The UM Track and Field Teams Open Outdoor Season This Weekend

The meet will begin Friday at 3 p.m. with the women’s hammer, followed by the men’s hammer at approximately 4:45 p.m. Those will be the only two events on Friday.

Saturday’s field events will commence with the women’s javelin at 10 a.m. The first running event is the women’s steeplechase at 11:15 a.m.

Montana, which returns 10 of its 11 athletes who advanced to regionals last spring, will be joined at the meet by Montana State and Eastern Washington, plus athletes from MSU Billings, Carroll, Great Falls, Lewis-Clark State and Gillette College.

2014-03-27_1122Both of Montana’s teams are coming off third-place finishes at the Big Sky Conference indoor championships, and both were picked third in the preseason outdoor polls behind Northern Arizona, which is hosting May’s outdoor championships, and Sacramento State.

The Griz men have not finished higher than fourth at an outdoor championships since 2002, and their third-place indoor finish came as a pleasant surprise.

Senior Austin Emry scored 29 points at the indoor championships and swept the Outstanding Performer and Most Valuable Athlete awards, and senior Keith Webber won his first Big Sky title in the pole vault.

“The men are to the point where they are saying, Holy cow, we have a good team. This is fun and exciting,” UM coach Brian Schweyen said. “They see the possibilities, so they are working hard.”

The women’s third-place finish at the indoor championships was a (very) minor disappointment. The Grizzlies had championship aspirations but finished 25 points behind Northern Arizona and two behind second-place Weber State.

The 2014 outdoor season is where it could all come together. Redshirts were sat with this season in mind, and the team is top-loaded with talented fifth-year seniors, including Gwenn Abbott, Kourtney Danreuther, Anika Green and Lindsey Hall.

Hall scored 30 points at the indoor championships, and Danreuther is a five-time Big Sky Conference outdoor champion. Plus there is the javelin, the event responsible for sending three of UM’s seven athletes from the women’s team to regionals last spring.

“We should be a lot stronger outdoor than we were indoor, so I’m really excited. I just hope the girls are excited,” Schweyen said. “It’s not easy to win a conference championship, and we have that opportunity.

“I hope they have a sense of confidence but also a sense of urgency that leads us to really moving forward from week to week. Then when we get to conference, we go with the thought that winning is what we’re there to do and that somebody is going to have to go out and beat us.”

Montana opened its 2013 outdoor season at the Al Manuel Invitational and used ideal weather conditions to produce a spectacular day of results. Thirteen women produced seven individual wins and 14 Big Sky qualifying marks. Eight men had nine qualifying efforts and four victories.

Saturday’s forecast — low 50s, 50 percent chance of rain — isn’t nearly as athlete-friendly.

“Last year we had such great weather and so many great marks,” Schweyen said. “The weather isn’t looking to be as nice this year, but we still need to start off on a really high note and go from there.

“What we can’t have is mediocrity. We need the mindset that we’re ready to roll. This is like a mini conference meet in my mind for the team, and that makes it very, very important.

“We have to go into this meet and compete as close to (a championship) level as we possibly can. And then we need to build off of that. Then when we get to conference, the level of competition we bring is higher than it’s ever been at a conference meet.”

Friday and Saturday will be the only chance to see the Grizzlies compete in Missoula until May. Montana will be at Bozeman, then Cheney, Wash., then California, then at the Griz-Cat Dual in Bozeman on April 26 before hosting the Montana Open on May 3 and the Tom Gage Classic on May 9.

The Big Sky outdoor championships will be held at Flagstaff, Ariz., the NCAA West Regional at Fayetteville, Ark., and the NCAA championships at Eugene, Ore.

10 Preseason Notes

* Senior Keith Webber broke Adam Bork’s UM indoor pole vault record when he went 17-1.5 in January. During the next two months he’ll be trying to take down Bork’s outdoor record of 16-10.75 from 2002.

* Senior Austin Emry, who won the Big Sky decathlon title last spring and followed that up with an indoor heptathlon title last month, is done with the multi-events. During the upcoming outdoor season, he’ll be concentrating on the 110-meter hurdles, high jump, long jump and triple jump.

“Austin is not as good in the decathlon as he is in the heptathlon, and it drags him down. He struggles through some of the events, and it beats at him mentally, and then it affects his other events,” Schweyen said.

“He’s excited that he’s only going to be hitting his best events that are 100 percent in his comfort zone. I think he’ll be fresh both physically and mentally this season, which will be really nice for him.”

* Sophomore Cody Curtis, junior Ben Williamson and junior David Norris will be running the 800 Saturday afternoon. That trio finished third, fourth and eighth at the indoor championships.

* Junior Drew Owens is back after redshirting the 2013 outdoor season. He was Big Sky runner-up in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2011 and 2012 outdoor championships.

* Emry and junior Lee Hardt both went 7-0.5 in the high jump at the Al Manuel last spring.

* If anyone is looking to watch freshman Reagan Colyer, who won the 800 meters at the Big Sky indoor championships, they won’t find her racing Saturday. She has an injury that has her riding hard on the bikes at the UM rec center. She should be back on the track in a few weeks.

* Welcome back: seniors Anika Green and Gwenn Abbott. Green, All-Big Sky in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2012 outdoor championships, hasn’t competed since the 2013 indoor season. Abbott, four times All-Big Sky in the high jump, redshirted the 2014 indoor season.

* Two to watch: sophomore Sammy Evans in the triple jump and sophomore Samantha Hodgson in the discus. Evans won the 2014 Big Sky indoor title in the triple jump. Hodgson, at 168-2, is the UM record holder in the discus.

* Senior Lindsey Hall (168-2) is the UM record-holder in the javelin. She’ll be competing in that event Saturday morning, then adding the 100-meter hurdles, high jump and long jump as the day moves along.

* Senior Kourtney Danreuther will be racing the 400-meter hurdles. She advanced to regionals in that event in both 2011 and 2013.

Montana Sports Information