Griz Track and Field Program Adds Eight Newcomers

The Montana men’s track and field program signed eight athletes to National Letters of Intent over the last two months during the NCAA’s signing period that began April 15 and runs through Aug. 1.

Five of the eight newcomers are from the state. Coach Brian Schweyen and his staff signed Montana’s top distance runner, Jonathan Eastwood of Belgrade, top hurdler, Taylor Trollope of Billings, and top thrower, Zane Babbitt of Missoula.

Also signing from Montana were Emmette Dustybull of Browning and Levi Donaldson of Helena. Both are middle-distance runners.

“The thing I really like is that this group includes a lot of the top Montana kids, and that’s always exciting,” said Schweyen. “We want to build our program with Montana kids, because they are usually hard workers who come out of great high school programs.”

Montana also signed Gavin Hasty, a distance runner from Brentwood, Tenn., Davon Collins, a jumper and sprinter from San Antonio, Texas, and Dionee Marrero, a sprinter from Phoenix, Ariz.

Marrero spent the last two years at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix. He will have two indoor seasons of eligibility remaining and three outdoor.

Griz Track & Field“In addition to the kids we signed from Montana, we’ve got some others coming in who can make an immediate impact,” said Schweyen. “They can be point-scorers for us at the conference championships right away, and that’s something we need.”

Half of the newcomers — Eastwood, Hasty, Dustybull and Donaldson — will join assistant coach Collin Fehr’s distance crew and should provide a spark to an events group that hasn’t contributed much to the team’s championship-meet scoring the last few years.

Montana’s distance runners combined to score just eight points at the Big Sky Conference indoor and outdoor championships this past year, or the equivalent of a second-place finish by one individual in a single event.

The Grizzlies haven’t had a Big Sky indoor champion in the distance events since Scott McGowan won the mile in 2004 or an outdoor champion since Dan Bingham won the steeplechase in 2006.

“We’ve got a good crew coming in. We’re really excited about them,” said Fehr, who earlier this month set a new course record at the Governor’s Cup in Helena with a half-marathon time of 1:10:08.

“All of those guys are solid and should be instant contributors. Every one of them has the ability to run an 800 under 1:55 right now, and coming out of high school, that’s a pretty fast 800.”

Eastwood won the Montana Class A cross country title last fall, clocking the fastest time among all classes, then completed the distance runner’s sweep last month at the state track meet, winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

His time of 1:53.17 in the 800 at the state meet was the fastest in Montana all spring. He also recorded the state’s fastest 1,600 meters time of 4:18.64

Hasty, who ran for Brentwood High, posted a season best in the 1,600 meters of 4:15.28. Eastwood’s PR would be only slightly faster than that if altitude adjustments were factored in.

keyboard“Jonathan and Gavin both have so much enthusiasm for the sport,” said Fehr. “I think they’ll bring good energy and be great teammates, in addition to the talent they have as runners.”

Dustybull won the 800 meters at the Class A state meet in 2014 and finished second to Eastwood last month. Donaldson, runner-up in the 800 meters at the Class AA meet for Helena Capital, had a season best in the event of 1:54.58 in his first year running races longer than 400 meters.

“Emmette and Levi both come from more of a sprint or shorter-distance background,” said Fehr. “We don’t know what they are capable of at the higher end of the distance spectrum, because they haven’t trained for that yet.

“We’re excited to see what they can do in cross country, then see what distances they fall into when we get to the track season.”

Trollope, a graduate of Skyview High, swept the 110- and 300-meter hurdles at the Class AA state meet. His season-best time of 14.34 in the 110-meter hurdles was the top time in the state in the spring. His 38.72 in the 300-meter hurdles ranked second.

Babbitt won the shot put and discus at the 2015 Class AA state meet, both by large margins. He also won the shot put as a junior. He had the top marks in the state during the spring, going 62-9.5 in the shot and 174-10 in the discus.

Collins, a graduate of Cornerstone Christian Academy, competed on his school’s relay teams and had a prep-best long jump of 22-5. Marrero, with a time of 10.75, broke the Paradise Valley record in the 100 meters. He also ran a 21.62 in the 200 meters.