(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
MOSCOW, ID – For the second consecutive day a Grizzly won a conference title, with Carly Smiedala winning the women’s 800 meters on Friday (2:07.66), the final day of the 2018 Big Sky Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
In just two seasons, Smiedala has had a decorated career, owning school records for the 800 meters in both indoor and outdoor. The Helena native added conference champion to her resume on Friday though, something that she has narrowly missed in her first several Championships.
“I think for Carly, she’s been thinking about that one for a long time,” head coach Brian Schweyen said. “She ran a very, very smart race and did exactly what she needed to.”
Smiedala placed third at last year’s outdoor championships and second at this year’s indoor meet, after having the top time in the prelims.
“It’s definitely a special feeling,” Smiedala said. “I’ve put in a lot of time and it feels great to have a little bit of success. Vicky (Pounds) is such a great coach, and I can’t thank my coaches, my teammates, our trainer and weight coach enough. It’s very special.”
After entering this week as the No. 2 runner in the event, Smiedala ran a 2:13.57 on Thursday, taking the final qualifying spot. She made the most of her opportunity on Friday, improving her time by nearly 7 seconds and winning the race by close to 2.
“Yesterday I almost didn’t make the final, so today I was just hoping to put that behind me and get some good positioning,” Smiedala said. “I had to fight the whole race, but it was great for all three of us Griz girls to have a great race to end the season.”
Montana earned 19 total points in the event. In addition to Smiedala’s 10, senior Emily Cheroske placed fourth (2:09.43), followed by freshman Madeline Hamilton in fifth (2:11.40). Cheroske’s time was more than 3.5 seconds faster than Thursday’s prelims, while Hamilton improved her mark by more than a second to earn another PR.
“All three had a fantastic race and got us a lot of points,” Schweyen said, noting that the trio was also part of Montana’s 1,600-meter relay team that placed fifth. “They’re three studs for us and a big part of the success we had this week.”
In addition to the trio scoring in the women’s 800 meters, Montana also had scoring performances in eight additional events.
To go along with his fourth-place showing on Thursday in the shot put, Brent Yeakey also scored in the discus with a top throw of 165-0 (eighth). Just a freshman, Yeakey was not expected to score in either event, but was a major boost for the Grizzlies. His mark on Friday was a PR by 9 feet.
The Grizzlies earned four total points with a pair of scorers in the men’s hammer throw. Sophomore Shawn Humphries placed sixth (PR 177-5) and senior Nick Jackson finished eighth (season-best 172-7).
Chase Armstrong (400-meter hurdles), Jonathan Eastwood (1,500 meters) and Jacob Lamb (800 meters) all earned qualifying times on Thursday and competed in Friday’s finals in their respective events. Armstrong placed sixth with a time of 55.01 while Lamb came in eighth at 1:57.25. Eastwood improved his prelims time by more than 5 seconds, running at 3:53.55, and finishing seventh out of 12 runners.
“The last 150 meters of that race, June (Eastwood) went from ninth to seventh and really dug in the last 25 meters,” Schweyen said. “That was a gutsy race and was pretty fun to watch.”
The Grizzlies also earned four points from sophomore Zena Smith, who placed fifth in the women’s javelin (144-11). Smith was the favorite entering the Championships with a conference-leading 156-6 in her most-recent meet. The sophomore had a strong showing on Friday, throwing better than 140 feet in each of her first five throws, but the competition was better than expected.
All four athletes who finished ahead of Smith had PRs, including individual champion Anna Gardom (Idaho State), who had a PR by 25 feet (160-3). The No. 2 thrower entering the meet – Montana State’s Carley Vonheeder – didn’t score.
“There were some girls that came out of nowhere,” Schweyen said. “They took the top three spots and they came from a long ways back. That event can be tough at times. Zena was solid, but she just didn’t get ahold of one today.”
Northern Arizona won both the men’s and women’s tiles. The Montana men earned 36 total points to place ninth. The women placed 10th with 40 points.
While Montana’s team score wasn’t as high as it has been in the past, the future is very bright for the Grizzlies. Of the 16 athletes who scored for Montana, 14 are expected to return next season, in addition to a handful of previous scorers who are redshirting this year.
“There’s a lot of youth that we have this year, and we’ll be even that much better when we add the talent that we left at home,” Schweyen said. “The future is really bright.”
The Championships conclude Montana’s 2018 team season. Several athletes will now await word from the NCAA to see who will advance to the NCAA West Region, which takes the top 48 athletes in each event.
Montana’s point scorers:
10, Jensen Lillquist, 1st in javelin
10, Carly Smiedala, 1st in 800 meters
6, Holly Houston, 3rd in discus
5, Emily Cheroske, 4th in 800 meters
5, Josh Riley, 4th in decathlon
5, Brent Yeakey, 4th in shot put
4, Madeline Hamilton, 5th in 800 meters
4, Luke Hilmes, 5th in javelin
4, Jaree Mane, 5th in heptathlon
4, Zena Smith, 5th in javelin
3, Hannah Coburn, 6th in long jump
3, Shawn Humphries, 6th in hammer throw
2, Jonathan Eastwood, 7th in 1,500 meters
1, Charlie Bush, 8th in pole vault
1, Nick Jackson, 8th in hammer throw
1, Jacob Lamb, 8th in 800 meters
1, Brent Yeakey, 8th in discus
1, Emily Cheroske, 5th in 1,600-meter relay
1, Madeline Hamilton, 5th in 1,600-meter relay
1, Jaree Mane, 5th in 1,600-meter relay
1, Carly Smiedala, 5th in 1,600-meter relay