13 Dec 2021 | 09:41 | Cross Country
Sparked by four runners who covered the eight-kilometer course in less than 25 minutes, the Montana men’s cross country squad placed sixth out of 26 teams on Saturday morning at the UC Riverside Highlander Invitational in Riverside, Calif.
“They ran well. I was pleased. The guys have some momentum and excitement,” said coach Clint May, who will take his teams to the Big Sky Conference Championships in Hillsboro, Ore., in two weeks.
“We’re excited. We know that the Big Sky Conference is deep and that the front end is deep. We compete well now with the teams in the conference that have had a lock on the middle spots. It wasn’t too many years ago we weren’t considered one of those teams.”
Joel Mendez placed 14th in a time of 24:23. Also breaking 25 minutes were Jordan Hansen (24:44), Ben Vanderbosch (24:55) and AJ Eckmann (24:56).
Montana finished behind Cal Baptist, Cal State Fullerton, Grand Canyon, UCLA and Long Beach State in a race that had 290 runners.
“Nobody had to press early because the pace was just naturally there. That flow took them out fast enough, then every guy we had moved up in the second half of the race,” said May.
Will Dauenhauer (25:16) and Truman Cowan (25:53), who was hobbled by an injury but still finished, also competed for the Grizzlies.
Montana’s women’s team, aided greatly by the return of both Beatrix Frissell and Olivia Lackland Henry, finished 14th out of 25 schools.
Frissell, racing in a Montana uniform for the first time this fall, covered the six-kilometer course in a time of 21:39 to finish 28th in a field of 262. Lackland Henry, racing for the first time since early September, clocked a 22:13.
“Bea moved really well throughout the race,” said May. “And I was really happy that Livy got to feel what race conditions feel like. I did not want conference to be that first experience. We really needed this opportunity for her.”
Kayla Ingraham had a time of 22:54, while Leah Gath (23:18) and Bridget Boyle (23:28) both finished outside the top 100.
“The girls are working hard. I just want to see them grow in confidence,” said May. “Confidence that we can get into the race a little bit earlier.”
Ayrton Ledesma won the men’s race in a time of 23:55. Mendez was just 28 seconds back.
“Joel has solidified that when he’s racing well, he’s probably our top guy,” said May, “but after that, if I had brought eight guys, I would not have been shocked if I had seen eight guys run in the same span as the six guys we had today.
“We’re going to have two more guys joining us for conference who will really back this up.”
The Big Sky Conference Championships will be held on Friday, Oct. 29, at the Meriwether National Golf Club in Hillsboro, Ore.