BOZEMAN — The Montana State men's track and field program has become "Steeplechase U."
With this event continuing to grow intensely at the NCAA level, so does the level of expectations at Montana State. The dominance for this event stems from senior standout and Bozeman High grad Duncan Hamilton.
Hamilton is headed to the NCAA championships this week in Austin, Texas, and will be joined by MSU steeplechase teammates Levi Taylor and Rob McManus.
“To go to a level or to a meet like the NCAA West Region and have all of them compete so well, was really just a reflection of just how hard they work and how committed they are to the process," MSU coach Lyle Weese said.
At the NCAA Outdoor West Prelims, it was proven that the Bobcats aren’t just producing some of the best in the nation when it comes to steeplechase, but the world.
Hamilton ran the fastest time globally this season with a time of 8:16.23 in Sacramento — and it just wasn’t a shock to his team.
“Like, I knew he was going to run that," teammate Levi Taylor said. "I kind of thought he was going to run faster to be honest. It’s just like seeing him run that fast, it’s not that abnormal anymore.”
For Hamilton, he finds his success through staying calm and collected. And by watching his teammates succeed as well.
“That kind of momentum just builds between teammates, and so when we can kind of use each other and build off that," Hamilton said. "Once somebody starts having a good meet, everybody starts having a good meet.”
This year, Taylor and Hamilton are joined at the NCAA's by a newer outdoor talent in McManus.
The confidence the veterans on this team have in him, in an event they’ve excelled in, has gotten McManus to where he now is.
“I think it was at the Eastern Kentucky meet back in April," McManus explained. "I ran pretty fast there, and Duncan told me and Levi after that race, 'You’re going to have to shift your mindset to making NCAA’s as a goal and making that final and going with us.'"
"It definitely meant a lot coming from those guys," McManus continued. "It’s pretty inspiring seeing the success that they’ve had, and what they’ve been able to do in the past and being able to run with them and compete with them every day it’s pretty awesome.”
This year in particular, the steeplechase is as competitive as ever.
It’s going to take Hamilton’s best run of his life to win it all. Something he’s capable of, and this final push in training has reflected that.
“The NCAA steeplechase is just a really great field this year," Weese said. "There’s still going to be some other competitors that he’s side by side with and he’s going to have to beat to the finish line.”
And despite the fierce competition, the goal to achieve by the end of the week for Hamilton is simple: A national championship.
But, he’s also taking it all in and enjoying the moment with his two teammates.
“From a personal standpoint, I want that title for sure, that’s kind of one last goal, one last thing to accomplish at the NCAAs," Hamilton said. "But these two over here, my teammates (Taylor and McManus), as well. They came in as time qualifiers, but I don’t think that means that they can’t make finals and be contenders as well.”
On Monday, Hamilton was named to the Bowerman watch list. This award is given to the most outstanding male and female NCAA track and field athlete in the country. It's extremely prestigious; the equivalent is the Heisman trophy in college football.
He is one of 10 names on the list, and the first Bobcat to ever make this watch list.
The semifinals for the NCAA's men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase will be held Wednesday at 7:02 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN2. The finals for this event are on Friday at 8:42 p.m., also on ESPN2.