Erika McLeod starts fast at MSU dual

BOZEMAN — It was a mix of the good and the rusty Monday as Montana’s multi-event athletes kicked off 2016 at the MSU-UM Combined Events Dual at Montana State’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

Grizzly athletes finished fourth through seventh in the pentathlon. In the two-day heptathlon, freshman Jess Beaman is in second place through four of seven events. Sophomore Charlie Bush is sitting fourth. Results

Volunteer assistant coach and former Griz All-American Lindsey Hall won the pentathlon with 3,779 points. Sophomore Erika McLeod was fourth with 3,285 points, junior Lakyn Connors (3,054) was fifth, junior Nicole Stroot (2,686) sixth and sophomore Jenna Dukovcic (2,674) seventh.

All four came up short of hitting the Big Sky Conference qualifying score of 3,300. After a great start for the pentathletes, it was the long jump, the day’s fourth event, which kept most of them from finishing higher up in the standings and reaching the qualifying standard.

Stroot, seventh in the pentathlon at last winter’s Big Sky indoor championships, fouled on all three of her jumps. McLeod fouled her first two and had to settle for a safe jump of 16-8 on her final attempt, which overshadowed what was a career-best start.

The Butte High graduate was just off her PR in the 60-meter hurdles, then had back-to-back career bests in the high jump, at 5-2.25, and shot put, at 33-4. Her long jump was 14 inches short of the mark she had last month at Eastern Washington’s Candy Cane VIII.

Stroot also had an excellent start, finishing second to Hall in the hurdles with a time of 9.05. She went 5-2.25 in the high jump and 31-3.25 in the shot put before taking no points in the long jump.

“They actually looked great in the long jump. They were fast, and their approaches were great. They just had trouble getting on the board,” said UM multi-events coach Adam Bork.

“The good thing is that there are a lot of points out there that we didn’t score today. Our scores up to that point were really good. They showed their potential.”

More good news: Montana will be in Bozeman five more times leading up to the Big Sky indoor championships, which also will be at MSU the final weekend of February. In seven weeks, Brick Breeden Fieldhouse will feel like the Grizzlies’ second home.

“It’s visually so much different here than where we’re used to training,” added Bork, whose athletes practice in the auxiliary gyms in UM’s Adams Center. “It’s wide open with a Mondo runway, so it’s a lot faster and more reactive than what we’re used to.

“The nice thing about our schedule is that they’ll get to practice here just about every week. By the time conference rolls around, they’ll be just as used to this facility as our own.”

Connors was not far behind Stroot and McLeod entering the long jump. She went 15-9 in the fourth event, and all three pentathletes ran times slower than 2:35 for the 800 meters.

“It’s tough to run motivated in the 800 after having a disappointing showing in the long jump,” said Bork. “They still ran pretty well.”

Dukovcic competed in her first pentathlon Monday. Her best event was the long jump, where she finished behind only Hall and Montana State’s Jessica Chrisp and Danielle Rider, who finished second and third in the overall standings.

It was also the heptathlon debut on Monday for Beaman, who finished in the top five in the field of nine in all four events, with a winning mark of 40-5 in the shot put.

He went 7.33 in the 60 meters, 20-7.25 in the long jump and 5-7.75 in the high jump. He trails day-one leader Mason Storm of MSU by 167 points, with the 60-meter hurdles, pole vault and 1,000 meters on Tuesday morning’s schedule.

“Jess is a super-talented kid. He just needs some more work and some more time,” said Bork.

Bush was top five in all four events as well. His high jump of 6-4 matched the best bar of the day.

“Both guys were solid today,” said Bork. “Charlie’s high jump was probably the best thing. He was looking really good in that event and was close at the next bar. They’re excited to go tomorrow.”

— Montana Sports Information

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