They'll be running, jumping and throwing in the Gallatin Valley on Saturday, but the men's end of the 66th Montana-Montana State outdoor track duel may come down to a battle of the Flathead.
The Grizzlies, trying to stall the Bobcats' roll of 13 victories in the last 14 years, pin many of their hopes on multi-event athletes Bryan Anderson of Whitefish, Adam Bork of Bigfork and Trevor Gunlock of Polson.
They'll also stand a better chance if Kalispell's Brad Treat can shake a bout with the flu enough to score critical points in the 1,500 and 5,000. MSU is missing its top sprinter, Lamonte Bell, who'll play in the Bobcat football scrimmage Saturday afternoon.
The Montana State women, sporting one of their strongest teams in years, figure to have little problem winning their fifth consecutive duel and sixth in seven years against Montana.
Races and field events start at noon in Bozeman. Rain is possible, but temperatures figure to be in the 60s.
"We're looking at it that the men's meet could go either way," said UM coach Tom Raunig.
"An absolute tossup," Montana State coach Dale Kennedy called it. "Relays are really critical in duals, and if we could find a way to win the men's relays that would really help."
Indeed, the Grizzlies' only victory since 1985 occurred two years ago in Bozeman, when UM anchor man David Blair caught his Bobcat foe on the last leg of the 1,600-meter relay. Montana won 101-100.
Anderson ran a leg on that relay. If he and Bork survive their earlier events in fine fettle, they'll run legs again, along with Kyle Wies of Polson and Charlie Thomas of Roundup.
The Bobcats could pit a Flathead runner against them - Miles Mason of Kalispell. Deer Lodge's Arie Grey will lead off, and junior college transfer Seth Morris of Washington will anchor.
The two quartets both ran their best 1,600 relays on April 14. Montana was timed in 3 minutes, 19.05 seconds in Spokane. Montana State finished in 3:19.67 in Ogden, Utah.
Montana dominated the early years of the series, and leads it 45-20 overall. But the Bobcats turned the tide in the last couple of decades. Ironically, they did it under the guidance of coach Rob Stark, who retired after last season, and with the help of Raunig, who used to coach cross-country at MSU. Both once ran for the Grizzlies.
Current UM assistants Brian Schweyen and Harry Clark, Bobcat standouts in the late 1980s and early 1990s, each still owns a Montana State school record.
MSU women won the Big Sky indoor championships in February, and Lacy Hinzpeter, Carrie Damschen and Jen Allen are all near the top of the Big Sky in two or more events. Add pole vaulters Shannon Agee, Michelle Tronstad of Kalispell and Cortney Ellis, and subtract the biggest names from Montana's stable and you're looking at a mismatch on the women's side.
"When you take out (Sabrina) Monro, Suzanne Krings and Renee Dunn, it makes it fairly insurmountable," said Raunig.
Monro, Krings and Dunn, who hold seven school records among them, are all redshirting this outdoor season. Monro announced last week she will transfer to the University of Washington.
In addition, Heather Anderson, the UM's top distance runner this spring, ran the 10,000 meters in the Stanford Invitational on Friday.
The Montana-Montana State women's series mirrors that of the men, but over a shorter period of time. UM once led 10-2, but the Cats have whittled that advantage to 11-7 going into Saturday's duel.