McLeod, Grizzlies head to last-chance meet

The Montana track and field teams will compete at the site of this year’s Big Sky Conference indoor championships when the Grizzlies travel to Bozeman Friday for Montana State’s last-chance meet.

The meet will feature teams from Montana, Montana State and Carroll, a handful of athletes from Montana-Western and the College of Idaho, and a number of unattached athletes.

Montana State will host the Big Sky championships, which cycle on a three-year schedule between Bozeman, Pocatello and Flagstaff, next week, starting on Thursday and going through Saturday.

The Grizzlies, who competed last Friday in Bozeman, are coming off their best meet of the season. While last-chance meets have the reputation of being laidback competitions, with most athletes getting in a final tune-up, Montana coach Brian Schweyen wants his athletes in full-on competition mode.

“When you have a meet like we had last week, you want to keep it rolling and not take a week off from competing, so it’s not a rest week for us,” he said.

“If you’re injured or beat up, you’re not going. But if you’re healthy, you need to compete, because I want to keep rolling. You have to keep competing to really hone in what you need to do mentally and physically.”

Friday was a breakout meet for Montana, starting with sophomore Erika McLeod, a Butte High graduate, in the pentathlon and extending into the evening. One school record was broken, the Grizzlies had four new Big Sky qualifications and seven event victories, and there were three dozen season and career bests.

“It was a really good meet for us and a confidence-builder for a lot of athletes,” said Schweyen. “It’s the meet I was hoping to have the week before, but having it when we did really set us up for those who will be competing this week and moving next week into conference.”

Next week’s championships will open on Thursday with the women’s pentathlon and day one of the men’s heptathlon.

Movers and shakers:

* Erika McLeod: She awoke last Friday morning ranked 10th in the Big Sky Conference in the pentathlon. She went to bed that night ranked first by a sizeable margin, with a score — 3,684 points, bumped up to 3,705 with adjustments — that put her No. 10 in Big Sky history.

No one else in the league has cracked 3,600 this year, though with eight athletes holding season bests in the 3,500s, including Montana junior Nicole Stroot, there will be plenty of hungry pursuers at next week’s championships.

* Samantha Hodgson: The junior, a three-time All-Big Sky performer, took over the conference lead in the shot put, going 50-7.5, which was less than an inch from her school record. She is sitting 16 inches ahead of North Dakota senior Alyssa Lueck and nearly three feet clear of every other thrower.

The big question: Will that be the new normal for Hodgson, who hadn’t thrown over 47 feet this winter prior to uncorking her 50 footer, or was it an anomaly?

“She’s on the cusp (of throwing 50 feet) all the time,” said Schweyen. “It’s just being relaxed and hitting the position. The hard part now is repeating it. You’ve got to learn how to repeat it and get yourself in the same state of mind and let things happen.

“You’ve got to remember how easy and relaxed those performances are. When she hit that throw, she said it was the easiest, best-feeling throw she’s had all year. I think she’ll stay consistent and be within that 48-50 range the next two weeks.”

* Dominique Bobo: His times in the 200 meters have been dropping all season. On Friday he finally took over the Big Sky Conference lead with his adjusted time of 21.43, which is seven-hundredths faster than the 21.50 of Northern Arizona’s James Fisher, last year’s indoor and outdoor champion in the event.

Fisher actually ran a raw time of 21.38 last month, but with Flagstaff’s elevation it was upped to 21.50. Bobo’s best raw time of the season was the 21.74 he ran last week. Montana State’s 200-meter unbanked track gets a time advantage.

* Hana Feilzer: The sophomore laid waste to Brittany Williams’ record in the weight throw of 56-2.5 when she went 57-9.5. Still, that did not move her into the top eight on the Big Sky performance list. The top eight throws this season have all been beyond 59 feet, with Eastern Washington senior Kaytlyn Coleman leading the Big Sky at a ridiculous 67-3.5, a performance that ranks 16th nationally.

* Sterling Reneau: The redshirt freshman became a two-event qualifier Friday, in the 200 and 400 meters. His adjusted time of 48.78 in the 400 meters has him ranked sixth in the Big Sky. It’s an event that has a clear-cut favorite in Idaho senior Ben Ayesu-Attah, who has a season-best time of 47.22, and then a tight pack of chasers. Reneau is one of six athletes with times between 48.66 and 48.97.

Notable:

* Montana has 21 Big Sky qualifications from its men’s and women’s teams. Only Northern Arizona (39), Sacramento State (34), Weber State (28) and Eastern Washington (27) have more.

* Junior Lakyn Connors, lost in the stir McLeod created in the pentathlon, had her own solid multi-events. She finished with an adjusted score of 3,337, which included a career-best high jump of 5-5.

* McLeod and Stroot could both challenge for the Big Sky title in the long jump next week. McLeod went a career-best 18-7.25 as part of the pentathlon on Friday. Stroot went 18-5.75 that evening. Northern Colorado’s Alisha Allen has the league’s top mark of 19-0. Thirteen other athletes have gone beyond 18 feet, a list that now includes Griz junior McKenzie Weber, who went 18-3.25 on Friday.

* Sophomore Morgan Sulser’s adjusted 60-meter hurdles time of 8.91 was a career best and has her sitting seventh in the Big Sky. Stroot ranks fourth at 8.82. It will be another event with a lot of closely bunched seed times. Weber State junior Tawnie Moore has gone 8.57 this season, Portland State junior Akayla Anderson 8.70. The next 10 times on the performance list are all between 8.70 and 8.99.

* Sophomore Madison Page is sitting fourth in the triple jump with her mark of 37-6 from two weeks ago. That event has a new frontrunner after Portland State freshman Chaquinn Cook went 39-7 last weekend at Washington.

* Sophomore Alex Mustard joined Bobo and Reneau as an automatic qualifier in the 200 meters when he went an adjusted 21.95 on Friday. All three athletes rank in the top 11 in the Big Sky, with Bobo first, Reneau 10th and Mustard 11th.

* Montana does not have anyone in the top 14 in the Big Sky Conference in the 800 meters, mile, 3,000 meters or 5,000 meters on either the men’s or women’s performance lists. That lack of points will be costly to Montana next week in the team standings.

* Montana’s adjusted 4×400-meter relay time of 3:16.34, set by Bobo, Reneau, Ty Rather and Callum Macnab back on Jan. 22, continues to rank second in the Big Sky.

* The Grizzlies could score some points in the men’s pole vault next week, and it wouldn’t take much. Sophomores Jakob Alme, Charlie Bush and Pierce Frazier all have season bests of 15-3, and sophomore Brett Dringman went over 16 feet last winter. The No. 8 height on the performance list is 15-5.

* Freshman Bridget Creel ran an adjusted time of 17:45.96 to win the 5,000 meters on Friday. Her dad, Scott, finished third in the masters mile in an adjusted time of 4:44.75.

* Redshirt freshman Bettie Carlon (36-2) and freshman Carla Nicosia (36-0.75) both cracked 36 feet for the first time this season in the triple jump.

* Freshman Karsten Pease, son of former Griz quarterback and coach Brent Pease and Paula Pease, formerly Paula Good, who is in the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame for her exploits as a track athlete, ran an adjusted time of 1:55.92 in the 800 meters on Friday, a huge jump from his previous best this season of 2:00.65.

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