Montana’s Emry Makes It to Indoor Track & Field Nationals

By JOEL CARLSON for GoGriz.com

Montana junior Austin Emry can officially pack his bags and ship his poles. He’s headed to Fayetteville, Ark., later this week for the 2013 NCAA indoor track and field championships to compete in the heptathlon.

Emry, who ranked as high as No. 2 nationally in the heptathlon in December, had to anxiously wait out some recent last-chance meets, but when the national performance lists were finalized Monday, Emry ranked 16th. The top 16 declared athletes in each event qualify for nationals.

The NCAA announced the official accepted-athletes lists Monday evening. Two athletes ranked ahead of Emry were not declared, so Emry enters the championships ranked 14th.

Montana Junior, AustinEmry.

Emry, of Homedale, Idaho, has twice advanced to outdoor regionals in the jumps — once in the long jump, twice in the high jump — but this is his first time making nationals.

“It’s huge. I’m super excited and ready to go,” said Emry, who scored an adjusted 5,651 points at Eastern Washington in early December.

“I’m kind of the underdog, and I like that role. I can go in there with no pressure and take one event at a time and do what I know I can do. I’m not going to be thinking about where I place or this or that. I’m just going to try to reach my potential in every event.” 

The championships take place at Arkansas’s Randal Tyson Track, with the heptathlon starting at 10 a.m. (CT) on Friday and 11 a.m. (CT) on Saturday. The heptathletes will compete in the 60 meters, long jump, shot put and high jump on Friday and the 60-meter hurdles, pole vault and 1,000 meters on Saturday.

Two of the athletes competing this week have posted scores of 6,000 points or more this winter: Wisconsin junior Japheth Cato, who scored 6,090, and Arkansas junior Kevin Lazas, who scored 6,042. Three other athletes have scored better than 5,800 points.

“It’s going to be a great experience for Austin, and this is something he needs,” UM track and field coach Brian Schweyen said. “He’s going to be nervous, and he’s going to have more adrenaline than he’s ever had before, and that’s why you go to these meets.

“Hopefully after he’s gone through his warm-ups and settled down before the gun goes off in the 60 meters, he is calm and confident.”

Emry has had an up-and-down winter. He exploded into the indoor season at Eastern Washington in early December when he crushed the Montana heptathlon record with his score of 5,623, which was adjusted to 5,651 on the national list to account EWU’s unbanked track. 

He has since made improvements in most of his events, but those have not resulted in a better heptathlon score. He pulled out of the 1,000 meters at Montana State in early January with a bum hamstring, and he no-heighted in the pole vault at Washington State and again two weeks ago at the Big Sky championships.

But he should be competitive this week while going up against the nation’s top multi-event athletes. His career bests put together in a single heptathlon would earn him 5,945 points, and only three athletes reached that mark this season.

“If you can place in the top eight in every event, that consistency can land you in the top six overall when everything is said and done,” Schweyen said.

“We’ve already told him that he isn’t going to dominate any event like he can in the Big Sky. There are going to be super-fast guys in the 60 meters and hurdles, a lot of guys who long jump over 25 feet, guys that high jump seven feet and guys who throw the shot close to 50 feet.

“But if you use that environment as adrenaline and excitement and only worry about being better than you’ve ever been, then he could very well come out of there with four or five PRs and have the best heptathlon he’s ever had.”

One touch of normalcy amidst the hyper-intense caldron of the national championships will be the presence of Montana State’s Jeff Mohl, who ranked 11th on the final national performance list and enters the championships ranked ninth.

Emry led Mohl by over 100 points in the heptathlon entering the pole vault two weeks ago at the Big Sky championships in Bozeman, but Emry’s no-height opened the door for Mohl to take the lead, then add to his decathlon title from last spring with his first heptathlon championship.

Mohl will be competing at nationals for the second time. He also competed in the decathlon at the NCAA outdoor championships last June.

“That’s going to be huge for both of them,” Schweyen said. “When you’re there on your own for the first time, you can feel like an outsider. It can feel like everyone else knows one another because they compete against each other all the time, and you’re the newcomer.

“For Austin to have Jeff there as a friend and competitive partner, that’s going to make a big difference.”

Emry is the first Montana athlete competing at indoor nationals since Katrina Drennen raced the mile in 2011. The UM men’s program has not produced an all-American since Scott McGowan in 2004 in the mile.

Men’s heptathlon accepted athletes:

1. Japheth Cato, Wisconsin                              6,090

2. Kevin Lazas, Arkansas                                   6,042

3. Garrett Scantling, Georgia                           5,889

4. Johannes Hock, Texas                                   5,858

5. Zach Ziemek, Wisconsin                               5,846

6. Romain Martin, Texas-Arlington                 5,756

7. Maicel Uibo, Georgia                                   5,755

8. Dakotah Keys, Oregon                                  5,753

9. Jeff Mohl, Montana State                            5,725

10. Andy Lillejord, North Dakota State            5,685

11. Ethan Miller, Northern Iowa                      5,682

12. Marcus Nilsson, UCLA                                5,670

13. Austin Bahner, Wichita State                     5,669

14. Austin Emry, Montana                               5,651

15. Alex McCune, Akron                                   5,607

16. Devin Dick, Kansas State                            5,603

Montana Sports Information  —  GoGriz.com