The Montana women’s track and field program, coming off runner-up finishes at the Big Sky Conference indoor and outdoor championships, has signed five athletes who will join the Grizzlies next year.
Madison Carr, of Park City, Utah; Natalie Peterson, of Newberg, Ore.; Madison Ward, of Spokane, Wash.; and Jansen Ziola, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, all signed National Letters of Intent.
Maryn Lowry, a transfer from Iowa State, accepted a scholarship offer. In addition, Evie Tate, who ran at Clemson, will join the program after accepting admission to UM’s School of Physical Therapy. Both will be fifth-year seniors with limited eligibility remaining.
Lowry has one season of cross country and outdoor eligibility left. Tate, who became an internet darling last fall, has one indoor and one outdoor season remaining.
Montana signed Abby Dodge, of Butte, and Madeline Hamilton, of Missoula, to NLIs in November during the NCAA’s early-signing period.
The eight athletes will come in at unique time for coach Brian Schweyen‘s women’s program, which has had eight top-three finishes at Big Sky indoor and outdoor championships in Schweyen’s nine-year tenure as head coach.
The Grizzlies will have the type of talent on their roster to have similar finishes in 2018, but with the program hosting the 2019 Big Sky outdoor championships, redshirt seasons will be used liberally next winter and spring to hold on to eligibility.
That will have Montana loaded up once again, when the championships come to Dornblaser Field in less than two years.
“We’ll take a step back next year from where we’ve been, but that will be intentional,” said Schweyen. “We’ll be right back on it in 2019. With the youth that we have and the talent we have coming in, we should be able to maintain it.”
The biggest boost from the latest group of signees will be Vicky Pounds‘ cross country team and middle-distance and distance track groups.
Carr and Ward will help at the younger end of the roster, Lowry and Tate, who is from Spartanburg, S.C., at the older, more experienced end.
Lowry, of Cincinnati, Ohio, had PRs at Iowa State of 2:12.25 in the 800 meters and 4:31.77 in the 1,500 meters, two seconds off the time Reagan Colyer ran at the Big Sky outdoor championships at Sacramento State earlier this month to place sixth.
“I expect Maryn to be in our top five for cross country, and she’ll contribute for us on the track,” said Pounds. “Unlike some fifth years, she seems very motivated and excited to come and compete for us.”
Ward, a graduate of Saint George’s School in Spokane, was a seven-time Washington small-school state track champion, four times winning the 800 meters, three times the 1,600 meters.
She also was a member of three relay teams that won state titles and claimed the state cross country championship as a junior.
Ward had prep PRs of 2:18.38 in the 800 meters, 5:04.45 for the 1,600 meters.
Carr, a graduate of Park City High, had a second-place finish in 1,600 meters and third-place finish in the 3,200 meters at the Utah Class 3A state meet as a junior.
She had prep bests of 5:12.34 in the 1,600 meters, 11:13.68 in the 3,200 meters.
“Those two are going to build our program,” said Pounds. “They may not make a big impact their first year, and that’s not to say they won’t, but they are going to bring in some talent that we can train and progress to become some of the best runners in the conference.”
Pederson was throwing in the high 120s by her freshman year at Newberg High. She placed sixth at the Class 6A state meet as a sophomore, fifth as a junior and senior, and will arrive at Montana with a PR of 134-6.
She’ll join a strong, young group of Griz javelin throwers. Darby Henthorn placed fourth at conference this month and advanced to regionals. Kimberly Earhart was eighth at the Big Sky meet, and Zena Smith threw 138-2 this spring. All three were freshman.
With Nicole Stroot, second in the pentathlon at the indoor championships, third outdoors in the heptathlon, having graduated, and with three-time Big Sky multi-events champion Erika McLeod redshirting next year to save herself for 2019, Ziola comes along at just the right time.
She is a 19-foot long jumper who can also run an 800 meters in the mid-2:20s, giving Schweyen and his staff, who have coached the women’s team to eight multi-events titles since 2011, a solid foundation on which to build.
Hamilton, one of the two November signees, finished second in the 800 meters at the Class AA state meet last weekend for Sentinel High, running a season-best 2:11.41. She also placed sixth in the 1,600 meters in 5:11.50.
Dodge, the other early signee, placed fifth at the same meet for Butte High in the triple jump (36-2), eighth in the long jump (16-9.5) and ninth in the high jump (5-1).
The Montana men’s program, which signed one in November, has added nine more. Those athletes will be announced next week.