(Editor's note: MSUB athletics release)
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Competing in California for the second-straight day, Montana State University Billings track and field throwers Forrest Cross and Ryann Moline moved up in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings with new personal bests at Long Beach State’s Pacific Coast Intercollegiate on Thursday.
“I'm very happy with how things have gone so far,” MSUB assistant track and field coach Kevin Bjerke said. “It's nice for these guys who rarely get a chance to see competition like this before the GNAC Championships; I think this will really bode well for them a month from now when they're in the thick of the conference meet. I really hope we can take advantage of our last day and knock out some PRs. I think they're all quite hungry and excited for the competition we'll see tomorrow.”
Cross eclipsed the 45-meter mark on two of his three discus throws in a stacked field, then took the lead in the GNAC with a 45.34m (148-9) mark, which was not only a personal best, but also good for fourth-best in program history.
“I was completely ecstatic," Cross said. "I talked to [MSUB throws coach] Nels Flanagan before the meet and I told him I was pretty nervous about the meet. He asked me how far I planned on throwing the disc today, and I told him I wanted to at least throw 45 meters. When I heard them say my result was over 45 meters, I felt complete relief and I was super excited about it.”
Competing against 58 throwers – including two who placed in the top 15 at the NCAA DI National Championships last summer – the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate was a far cry from Cross’ first meet in California at the Cal State LA Twilight Open, where Cross was pitted against a mere seven throwers. Yet Cross thought Wednesday’s meet was a fitting tune-up for Thursday’s PR.
“It was pretty extraordinary," Cross said. "I think it was good to have a meet with not a lot of throwers on Wednesday because it was kind of a shake-out meet to get back in the groove after all the travel. Today was the big show. I knew I had to step up and show the D1 guys who was boss."
"He had three very solid throws," Bjerke added. "He was pretty pumped and excited to jump up to first in the conference with some pretty consistent throws."
Throughout this trip, Cross has also acted as a coach of sorts to Moline, since he is the only other thrower who made the trip. But this isn’t anything new for Cross, who has been one of the veteran leaders of the throws squad for several seasons.
“It's been a ton of fun because I haven't thrown javelin in a while, but I know the basics," Cross said. "Being the oldest guy on the team, I've always felt that leadership role. Even now, I feel like I have that leadership role even more now because I'm the old guy on the team.”
Moline, to her credit, nearly matched Cross’ feat with a discus PR of her own. After throwing a 38.50m toss on her first attempt, Moline broke the 40-meter barrier on her second attempt, making her one of only four women to achieve that feat at MSUB.
“Ryann had an average day in the javelin and came back and looked really good in the discus," Bjerke said. "She had a very similar outing to Forrest with a PR in the discus. It was really nice to see her bounce back from the javelin and put together a really good series in the discus."
Her 40.56m (133-1) mark in the meet moved her into the GNAC’s top-three standings in the event, plus she now ranks fourth all-time at MSUB in the discus.
Both throwers doubled up at the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate: Moline started her day with a 20th-place result in the javelin with a 35.16m (115-4) throw; whereas Cross threw a 13.55m (44-5.5) in the shot. But with the shot put first on deck for Cross tomorrow, the junior hopes to wrap up his California trip with a personal best in that event as well.
“I'm feeling pretty good," Cross said. "After throwing discus in the heat, I was getting pretty dang tired. So when the shot put rolled around, I was like ‘alright, here we go.’ But tomorrow I’m throwing the shot put first, so I feel like I’ve got a few more good throws in me.”
While Moline threw the javelin in Long Beach, Ase Ackerman and Logan Straus competed in the 5,000 meters at the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa. Running in a heat against 11 Division I runners, Ackerman and Straus clocked in a fast opening mile and kept pace with the pack in the first half of the race.
"It wasn't a bad race,” Bjerke said. “They were both really aggressive and they went through the first mile in 4:40. They ran the next couple laps well to stay engaged in the race, but the second half of the race unraveled a little quickly after that.”
Ackerman would end up running his all-time personal best in the 5K a 15:19.20 – good for fifth all-time at MSUB. And despite battling illness throughout outdoor season so far, Straus finished six seconds behind in a 15:25.81, which was an outdoor personal best and the seventh-fastest time in program history.
Later that day on the track, Kailee Stoppel and Carson Jessop switched gears and ran the 800 meters in Long Beach less than 24 hours removed from both setting personal bests in memorable 3,000-meter steeplechase races.
“Kailee got out pretty aggressively, which she was forced to do because she was in a fast heat," Bjerke said. "She held on and gritted out a decent run for her."
Stoppel would set an outdoor PR with a 2:20.19 that moved her up to #4 all-time at MSUB. Jessop also set an outdoor personal best with a 1:59.33. Given their efforts after their steeplechase races, Bjerke is pleased both runners doubled in two events that both of them will likely run on a 24-hour turnaround at the conference meet.
"Both her and Carson were a little bit tired from the steeplechase," Bjerke said. "They both stuck their noses in and got the work in. Their races didn't look too poppy or fresh, but they got the work done and that was good. It was nice for them to simulate that double they'll probably do in conference."
UP NEXT: The MSUB track team wraps up its California trip at Bryan Clay Invitational, starting with Cross’ shot put at 10 a.m. PT. Ackerman’s 1,500 meters will be the final event of the day for MSUB at around 9:20 p.m. PT. Live results and a livestream link can be found on the men’s and women’s track team’s schedule pages on msubsports.com.