(Photo courtesy MSU Billings)

(MSU Billings release)

BILLINGS – The Montana State University Billings track and field team will split up this weekend as Nels Flanagan, Jorey Egeland and Sam Zook travel to Boulder, Colo. for the Colorado Invitational while the rest of the team returns to Bozeman, Mont. for the Montana State Invitational.

“We are really excited to have some guys going down to a big Division I meet,” head coach Jonathan Woehl said about the trio heading to Boulder. “This is something we’d like to do for more of our athletes in the future and possibly our entire team. This will give our team more exposure and allow our athletes to face a better density of competition as well as get more opportunities in their events.”

The Colorado Invite will differ from the meet in Bozeman as it is held on a 300-meter track allowing for better conditions in the 200-meter, which Zook will be running, and the 5K, Egeland’s specialty. The deeper field will also give Zook the opportunity to run in both a preliminary race as well as a final in the 60-meter dash compared to just a single heat at Montana State.

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As the only GNAC athlete to reach a provisional mark in the 60-meter dash, Zook will look to improve his conference-leading 6.80 which is the sixth fastest time in Division II. Egeland currently holds the second fastest 5K time in the conference after his second place 14:51.40 finish at the South Dakota State DII Invite.

As for Flanagan in the weight throw, he will be in a flight with multiple throwers of his caliber. In two previous trips to Montana State, the MSUB senior has finished second behind the Bobcat’s Calvin Root. After a throw of 17.88 meters last week, Flanagan is second in the GNAC in the weight throw and 34th in all of Division II.

“It is always a little better to push yourself against new competition,” Woehl said of Flanagan traveling to Colorado. “He is coming off of a big personal-record and I’d like to see him keep getting challenged and try to move into the top-16 in Division II.”

In Bozeman, the Yellowjackets will be approaching the meet a pseudo conference preview as they look to put down their final marks before the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Indoor Championships in two weeks.

“I think going to Bozeman again will give everybody a good opportunity to prepare for conference,” Woehl said of returning to Montana State for the third time this season. “We are coming off of a couple of big meets and long bus trips so now everyone should know what to expect and all we have to focus on is performing the best that we can.”

A swarm of Yellowjacket throwers have the opportunity to secure a spot in the second flight at the conference meet giving them the advantage of knowing how their competition has performed.

“There is less pressure in that second flight,” Woehl said. “When you throw first you have to sit back and watch what happens, knowing that everyone in the second group hit a better mark than you this season.”

Beau Peaslee currently sits in eighth in the weight throw among GNAC competitors and just six-inches outside the top-5. Teammate Kassadee Kuoha is 11th in the women’s weight throw and one-foot away from reaching the top-8 to secure a second-flight spot.

The ‘Jackets are in a similar position in the shot put as Brady Ostermiller holds the ninth-ranked mark, just two-inches from eighth-place in the conference. Taylor Stringari and Hannah Nessan are both under a meter outside the GNAC’s top-10 and are both coming off of collegiate-bests from last week’s meet.

Coming off of a personal-best last week and holding the second-best mark (2.02) in the GNAC for the high jump, Isaiah Girard will look to reach the provisional height of 2.04. He has been knocked-out the past three meets at a height of 2.05 while earning a first-place finish at the South Dakota State Invite and finishing no worse than fifth.

Fellow jumper, Marcus Lindquist, is third on the conference’s triple jump list. The sophomore set his personal best at 13.42 meters in the first meet of the season when the team visited Bozeman on Dec. 2.

In the men’s 4×400-meter relay, MSUB run a new lineup led off by Nate Vanderby followed by Drake Henson, Mark Hovland and anchored by Rahkei Eyer. Currently, the teams’ best relay was led by Eyer with Hovland, Kyle McLaughlin and Henson completing the race in 3:34.74.

The women will get their second look at the 4×400 team of Jewlz Collins, Brenna Beckett, Mataia Robinson and Josey Smiedala who hold a time of 4:19.30.

Lamont Frisby and Mason Schram will lead the Yellowjacket sprinting group in Bozeman with the absence of Zook. Frisby has placed second behind Zook in both of the previous meets in Bozeman while Schram has finished third and fourth. Dillon Gongliewski and Kalen Shay will also compete in the 60-meter dash at the meet. Gongliewski will run the 60-hurdles as well and Shay will join Schram in the 200 later in the day.

Looking to build on fantastic performances from last week, Michaela Johnson will again run both the 60-meter and 60-hurdles. She currently ranks fifth among GNAC competitors in the 60-hurdles with last weeks’ time of 9.12 and 10th in the 60-meter dash (8:12).

In the 400-meter, the ‘Jackets have a pair of runners that sit just outside the top-10 in conference. Eyer set a school record in the event at the SDSU Invite with a time of 50.82, the 12th fastest time in the conference. Smiedala is 15th among her peers with a time of 1:00.80 but will have to get under a minute to reach the top-10.

Henson will compete in the 800-meter after he finished third (1:57.21) in the event at the SDSU Invite and is currently eighth in the conference. The freshman had not completed an indoor 800 prior to his stellar outing in which he finished just over a second off of the school-record pace.

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