POCATELLO, Idaho - University of Montana junior Bryan Anderson looms as a contender for the Big Sky Conference decathlon title as competition gets under way Wednesday at Idaho State University.
Anderson's teammate, Adam Bork of Bigfork, posted the top qualifying score in the decathlon this season but will concentrate on individual events at the league championships Friday and Saturday.
Bork's score of 7,470 points, amassed in Pocatello on April 27, remains eighth best in NCAA Division I. It's almost certainly enough to get Bork to the NCAA championships May 30-June 2 in Eugene, Ore.
"Adam's trying to save it for nationals a little bit," UM coach Tom Raunig said. "Hopefully it'll work out point-wise for us this weekend. He should have more energy to vault well and long jump well."
The 10-event decathlon and the women's seven-event heptathlon each count as just one event in team scoring at the Big Sky meet. Bork figures to battle Idaho State vaulters Pat Deming and Kevin Capps for first place in pole vault on Saturday, and he could score points in long jump on Friday as well.
Anderson led Bork and the rest of the field after the first day of the Pocatello decathlon in April. He no-heighted in pole vault to drop from contention, though he finished the competition and scored 6,181 points - still fourth-most in the Big Sky this season. Anderson vaulted a personal record 13 feet, 10 at last Friday's Tom Gage Classic in Missoula. A similar vault in a decathlon is worth about 680 points.
Two Grizzlies have won previous decathlon championships since the event was introduced in 1979: Scott Zanon in 1985 and McDonough in 1998. Among the top contenders this year are Idaho State's Tom Burnham, who posted the league's second-best score (6,871 points) at a decathlon at Occidental in mid-March, and Eastern Washington's Eric Boyd. Boyd was runner-up to graduated Nils Wiklund of Northern Arizona last year. Injuries have kept him out of a decathlon in 2001, but he's entered this week.
Raunig said Anderson is not only looking to win the Big Sky title but join Bork at the NCAA championships. The NCAA automatic qualifier for decathlon is 7,500 points and 7,150 is the provisional qualifier.
"Normally it would take 7,350 to be pretty certain," Raunig said.
A couple of other landmarks are within reach for Anderson: the Big Sky championships record of 7,477 points, established by Montana State's Stevei Keller in 1999; and Troy McDonough's school record of 7,505, also established in 1999. McDonough is helping Brian Schweyen coach the UM multi-event athletes this spring.
Two Montana heptathletes are also in Pocatello with Anderson, Schweyen and McDonough.
Freshman Carla Breuer of Charlo and junior Rachel Carter of Absarokee rank 11th and 13th in the conference, respectively. Sarah Barkley, a senior from Vancouver, Wash., also qualified for the heptathlon but will forego it to concentrate on her individual events.
Idaho State's Hillary Merkley and Shannon Sinn, the defending champion, are ranked 1-2 in the heptathlon. Merkley posted a provisional qualifying mark of 5,273 points on her home track on April 27.