BOZEMAN — The gauntlet has officially been thrown down to the rest of the Big Sky Conference pentathletes.
Montana sophomore Erika McLeod started the day ranked 10th in the multi-events. After a nearly 300-point breakthrough Friday at Montana State’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, she will end it ranked first. And with a target on her back as the one to beat in two weeks at the Big Sky championships.
With the conference’s top eight pentathletes all sitting on scores in the 3,500s, McLeod jumped them all to become the first this season to break 3,600. And she almost reached 3,700.
McLeod had PRs in the first four events and closed with an adjusted 2:23.02 in the 800 meters, a time less than three-tenths of a second from making it a five-event PR sweep.
Her score of 3,684 was a major improvement on the 3,397 points she scored at the Washington Invitational two weeks ago and the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise she showed coming out of Butte High.
“When people are that good of athletes coming out of high school, sometimes it takes a while to adjust to college and the level of competition at Division I,” said UM multi-events coach Adam Bork. “It can take a while for them to approach competition the same way they did in high school.
“You know they are going to get there. You just have to stay on them and keep telling them how good they are and what they are capable of. Sooner or later it usually happens, and they have this type of breakthrough. What’s exciting is that Erika is doing it in the indoor season of her sophomore year.”
As so often happens in the multi-events, McLeod’s record-breaking day began with a PR in the very first event, the 60-meter hurdles. She ran a 9.19, which improved upon her previous best of 9.33. And she rolled from there.
“I started off with a PR in the hurdles, and that really set the tone for my day,” said McLeod. “I’ve had a couple of really good practices where I felt like I was putting some events together. Then it becomes trusting that I can compete at the level I should be.”
She followed the hurdles with marks of 5-2.5 in the high jump, 35-8.75 in the shot put and 18-7.25 in the long jump, before closing with a swift 800 meters.
McLeod won the multi-events by more than 350 points over the rest of the small field, a result redolent of Lindsey Hall, whose school record of 3,969 points might one day be in jeopardy.
“I feel like this is a good base to build from,” said McLeod, whose 56.09 in the 400 meters last Friday ranks second in the Big Sky. Her long jump of 18-7.25 on Friday moves her, for the time being, up to No. 3 in the Big Sky in that event.
“It feels like things are coming together and that things are going to go up from here. It’s a good feeling for sure.”
Montana had three athletes competing in the pentathlon. Junior Lakyn Connors scored 3,317 points, 22 off her PR, to finish second. Sophomore Jenna Dukovcic, competing in just her second pentathlon, was fourth with 2,927 points, a 253-point improvement on her multi-events debut in early January.
McLeod had the day’s top marks in the hurdles, shot put, long jump and 800 meters. Connors had the best high jump, upping her PR in the event from 5-3.25 to 5-5.
The rest of Montana’s athletes will compete Friday afternoon and evening in duals against Montana State and Weber State.
— Montana Sports Information