The Montana track and field teams took full advantage of the last-chance Tom Gage Classic Friday afternoon at Dornblaser Field.
The Grizzlies added three new automatic qualifiers for next week’s Big Sky Conference championships and even threw in an improved school record.
Junior Caitlin Caraway, who broke the Montana record in the hammer for the first time back on April 5, broke her own record for the third straight meet, going 194 feet, 2 inches, an improvement of nearly four feet.
Perhaps more exciting was what came later in the afternoon. Caraway added six feet to her career best in the discus and became a championships qualifier in the event, the same thing sophomore McCalle Feller did in the high jump.
Feller was already a qualifier in the javelin, but she added a second championships event when she went 5-5 to tie for second in the high jump.
Freshman Riley Neville already was going to Flagstaff, Ariz., next week based on his standing on the Big Sky performance list, but he made it official on Friday, going 15-5 in the pole vault to meet the event’s qualifying standard.
Montana had a number of athletes who did not reach the automatic qualifying mark they needed, but they had performances that moved them from bubble status to sure thing.
Freshman Nick Jackson was sitting 19th on the Big Sky performance list in the discus. He moved up to 11th when he won the event with a throw of 155-1, a season best of more than seven feet.
Freshman Arielle Walden made a similar jump, moving up from 17th to ninth in the triple jump. She entered the meet with a PR in the event of 35-11.5. She ended the day with a season best of 37-6.75.
“We had kids who knew this meet was an opportunity, and they took advantage of it,” said UM coach Brian Schweyen. “We had a number of season bests and lifetime bests.”
For some the meet was about taking a high level of confidence into next week’s championships, which open Wednesday and Thursday with the multi-events. And no one is flying higher than senior Lindsey Hall, who is in a position to have a magical four days in Flagstaff.
She leads the Big Sky Conference in the heptathlon, 100-meter hurdles, long jump and javelin, and ranks second in the high jump.
On Friday she won the javelin with a throw of 155-2 and would have exceeded her Big Sky-leading mark of 161-7 on another throw had she not stepped on the foul line. She also won the long jump with a wind-aided effort of 19-5.5 and the high jump at 5-7.
“Lindsey had the type of day that should give her a lot of confidence going into next week,” Schweyen said.
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