Women’s cross country: Montana opens season ranked 9th in Mountain Region

The Grizzlies, who open their season on Friday evening hosting the Clash of the Inland Northwest at the UM Golf Course, ended the 2016 campaign ranked 16th. (GoGriz.com)

The Montana women’s cross country team, picked third in the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches’ poll, will begin the season ranked ninth in the Mountain Region by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

The Grizzlies, who open their season on Friday evening hosting the Clash of the Inland Northwest at the UM Golf Course, ended the 2016 campaign ranked 16th.

Northern Arizona topped the Big Sky preseason poll and sits just one spot ahead of Montana in the region, at No. 8.

The other ranked Big Sky teams in the initial USTFCCCA poll are Southern Utah at No. 10, Montana State at No. 11 and Weber State at No. 14. The Wildcats were picked second in the Big Sky poll, ahead of Montana.

The only other ranked team from the Big Sky is Idaho, which begins the season sitting 13th in the West Region.

Montana returns its top three runners from last fall — senior Reagan Colyer and juniors Jessica Bailey and Emily Pittis.

Two Division I transfers — Maryn Lowry of Iowa State and Evie Tate of Clemson — join the program in 2017 for their final season of eligibility, and coach Vicky Pounds has four incoming freshmen.

Junior Emily Cheroske, who is coming off her first trip to outdoor track and field regionals in the 800 meters, redshirted last season and will be back.

The region’s top-ranked teams are Colorado, New Mexico, BYU, Utah and Utah State.

The Montana men’s team opens the season unranked in the region. The Grizzlies were picked ninth in the Big Sky poll.

The cross country season opens on Friday evening with what should be a fast, mostly flat course at the UM Golf Course. The women’s four-kilometer race begins at 5 p.m., the men’s six-kilometer race starts at 5:45 p.m.