(Editor’s note: MSU Billings media release)
BILLINGS – Yellowjacket head coach Jon Woehl announced the release of the 2019 schedule for Montana State University Billings men’s and women’s cross country on Friday. Both teams will compete in four meets ahead of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships on October 26 and the NCAA Division II Regional on November 9.
Amend Park will again play host to the GNAC Preview Meet on October 11, followed by the GNAC Championships on October 26. MSUB also has a third chance to race at Amend Park when Rocky Mountain College hosts the Rocky Mountain Invitational on September 13.
The season begins with a trip to Rapid City, South Dakota for the Hardrocker Cross Country Classic on September 7. Last season, the ‘Jacket women finished third at Robbinsdale Park in the five kilometer course among four teams while the men took third out of five.
“South Dakota Mines will be a good place to see where we are at after summer training and a couple weeks of practice,” said Woehl. “It’s a good course over there too with a few hills and it’s mostly grass. We are looking forward to running against some comparable teams like Chadron State and Black Hills State.”
After six days to recover, the Yellowjackets compete in the aforementioned Rocky Mountain Invitational before heading to the Roy Griak Invitational on September 28 at Les Bolstad Golf Course in Minneapolis. Last season, the race (hosted by the University of Minnesota) featured more than 20 Division II teams for the men’s 8K and women’s 6K races.
“In our race there are a lot of Division II, Division III, and NAIA level schools at the Roy Griak Invitational so it will be a big race for both men and women,” commented Woehl. “I like the rhythm we have with our schedule this year with a couple back-to-back races, followed by a race every other weekend the rest of the way. I think it will allow us to be ready to go for Griak and the GNAC Championships.”
On October 11, the ‘Jackets welcome a smaller group of teams to Amend Park for the GNAC Preview. Then for the first time in program history, MSU Billings will host the GNAC Championships at Amend Park on October 26. All 11 conference foes are expected to contend for the title after Alaska Anchorage swept both the men’s and women’s podium a year ago.
“It will be fun to host the GNAC Championships for the first time,” Woehl said. “The city of Billings, Visit Billings, and the Chamber of Commerce did a great job rolling out the red carpet for the regional meet last year so I’m looking forward to making this another great cross country event. Our goal is to try and make it a cool experience for the athletes since it’s such an important race.”
The Yellowjackets hosted the NCAA West Region Championships last season when 26 teams descended on Amend Park. This year the event shifts back to Western Oregon University and Ash Creek Preserve where teams will be eyeing bids to the National stage.
The MSUB women cross country team took eighth place in the GNAC last year and will be looking to improve with five returners, including senior captain Nikki Aiken. The men’s roster features four returners after finishing eighth best in the conference. Ronald Venema is also back for his senior season.