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UM's Todd outstanding performer at Big Sky

by Daily Inter Lake
| May 12, 2024 4:00 PM

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

It was the Bobcats that 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, running anchor on MSU’s 1,600-meter relay, leaned across at the finish line to edge Montana’s Paul Johnston and give the Bobcats the event win.

With Northern Arizona finishing fifth, good for four points, the Bobcats edged the perennially strong Lumberjacks 186-185 for their first Big Sky title since 2005. It was their second ever.

"It is pretty special," MSU coach Lyle Weese said. "A conference championship would mean a lot in a lot of areas, but here it just means more because of the support that we have. It definitely alleviated a number of years of frustration.”

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

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

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

“I just knew something was missing in those first three rounds,” Todd said. “I had to do some soul searching and had to find myself. I took one throw in between prelims and finals and kind of found 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 at the other end. It put him 11th in the NCAA and qualified him for the USA Olympic Trials.

“I’m the son of a 50-year track coach, and have been to a lot of track meets in my life,” UM coach Doug Fraley said Friday. “Watching Evan Todd hit that throw in round four to break the Big Sky meet record, to break his school record, and win for the third time in a row was one of the finest things I’ve ever been around.”

“I’m sure I surprised a lot of people today, I surprised myself even,” Todd said. “I wasn’t expecting to hit that 75-meter mark but it’s special to do it here in Bozeman. I mean, that auto qualifying mark for the Trials is going to be really cool, going down there and competing against the big dogs.”

Another huge Friday highlight: Erin Wilde, a sophomore out of Whitefish, defended her outdoor high jump title, clearing 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 had a big target on my back I feel like, and knew that the other girls wanted to beat me but I knew that I had to be there. Like Erica (Fraley) said, I just need to be myself, have fun with it, and keep pushing.”

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

On Saturday the Montana men broke a pair of school records in the relay and finished fourth in the team race with 74 points. It’s their highest finish in the standings since a third in 2019. 

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

Saturday began with the short relay and Montana — subbing in Libby’s Jay Beagle on the first leg and putting walk-on freshman Karsen Beitz in at anchor — clocked a school-record 40.30 seconds and finished second.

“It’s no small thing having to replace a lead-off guy like Teagun (Holycross) in the relay, he’s one of the best in the conference. It was next man 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 on the long relay, which senior Johnston finished with a great leg, only to get out-leaned at the tape. Montana’s time was 3:08.21.

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

Among 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 win in the decathlon from Nicola Paletti, while Shelby Schweyen was second in the women’s heptathlon, behind Idaho’s Hanna Tait.

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


This report was gleaned from releases from UM and MSU.