seeded fifth, will also put her best foot forward. Demorest and Northey are set in the 5,000, as well.
Another area that has yielded massive success over the years are the talented group of Bobcat throwers. Dawn Blevins and Brittnee Grimstad are set in the javelin, both making their second appearance at the Big Sky meet. In the shot put, MSU will get representation from Kristi VandeBergh, who came in third just one year ago. She will also compete in the discus.
Grimstad will team up Jacqueline Verlanic and Madison Wills in the hammer throw in hopes of earning points for the Blue and Gold.
For the men, the hammer throw will kick of their weekend with three Bobcats entered in the event. Butte Central graduate Sean Ferriter comes into the meet with his highest seed to date, with the second best throw in the Big Sky. Veteran Derek Marsh is seeded sixth, followed by Zach Sharp in 10th. Ferriter placed eighth in 2013. Marsh will compete in the discus, as well, hoping to improve upon his eighth place finish back in 2012.
The javelin has two Blue and Gold throwers ranked in the top-five, with big expectations. Tanner Gambill, ranked second, at one point measuring the top throw in the league. Ty Bermes, in his first outdoor championship holds the fourth seed.
Last year’s shot put runner-up Trevor Gilreath is back for one final chance at a second Big Sky title. He’s been an all-conference selection five separate times and will seek his sixth on Friday.
The long jump will kick of the men’s jumping events and competing in the decathlon, Jeff Mohl will get right back at it with teammates Jake Mushaben and Shae Stein. Mushaben leads MSU with a second seed after a breakout year for the junior jumper.
Mohl will also compete in the high jump, along with Bermes, and in the pole vault, with Ryan Kropp.
Stein and Mushaben will compete in the triple jump with Kevin Close, who has the second best jump in the Big Sky. Matt Tokarz, who redshirted the indoor season will appear at his first Big Sky Championship meet with a ninth seed in the event. Kyler Felton, an MSU mainstay in the jumps will compete, as well.
Amber Amsbaugh is in search of her fifth all-league performance in the high jump, already having two titles under her belt, a third would cap off a tremendous collegiate career. Alisa Gilchrist picked up a PR jump earlier this season and recorded the same 5-07 launch as Amsbaugh. Newcomer Jessica Chrisp will compete in the high jump with a ninth seed. McCutchen, after competing in the heptathlon, will also appear.
McCutchen is also slated for the long jump with freshman Josephine Petruska, and Chrisp. Chrisp will round out her busy weekend in the triple jump alongside Leah Cook, who has the 12th seed in the triple.
The women’s pole vault has maintained its lucrative status over the course of 2014 and the outdoor championships provide a good opportunity for Montana State in the event. Casey Teska leads the Bobcats with the second best height, followed by Libby Madison in seventh, Amy Rovira in ninth and Sami Risa in 16th.
“We’re pleased with the way we’re set up for Flagstaff,” said head coach Dale Kennedy. “This meet is always a big one for obvious reasons and the team is certainly up for the challenge. We are in a great position for some even greater things and we look forward to just getting out there, giving out best effort and competing.”
The full tab of events will kick off on Friday, May 16, beginning with the women’s hammer throw at 10 a.m. (MDT), running events will commence at 3 p.m., following the 2:45 opening ceremonies.
— MSU Sports Information