MOSCOW, Idaho — Montana track and field coach Brian Schweyen said last week he believed his athletes still had more in the tank and could improve upon their current marks before tapering and starting to prepare for the Big Sky Championships.
On Friday, they showed it. Competing at the D1 Invitational Team Challenge in Moscow, Idaho, Montana's women won the meet while the Griz men took second. Montana was going up against Big Sky foes Eastern Washington, Idaho and Portland State, in addition to Gonzaga and Washington State.
"This was a really good meet for us, almost like a breakout meet team-wise," Schweyen said. "A lot of positives, a lot of improvements and a lot of athletes progressing and moving forward."
The women earned 133 total points, surpassing second-place Idaho (104) by a wide margin. The Griz nearly swept the day, with the men falling just eight points short of Eastern Washington (121 to 113).
On the women's side, Montana won six of the eight running events.
Junior Olivia Ellis won the 400 meters with a personal-best time of 57.06. She also took second in the 200 meters, only behind teammate Erica McLeod (24.76), with a season-best 25.21.
"That was the first open 400 Olivia has run in quite some time," Schweyen said. "It was good to see her run like that."
In the distance events, senior Jessica Bailey won her first-ever 3,000 meters, shaving more than 30 seconds off of her previous season best (10:22.75).
Among the eight qualifiers for the 60-meter hurdles finals, Montana had four of them, with those four earning the top four places. Jansen Ziola won the event (personal-best 8.70), followed by Morgan Sulser, McLeod and Hannah Coburn – who moved up two spots from the prelims to the finals. Montana now owns three of the top-six 60-meters hurdles spots in the Big Sky this season.
Ellis, McLeod, Ziola and Carly Smiedala were also part of the winning 4x400-meter relay team. Smiedala, Montana's record-holder and the current Big Sky leader, was Montana's other track winner, winning the 800 meters (2:12.45). Montana also won the women's weight throw, led by all-conference performer Hana Feilzer (60-10).
The men were highlighted by the performance of Sterling Reneau. Just more than a year after a season-ending injury, the redshirt senior showed he is back to the shape that led to a 400 meters indoor tile in 2017. On Friday, Reneau won the 400 meters with a season-best time of 49.04. He also finished third in the 200 meters (season-best 22.13) and was part of the relay team that won the 4x400, shaving more than 6 seconds off of their previous best time.
"It's nice having him back," Schweyen said of Reneau. "He works hard and he's so smooth when he's out there. His teammates look up to him, so having him out there makes everyone better."
Karsten Pease was victorious in the men's 800 meters (1:53.76), shaving 2 seconds off his previous top mark of 2019 and winning by a full second. Five Grizzlies qualified for the 60-meter hurdles finals, led by freshman Aidan Diggs (8.29), who finished third. In the field, Shawn Humphries finished in the top three of both the weight throw (55-3.5) and shot put (52-3.75).
The Griz men had two athletes qualify for the finals of the 60 meters, including Alex Mustard, who also finished seventh in the 200 meters, recording personal bests in both. Several additional athletes had season bests, including Carla Nicosia in the triple jump and Holly Houston in the shot put.
Montana will now spend the next three weekends in Bozeman, competing in the MSU Invitational, Big Sky Tuner and Big Sky Championships.