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Montana track team shows strength at Al Manuel meet

“This was a great first meet. I love the fact that Montana State comes over, that Idaho comes over, that Eastern Washington comes over. It really helps all of us have a high-level, high-performance meet,” said coach Brian Schweyen. (GoGriz.com)

By GoGriz.com

At the end of the Al Manuel Northwest Duals at Dornblaser Field in Missoula on Saturday, Montana coach Brian Schweyen gathered his team and asked all those to stand who broke a school record at the meet. Hana Feilzer rose.

Schweyen then asked those to stand who had lifetime bests. More joined Feilzer in getting to their feet. Finally he asked to stand those who felt they were starting this season in a better place than at any other point in their careers. When that group was up, 80 percent of the Grizzlies were accounted for.

It was that kind of meet and that kind of start to the outdoor season, as Montana went 5-1 in its duals against Montana State, Eastern Washington and Idaho.

“This was a great first meet. I love the fact that Montana State comes over, that Idaho comes over, that Eastern Washington comes over. It really helps all of us have a high-level, high-performance meet,” said Schweyen.

“I think if you talk to the other schools, they probably had as many great performances as we did. It bodes well for all of us. It’s a great opportunity to start the season this way.”

Behind Sammy Evans‘s sweep of the long and triple jumps, the Montana women won 12 of 19 events, including all four of the throws to win handily its three duals.

Alex Mustard, who won the 100 and 200 meters, won half of the men’s team’s four individual victories, but the Grizzlies still had strong enough of a showing to easily out-point both the Eagles and Vandals. Montana State, projected to be one of the Big Sky’s top three teams, defeated Montana 117-79.

The meet wrapped up on Saturday but started on Friday afternoon, with the throwing of the women’s and men’s hammer.

Feilzer wasted little time setting the tone for the meet and the season when she broke her own school record and became the first Grizzly to ever break 200 feet.

“I like having the hammer on Friday. It means everybody is going to be out there to watch,” she said. “They either have practice beforehand, and then they’ll stay, or they’ll come out right after class and watch.

“I think it does get everybody ready for the next day. It’s fun to go out there and be, Let’s go, let’s get the season started.”

Feilzer, who became the first thrower in program history to break 60 feet in the weight throw during the indoor season, upped her school record from 196-1 to 205-11. No other hammer throwers came within 20 feet of her winning effort.

“I’ve been throwing between 200 and 210 in practices consistently the last couple of weeks,” she said. “I just wanted to get one out there to show I can do it, because practices mean nothing until you do it in a meet.”

Darby Henthorn, a freshman, got Saturday’s field events off to a good start when she won the javelin with a throw of 148-1, an early mark that could probably get her to regionals.

In the day’s first track event, Jessica Bailey raced out to an early lead in the steeplechase and never let anyone approach her in winning with an adjusted time of 10:43.81 that was three seconds off her PR.

Alanna Vann won the 100 meters in a time of 12.36, Nicole Stroot won a star-studded 100-meter hurdles in 14.57, and Emily Cheroske won the 800 meters.

The last time Cheroske was racing against Montana State’s Christie Schiel, the latter was winning the Big Sky indoor title in the 800 meters ahead of runner-up Cheroske. On Saturday, Cheroske won, clocking an adjusted time of 2:10.11 to defeat Schiel by more than three and a half seconds.

Evans, who brings an intensity and electricity to her events unlike anyone else, won the long jump at 19-2.5, leading Montana to a 1-2-3 finish, and the triple jump at 40-4.

Feilzer and Henthorn started Montana’s run on a sweep in the throws. Samantha Hodgson, at 44-10.25, won the shot put, Kayla Holmes, at 161-1, won the discus.

The Grizzlies took the top three spots on the shot put, the top five in the discus, and swept both the 4×100- and 4×400-meter relays, closing the meet’s women’s events with a dominant showing in the mile relay behind Erika McLeodCarly Smiedala, Cheroske and Olivia Ellis.

Mustard swept the 100 and 200 meters, the latter in a time of 21.82 that was more than half a second faster than his time at the Al Manuel last year, when he advanced to regionals in the event.

Another regional qualifier opening with a faster time than last year was Sterling Reneau in the 400 meters. The Big Sky indoor champion won the event in 47.28.

Karsten Pease didn’t win the 1,500 meters, but he did finish second in a field of 22, coming within a second of Montana State’s Diego Leon, he of the (adjusted) sub-four-minute mile during the indoor season.

Daniel Jones won the javelin at 197-10, and Matt Quist, who redshirted the indoor season, cleared 6-10.75 in the high jump to finish second to MSU’s Noah Martin. The Big Sky indoor champion also went 6-10.75.

Like the women, the men swept both relays, closing out the meet with a win in the 4×400, an event Montana won at February’s Big Sky indoor championships.

Reneau made a big move on the back stretch on his leg of the relay to give the Grizzlies a solid lead, and Dylan Reynolds brought it home.

Montana will compete at the Pelluer Invitational at Cheney, Wash., next Saturday.