The Montana track and field teams will square off against Montana State this weekend at Dornblaser Field in Missoula at the annual Griz-Cat Dual.
The meet will open on Friday afternoon with the women’s hammer, which is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. The men’s hammer will follow.
Field events begin on Saturday at 11:15 a.m., with the women’s long jump, shot put and javelin, and the men’s high jump. Running events start at noon with the women’s steeplechase.
Montana State has won the last three women’s duals, including a 104-96 victory last spring in Bozeman, to up its lead in the all-time series to 18-16. The three straight wins are the most for either program since the Bobcats won 10 consecutive duals between 1997 and 2006.
Two meet records were set last year, with Christie Schiel establishing a new standard in the 800 meters with a time of 2:10.95. Sammy Evans broke the triple jump record by going 42-0.75, which is also the Montana school record.
Montana leads the men’s dual 55-28, though Montana State has won the meet the last three years and five of the last six. No records were broken last April as the Bobcats won 100.5-93.5 in Bozeman.
While the meet is one of the most important on the outdoor schedule, it is still just a step for both programs as they prepare for the Big Sky Conference championships, now just three weeks away in Sacramento.
Montana State had third-place finishes by both its men’s and women’s team at the indoor championships in February in Pocatello.
The Montana women finished second indoor and are one of two favorites — along with Northern Arizona — to win the outdoor title. The Griz men will be trying to replicate last year’s second-place finish.
“Of course we want to win the dual, but at the end of the day, I’m not sacrificing what we want to do next month to pick up a few more points on Saturday,” said coach Brian Schweyen.
“(Montana State coach) Dale Kennedy is in the same situation. He’s not going to sacrifice the future of the season on this meet. Both programs want to win, but both programs also want to go to conference and do what we need to do in Sacramento.”
The dual is scored 5-3-2-1, with a team only able to pick up a maximum of two scores. If Team A takes the top six spots in the women’s discus and Team B finishes seventh and eighth, Team A still only collects eight points, while Team B gets three.
Trouble arises when a team can’t even put two competitors in a single event, because those just become lost points.
“I think we stack up against most anybody in a competitive environment, but we’re coming off a couple weeks of kids doing certain things, and we can’t have them do those things this week because of training and rest,” said Schweyen.
“We’re probably going to have some events where we’re just giving away points, but it’s for the greater good of the season.”
Montana took 22 athletes to California last week for the Mt. SAC Relays and Bryan Clay Invitational.
Brendan Thurber-Blaser battled through injuries to record a score in the decathlon, but he did not register any points on day two in the 110-meter hurdles, pole vault or 1,500 meters.
And Hana Feilzer fouled on three throws of the hammer.
Things picked up on Thursday evening, as Jessica Bailey, in the steeplechase, then Emily Pittis, in the 5,000 meters, both had career races. Bailey finished with a time of 10:31.10, Pittis a time of 16:50.48.
Bailey ranks second in the Big Sky behind Weber State’s Ellie Child, who ran a 10:10.38 at the same meet. Pittis, who entered the outdoor season with a PR of 17:43.84, ranks fifth in the 5,000 meters.
On Friday, Emily Cheroske ran a 2:10.51 in the 800 meters, her fifth straight meet, dating back to the indoor season, going faster than 2:12, and Reagan Colyer went a career-best 4:30.12 in the 1,500 meters to move up to fifth in the Big Sky.
Montana took three of the top eight spots in the women’s discus, with Kayla Holmes throwing 154-8.25, and Dominique Bobo (21.29), Sterling Reneau (21.58) and Alex Mustard (21.82) all easily broke 22 seconds in the 200.
Reneau, who finished second behind only BYU’s Drew Tingey out of 64 sprinters in the 400 meters, took over the top spot in the Big Sky with a time of 47.24, and Bobo had a career best in the long jump at 23-7.75.
Daniel Jones placed third in the javelin at 206-11, his second straight meet throwing farther than 200 feet, the third time of his career.
“The distance kids did well, and our sprinters did pretty well. Those were our strongest groups,” said Schweyen. “And Daniel Jones is becoming very good and consistent, which is great to see.
“The best thing about those meets is that it shows us where we have to move forward. We’re still waiting on some good weather. We need to fine-tune some things with our throws and speed that the weather makes it hard to do at this point in time.”
The Grizzlies will host the Montana Open next Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Dornblaser, then be in Bozeman the first Friday in May for the Tom Gage Classic.
The Big Sky championships will be held in Sacramento from May 10-13, the NCAA West Regional two weeks later in Austin, Texas.