13 Dec 2021 | 08:18 | Cross Country
The Montana cross country teams will continue their fall season on Saturday morning when the Grizzlies compete at the Montana State Classic.
The 44th edition of the event will take place at the Bridger Creek Golf Course in Bozeman. The men’s five-mile race will start at 9 a.m., the women’s three-mile race at 9:45 a.m.
The men’s race will have four Division I teams, headlined by Utah State, which is ranked 17th nationally and fourth in the deep and competitive Mountain Region.
Montana State is ranked 11th in the region, while Montana made its debut in the rankings this week, coming in at No. 15. Unranked Idaho State also is competing.
The Grizzlies have nine athletes entered: seniors Ben Cikutovich, Will Dauenhauer, AJ Eckmann and Ben Vanderbosch, juniors Truman Cowan, Rogelio Mares and Joel Mendez, and freshmen Jordan Hansen and Thomas Mordy.
The women’s race will have five Division I teams, the same as the men’s, plus Weber State, which is the highest-ranked team in the women’s field. The Wildcats are ranked seventh in the Mountain Region.
Utah State is ranked ninth, Montana State 14th, Montana 15th. Idaho State is unranked.
At the last running of the Montana State Classic, in September 2019, the Griz women placed second behind Utah State and defeated the third-place Bobcats for the first time since 2016.
Entered to race for Montana are junior Leah Gath, sophomores Jaylyn Hallgrimson, Olivia Lackland Henry and McKinlee Mihelish, and freshmen Kayla Ingraham, Molly Sherman, Abby Sherwood and Jocelyn Stansberry.
The race will mark the Griz debut for Hallgrimson, a Billings Senior High grad who transferred to Montana from Nebraska.
Montana opened its season two weeks ago at the Clash of the Inland Northwest in Cheney, Wash.
The Griz men placed third, behind Gonzaga and Idaho. The Bulldogs dominated the race with the top 10 finishers. The Vandals, with 73 points, narrowly got past Montana, which had 83.
Montana went out aggressively, mixing it up with Gonzaga through the first of three laps of the six-kilometer race. Some of the Grizzlies paid for that boldness as the race entered the final lap.
“I really wanted them to be involved and feeling like they can run up front,” said coach Clint May. “At the conclusion of it, there were a couple of runners who said it may have been a little too aggressive.
“The takeaway is that we’re able to run with the lead group but maybe not leading the lead group. Maybe just trying to stay in contact.”
Mendez was the team’s top finisher, coming in 14th in a time of 19:03. Eckmann was 19th in 19:14, Cikutovich placed 25th in 19:23. Mordy topped the freshmen, finishing 28th in 19:24.
Saturday’s race will look different than things did in Cheney. The course is longer and no team will have a huge pack of its runners at the front like Gonzaga did.
“The field is going to look a lot more like a conference meet. I think we’ll see a bigger spread right off the bat, and there will be a few lead individuals we shouldn’t go with,” said May.
“It will definitely be a competitive meet without a doubt, but I still feel like we can do really, really well.”
Lackland Henry led the Montana women at Cheney, finishing third overall behind runners from Gonzaga and Idaho.
But there was nearly a one-minute gap between Lackland Henry, who ran the four-kilometer course in 14:30, and Ingraham, the team’s No. 2 runner who placed 21st in a time of 15:22.
It was another 36 seconds before Gath crossed the line in 36th as Montana’s No. 3 runner.
“It will be the same thing we were focusing on at Eastern Washington and that’s each individual runner progressing in their training so they feel like they are racing better week after week,” said May.
It will be a quick turnaround between races for the Grizzlies, who host the Montana Open at the UM Golf Course on Friday afternoon, Sept. 24.
The men’s seven-kilometer race will start at 4 p.m., the women’s five-kilometer race at 4:45 p.m.