Keli Dennehy among four Grizzlies heading to Regional

MISSOULA — Four athletes from the Montana track and field teams will compete next week at the NCAA West Regional at Austin, Texas. Seniors Keli Dennehy and Nycole Devers, junior Stephanie Wells and freshman Jensen Lillquist all had their seasons extended when the NCAA announced the fields.

Wells and Devers both will be competing at regionals for the third time in the javelin. Dennehy, in the steeplechase, and Lillquist, in the javelin, will be making their regional debuts. Dennehy will race Friday night at Texas’s Mike A. Myers Stadium. The javelin throwers will all compete Saturday afternoon.

Dennehy is a Butte High graduate.

“We’ve got some experienced athletes going and some not-so-experienced athletes,” said UM coach Brian Schweyen.. “When you look at the mix of talent, I think we can expect some lifetime bests.”

Dennehy, at No. 47, just made the 48-athlete cut in the steeplechase with her career-best time of 10:35.12 from Oregon State’s High Performance Meet earlier this month. Lillquist ranks 35th in the region with his season-best throw of 208-9 from the Oregon Relays in mid-April.

Wells ranks 31st in the women’s javelin, Devers 42nd. Wells threw 153-8 at the Montana State Open in early April. Devers had her best throw of the spring, 148-4, to finish fifth at last week’s Big Sky Conference championships.

The top 12 athletes in each event at Austin will advance to nationals, as will the top 12 from the NCAA East Regional, which will be held next week at Jacksonville, Fla.

Wells and Devers not only have experience competing at regionals, both have flirted with making nationals. Devers placed 16th in the javelin in 2013. Wells finished 13th last spring.

Devers was ranked 34th the year she finished 16th. Wells was ranked 43rd last year.

“Just because you’re not sitting at or near the top of your event certainly doesn’t mean you’re not capable of going to nationals, especially in an event like the javelin,” said Schweyen.

New for regionals this year is that athletes in the field events will have just three attempts. In previous years, the top 16 after three attempts had three additional tries.

Had the new setup been in place last spring, Wells would have made nationals. She was in 12th place through three throws. In finals, Oregon’s Liz Brenner had an improved mark to jump Wells and bump her down a spot.

“That’s a big change,” said Schweyen. “In the past, some kids might sneak into finals who were really good, then hit a big throw to move up. Now that won’t be the case. You’ve got to get one in your first three.”

The NCAA Championships will be held June 10-13 at Eugene, Ore.

— Montana Sports Information

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