Her extended family delayed the start of a holiday vacation to Hawaii so that Montana senior Nicole Stroot could compete Monday at Montana State’s multi-events meet in Bozeman.
It was worth the wait.
Stroot scored a career-high 3,791 points and won the pentathlon by more than 400 at MSU’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. With track and altitude adjustments, Stroot will have more than 3,800 points.
Stroot’s teammate, Erika McLeod, who fouled all three of her long jump attempts on Monday but still finished fifth out of eight athletes, won last year’s Big Sky Conference pentathlon title with 3,882 points.
“What’s exciting is that Nicole could easily put 200 points on that in the next month, and 3,800 to 4,000 is usually what’s going to win it,” said UM multi-events coach Adam Bork.
Stroot opened with a time of 8.80 in the 60-meter hurdles. She was the only athlete to go faster than 9.1.
Montana State’s Jessica Chrisp grabbed the lead after the high jump, but Stroot went 34-5.5 in the shot put to finish second, then put an unbridgeable gap on the field in the long jump, going 19-0. No one else broke even 18 feet.
Stroot closed with an adjusted time of 2:24.43 in the 800 meters to finish third, two seconds behind event winner McLeod.
“You have to have the type of consistency that Nicole had today to be successful,” added Bork. “That’s what helps you compete relaxed, knowing that you’re going to consistently be there. That allows you to use your adrenaline and attack your events.”
McLeod still leads the Big Sky with the 3,863 points she scored at Eastern Washington’s Candy Cane Invitational in early December. She would have been back in the 3,800s again on Monday had she not had to take a score of zero in the long jump.
McLeod finished second to Stroot in the hurdles, tied Stroot for second in the high jump at 5-3.75 and had the meet’s best performances in the shot put (36-5.75) and 800 (adjusted 2:21.88).
“Erika’s long jump approach just looked a little funky today, a little off,” said Bork. “We haven’t worked that event that much yet, so I think it was a little rusty.
“She was competing hard and going for a big jump, which was good, but she kept fouling, even though she kept moving back more and more.”
“That was a nice surprise,” said Bork. “To have PRs coming off Christmas break is really good to see. As we get into more consistent technique training and tougher workouts, they should develop into a really solid group.”
Through day one of two of the men’s heptathlon, freshman Brendan Thurber-Blaser is in second place behind Montana State’s Mason Storm, last spring’s Big Sky decathlon champion.
As he did at the Candy Cane Invitational, Thurber-Blaser used a strong showing in the shot put to move up the standings. His mark of 42-7 was more than three feet farther than anyone else in the 14-athlete field.
“It was a decent start for Brendan. He was consistent, but there are definitely some things we need to work on,” said Bork. “It’s the same for most of the guys. For events like the high jump, we just need more approach work, more reps and jumps at meets.”
Bush and Reynolds are both a handful of points higher than they were through four events at Eastern Washington last month.
Freshman Josh Riley is in eighth place, freshman Grant Whitcutt is sitting ninth, both with more than 2,500 points in their first collegiate multi-events. Both missed the Candy Cane Invitational with injuries.
“You could tell it was their first one,” said Bork. “It was the same as some of the freshmen over at Eastern. Trying a little too hard and getting tight. But they had adrenaline and were competing well, so there is a lot to build on.”
Reynolds finished fourth in the 60 meters (7.37), Bush placed fourth in the long jump (21-10.25), and Whitcutt had the day’s second-best high jump (6-4).
The heptathlon concludes on Tuesday with the 60-meter hurdles, pole vault and 1,000 meters.