Connors second at Montana Open, McLeod sixth

MISSOULA — Sophomore Lakyn Connors had a pair of career bests and another season best in four events Thursday as day one of the women’s heptathlon kicked off the three-day Montana Open at Dornblaser Field in Missoula.

Connors scored 2,911 points, a total that is second only to former Griz all-American Lindsey Hall, who scored 3,243. Sophomore Nicole Stroot, with 2,736 points, rounds out the top three in the nine-athlete field.

Connors won the heptathlon at last year’s Montana Open with a career-best score, and she piled up 114 more points Thursday than she did on the opening day of the heptathlon last spring.

“I was ready to have this kind of performance. Coming in I felt very prepared. I’ve been really consistent in our meets to this point, so I knew I wasn’t in for any surprises, which is nice in the multis,” Connors said. “You can stay even-keeled instead of going up and down, which can happen earlier in the season.”

Connors ran a season-best 15.02 in the 100-meter hurdles, then had back-to-back career bests in the high jump and shot put, going 5-3.25 and 35-11.5. She closed with a time of 26.75 in the 200 meters.

Her hurdles time was two-hundredths of second faster than her finish at the Oregon Relays two weeks ago, and she bumped up her PRs in the high jump from 5-3 and the shot put from 35-10.75.

“I felt like my performance today was strong overall,” she continued. “Even if I wasn’t hitting PRs that were miles ahead of where they used to be, just knowing I’m pushing past those PRs a little bit gives me confidence, especially on the road to conference.”

Not unexpectedly, Hall, who finished seventh in the heptathlon last June at the NCAA championships, dominated the day.

She had the top time in the hurdles (13.81), the top mark in the high jump (5-5.75) and the top effort in the shot put (37-4). Her time of 25.97 in the 200 meters put her second only to Sammy Evans.

The anticipated battle between Hall and Montana State senior Carley McCutchen, the MSU heptathlon record-holder, never materialized.

McCutchen entered in the hopes of improving her season-best score of 5,461, which has her ranked 21st on the national performance list. After going 14.22 in the hurdles and bowing out at 5-1 in the high jump, McCutchen pulled the plug and saved her energies for another day.

Stroot, who had a PR of 31-1.5 in the shot put, leads a group of four Griz athletes separated by just 57 points. Evans, who is redshirting the outdoor season, has 2,726 points, senior Shayle Dezellem has 2,691, and freshman Erika McLeod, a Butte High graduate, has 2,679.

Evans, a three-time Big Sky Conference triple jump champion, went 5-4.5 to finish second to Hall in the high jump and clocked a 25.57 in the 200 meters, the day’s fastest time.

Junior McCalle Feller is sitting seventh with 2,402 points, while a pair of Carroll athletes is in eighth and ninth place. Bethany Lacock scored 2,284 points; Ally Cole, who no-heighted in the high jump, totaled 1,524.

Connors holds a comfortable lead over her teammates going into Friday’s final three events, the long jump, javelin and 800 meters, but Stroot and Evans join Hall as the heptathlon’s best long jumpers, and Connors won’t deny she has a fickle relationship with the 800 meters.

“The long jump has kind of been my stickler in the multis, because I didn’t have a whole lot of experience in that coming into college,” said Connors, whose PR in the 800 meters of 2:30.25 came at this meet last year.

“The 800 has definitely been my kryptonite. I’m not used to doing it and don’t always trust myself, but I’ve been making sure I have a good mindset for it the last couple of weeks. Hopefully tomorrow will go well.”

Friday’s events begin at 11 a.m. The athletes are shooting for the Big Sky Conference qualifying standard of 4,450 points.

Montana Open heptathlon day one standings

1. Lindsey Hall (unattached) — 3243

2. Lakyn Connors (Montana) — 2911

3. Nicole Stroot (Montana) — 2736

4. Sammy Evans (unattached) — 2726

5. Shayle Dezellem (Montana) — 2691

6. Erika McLeod (Montana) — 2679

7. McCalle Feller (Montana) — 2402

8. Bethany Lacock (Carroll) — 2284

9. Ally Cole (Carroll) – 1524

— Montana Sports Information



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