Posted: Feb 23, 2013 9:02 PM by MTN Sports
With several extraordinary performances from Montana State Track and Field, there was certainly much to be proud of over the course of a grueling three days of competition at the Big Sky Conference Indoor Championships. While the scores may not have reflected the exact outcome they hoped for, head coach Dale Kennedy is still tremendously delighted by what he saw in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
The Montana State Men finished in second place with 126 points behind Northern Arizona's 143.5, in a contest that nearly came down to the final race. The women, who were ranked sixth in preseason put together an impressive three days and finished in fourth place with 76 points.
"Hats off to the other teams in the Big Sky," Kennedy said. "We really gave everything we could out there and some could even say we ‘overachieved' based on what was said in preseason. We stepped up, and both the men and women kept it closer than was expected."
The final day of the 2013 Championships started off with a mix of the expected and unexpected but welcome performances, nonetheless. David Phillips, who has led the conference all season long in the weight throw, peaked at the right time to secure his second Big Sky. This is Phillips' second consecutive title in the event, which he won in 2011 followed by red shirting the 2012 season. Phillips uncorked a lifetime best throw of 20.54m (67-04.75) for the win.
Sean Ferriter, who entered the meet tied for eighth in the weight was the big surprise with a fourth place finish. Ferriter closes out an indoor season that was nothing short of constant improvement. Ferriter's previous best was 17.60m and ended with 18.70m (61-04.25) and a few more points for MSU on the scoreboard.
Adess Durglo, who competed in last year's indoor meet in the high jump, made the move to the triple jump this season. She placed 11th overall with a distance of 11.23m (36-10.25).
In the men's mile, one of the most exciting races in the sport of track and field, Northern Arizona continued to push their dominance but not without a fight from Montana State. Cristian Soratos, who secured the gold medal in the distance medley just the night before, stayed with the pack and even held the lead for a part of the race. After falling back into fourth place, he kicked it into high gear on the final lap to secure a place on the podium. He placed third with a time of 4:06.93 and with the altitude adjustment, it should give him a lifetime best of around 4:01.
Jacob Kirk, also a fierce distance competitor, came in sixth to earn points for MSU. The Anchorage, Alaska native clocked in with 4:13.28 which should also convert to a lifetime best at 4:07 and change. Michael Asay, who also ran the DMR with Soratos and Kirk last night, won the opening heat with a time of 4:18.60. While it wasn't a lifetime best, it was a hard fought and smart race for the Manhattan, Mont. native.
Heather Haug, who also gained the lead to help win the distance medley relay the night before, was the frontrunner in the mile and kept it that way. Haug earned her first individual Big Sky title for the first time since winning the outdoor 1,500 in 2010. The Livingston, Mont. native crossed the finish line in 4:47.06, unadjusted.
Still riding high from the mile, Haug ran one of the smartest races of her career in the 3,000. Trailing Weber State's Sarah Callister, a perennial powerhouse in the distance events, Haug stayed right on pace with her for a majority of the race. With 150 meters to go, Haug figuratively went the extra mile and beat Callister by two seconds. Haug's unadjusted time of 9:41.33 will become a career best for the senior in her final indoor championship.
"Heather really executed well," said Kennedy. "She restrained herself at the right times in both races, allowing her to make the right moves at the right times."
Fellow distance runner Heather Demorest got points for Montana State with a seventh place finish time of 10:04.06.
Powhattan Williamson had a very busy championship the first two days and third day was no different. He advanced to the finals of the 55 hurdles and came in fifth place overall, garnering points for MSU. He tied his preliminary time of 7.69 seconds, just .01 off his best time. He clocked in with his lifetime best in the hurdles of the heptathlon.
Katie Niemeir placed sixth in the 55 hurdles with a time of 8.07. She just missed an all-conference performance with a time of 56.26 in the 400 for a fourth place showing. Her time was only .01 off from a lifetime best.
Maintaining a lead through the 400, MSU kept their Big Sky team title chase in sight with more points when Nick Melone placed fifth overall with a serious PR time of 48.22.
