MISSOULA — The Montana track and field teams got exactly what they wanted on Friday at the Tom Gage Classic at Dornblaser Field in Missoula: a surge of confidence going into next week’s Big Sky Conference outdoor championships at Greeley, Colo. Results
No one was a better example than sophomore Jensen Lillquist, who couldn’t have scripted his day any better. He threw 220-10 on his first attempt in the javelin, then called it a day. It was not only a five-foot PR, it puts him atop the Big Sky performance list entering championship week.
“It will give me a lot of confidence going down there,” he said. “Hopefully I can not just repeat this but add to it at conference.”
Lillquist is one of five Big Sky throwers who have gone farther than 210 feet this spring. He becomes the first to break the 220-foot mark.
“The way it’s looking, it’s going to be anybody’s competition. It’s going to be very competitive,” he said. “I’ll be successful if I just go in relaxed and take on the mindset that it’s my meet to lose.”
Montana had 11 event wins Friday at a meet that featured visiting athletes from Montana State, Eastern Washington, Idaho, Carroll, MSU Billings, Great Falls and Rocky Mountain, plus a handful of unattached athletes.
Emily Cheroske added one final Big Sky qualification for the team in the 800 meters when she broke 2:12 for the first time, Sammy Evans went 19-5.25 in the long jump and 41-3.75 in the triple jump, and Daniel Jones, in the javelin, and Nick Jackson, in the hammer, improved upon their previous qualifying throws.
“We may not have had a lot of spectacular performances, but there were a lot of athletes who built their confidence at this meet,” said coach Brian Schweyen. “They did things we’ve been working on, and if that increased their confidence level going into next week, then we accomplished something.”
Evans, in the triple jump, was one of five winners from the women’s team. Two came in the distance events. Lauryn Wate ran a season-best adjusted time of 4:34.28 to win the 1,500 meters, and Bridget Creel took 15 seconds off her PR to win the steeplechase in an adjusted time of 11:05.03.
Butte High graduate Erika McLeod won the 400-meter hurdles in a time of 1:00.74, Hana Feilzer, the Big Sky’s No. 2-ranked thrower, won the hammer at 192-9, her third time this spring clearing 190 feet.
Lillquist was one of five individual winners for the Montana men. Alex Mustard won the 100 meters in 10.82, Taylor Trollope the 110-meter hurdles in 14.85, Dylan Reynolds the 400-meter hurdles in 53.43 and Matt Quist the high jump at 6-9.
McLeod and Reynolds both had larger goals on their minds than just wins in the 400 hurdles. Both wanted to post NCAA regional-type times in advance of next week’s championships. Neither was able to, mostly due to strong afternoon winds that were bearing down on racers on the track’s homestretch.
Cheroske didn’t win the 800 meters, but she did finish second in an adjusted time of 2:11.77, a PR of more than half a second. She’ll be one of nine athletes who arrive in Greeley with a sub-2:12 time on their race resume.
Kayla Holmes didn’t win any of the throwing events, but she still helped Montana look good. She finished second in both the shot put and discus behind redshirting teammate Samantha Hodgson, a glimpse of what’s to come in 2017 when Hodgson is a senior and Holmes is in her second year.
Haley Gellner had career races in both the 200 and 400 meters, a huge 0.63-second PR coming in the former, and Jonathan Eastwood turned a bold attempt at a win in the 800 meters into a runner-up finish and an adjusted clocking of 1:54.90, his first time under 1:55 as a collegiate runner.
Jackson, ranked fifth in the Big Sky, had a season-best throw in the hammer of 183-6 to finish third, and Jones, ranked 10th in the javelin, went a season-best 197-9 to finish third in that event.
The Big Sky championships open Wednesday in Greeley with day one of the women’s heptathlon and men’s decathlon. The four-day meet concludes next Saturday.
“I think we’re looking good,” Schweyen said. “We’ve got a handful of athletes who are leading the conference, and that’s always a positive, and we’ve got others sitting right in the mix.”
— Montana Sports Information