UM’s Todd is a standout performer at Big Sky

BOZEMAN — While the Montana Grizzlies were setting records — and had a Most Outstanding Performer in Evan Todd — the Montana State Bobcats were setting the pace.

It was the Bobcats who won the men’s team title at the Big Sky Conference track and field championships that concluded Saturday, and they did it in epic fashion.

Jett Grundy, anchoring MSU’s 1,600-meter relay, leaned in at the finish line to get around Montana’s Paul Johnston and give the Bobcats the event victory.

While Northern Arizona finished fifth with four points, the Bobcats defeated the perennially strong Lumberjacks 186-185 for their first Big Sky title since 2005. It was their second ever.

“It’s pretty special,” MSU coach Lyle Weese said. “A conference championship would mean a lot in many areas, but here it just means more because of the support we have. It has certainly alleviated some years of frustration.”

Todd, a senior at Glacier High in Kalispell, provided the biggest highlight Friday, with a javelin throw of 246 feet, 6 inches, shattering not only his three-week-old school record (234-5) but also the Big Sky Conference record. .

It happened on his first throw of the final: he was fourth after the preliminary round of three throws, at 217-11. He finished with his third straight Big Sky title.

Jesse Elvrom of Sacramento State held the record with the new javelin, throwing 239-6 in 2013. In 1969, Mike Lungstad of Montana threw 245-2.

“I just knew something was missing in those first three laps,” Todd said. “I had to search for myself a bit and find myself. I took a shot between the preliminaries and the finals and found just about what I was looking for. I knew I had it in me, it was just a matter of finding it.”

Todd’s throw sailed through the javelin vector and hit a shot put pit on the other side. It ranked him 11th in the NCAA and qualified him for the US Olympic Trials.

“I am the son of a 50-year-old athletics coach and have attended many athletics competitions in my life,” UM coach Doug Fraley said Friday. “It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced.”

“I’m sure I surprised a lot of people today, I even surprised myself,” Todd said. “I didn’t expect to reach 75 meters, but it is special to do that here in Bozeman. I mean, that car qualifying mark for the Trials will be really cool, going out there and competing against the big dogs.

Another big highlight on Friday: Erin Wilde, a sophomore from Whitefish, defended her outdoor high jump title, winning 5-7. Counting her indoor crown, Wilde has won three straight Big Sky titles in her signature event.

“It feels really good,” she said. “I felt like I had a big target on my back and knew the other girls wanted to beat me, but I knew I had to be there. Like Erica (Fraley) said, I just have to be myself, have fun and keep pushing.”

Wilde is ranked 21st nationally and has qualified for regionals.

On Saturday, the Montana men broke two school records in the relay and finished fourth in the team race with 74 points. It is their highest finish in the standings since a third-place finish in 2019.

The women finished seventh with 59 points, their best result since 2020. The men were fifth in the preseason poll; the women were chosen ninth.

Saturday started with the short relay and Montana — taking on Libby’s Jay Beagle on the first leg and anchoring freshman Karsen Beitz — clocked a school record of 40.30 seconds to finish second.

“It’s no small thing to have to replace a frontrunner like Teagun (Holycross) on the relay, he’s one of the best in the conference. It was the next guy up with Jay Beagle and he really stepped up to the task,” Fraley said.

Beagle – who also added two points with a seventh-place finish in the 400 – again ran the first leg of the long relay, which senior Johnston finished with a great leg, but leaned against the tape. Montana’s time was 3:08.21.

Mikenna Ells of Whitefish placed seventh in the 400 and also ran on the short relay that finished fifth and the long relay that finished fourth.

One of the point-getters for the Bobcat men was Talon Holmquist. The Whitefish product placed fourth in the shot put and eighth in the discus.

Montana State got the championships started with a decathlon victory for Nicola Paletti, while Shelby Schweyen finished second in the women’s heptathlon behind Hanna Tait of Idaho.

Montana State’s women finished second with 134 points; NAU won with 240.5. Among the Bobcat scorers was Glacier product Taylor Brisendine, who placed fourth in the triple jump with a mark of 40-4.25.

This report is compiled from publications from UM and MSU.