After winning the outdoor short spring in 2012, as well as the indoor 60 last season, his reign finally came to an end when he placed fourth overall with a time of 6.42, just missing an all-conference award.
Unfortunately a similar fate met Grant Grosvenor in the 800. Grosvenor won both the indoor and outdoor 800 as a freshman in 2012, held the top seed in the event headed into the finals. After being shuffled around in the pack once the race began, he kicked it into high gear for the final 100 meters to close in on the leader. Grosvenor ended up getting beat out by just .04 when Brian Schrader of Northern Arizona took gold in 1:52.27. Grosvenor placed second in 1:52.31. Teammate Matt Tex came in fourth with a time of 1:53.95. In addition to the points earned for MSU, both also marked season bests for the middle distance runners.
Wilson, however, was able to rally in the 200, generally his weaker event compared to the 55 or the 60. Wilson used his energy to run himself to a third place All-Big Sky finish, and a season best time of 21.34.
In his first indoor championship, Kevin Close represented himself well in the triple jump with an eighth place finish with a leap of 13.77m (45-02.25).
Like Williamson, Jeff Mohl kept plenty busy over the course of three days and competed in the pole vault on Saturday. Mohl launched himself to a lifetime best height just yesterday in the pole vault and took the next step in the individual event one more time. He ended up with a second place finish at 5.00m (16-04.75) in his final individual event of the weekend. Teammate Ryan Kropp also competed and unfortunately met the fate of the pole and no-heighted.
For the men, it came down to the final individual running event to decide the conference winner. The distance group for NAU packed a big punch, and much like the mile, the Bobcats did their best to hang on. Ultimately, the top-four sweep by the Lumberjacks created a deficit too big for MSU to overcome despite a fifth place finish from Cristian Soratos, it wouldn't be enough to the Bobcats to hold on to the lead they held prior to the 3,000.
Jacob Kirk, Trevor Polson and Seth Garbett placed 18th, 19th and 20th, respectively.
In the men's 4x400, Montana State held the lead for a good portion of their heat and eventually got just touched out by Eastern Washington and Portland State. The Bobcat quartet of Nick Melone, Michael Tobin, Grant Grosvenor and Kevin Close clocked in at 3:17.11.
In the final two field events of the night, MSU certainly went out on a high note. Kristi VandeBergh matched her highest finish in the shot put, coming in fourth like in the outdoor championships in 2012. She finished with a lifetime best, her second in as many weeks, with 14.70m (48-02.75).
Amber Amsbaugh capped off a huge winter season. She won her second Big Sky title in the high jump, which she won just months ago at the outdoor championships. Amsbaugh has not lost the event since May 4, 2012, when she came in third at the Tom Gage Classic. The Big Sandy, Mont. native won the indoor jump in a jump-off with Gwen Abbott of Montana, with a height of 1.71m (5-07.25).
After all was said and done and the final team standings stood, there was still more for Montana State to revel in. Mohl, who always seemed to be on the floor competing in something, was named the Outstanding Performer as well as the Co-MVP with friendly rival Austin Emry of Montana. And if two conference titles weren't enough, Haug also took individual honors in a three-way tie for the women's MVP award with Joenisha Vinson of Portland State and Sakya Bolton of Sacramento State.
"We had so many people step up all weekend long," Kennedy said, in near emotional exhaustion after the meet. "Collectively, we are so proud with how we fared. We had so many athletes step up to the challenge and we're learning that today's outcome will either drive us up or down. We have the gift of choice here and I'm confident they'll be drive upward and challenge themselves to get to the next level."
Montana State will have six, potentially seven, more athletes in action after the Big Sky Championships. David Phillips and Haug will travel to Seattle for the UW Last Chance Meet, while the men's distance medley (Soratos, Melone, Grosvenor and Kirk) will head east to South Bend for a last chance qualifier. Mohl will await final results from the weekend to see if he'll be an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Championships in the heptathlon.