By COLTER NUANEZ
The Bobcats fell just short once again.
The Montana State women’s track team sat in the driver’s seat at the Big Sky Conference indoor track & field championships in Flagstaff, Arizona in February. But MSU saw a double-digit lead evaporate as Sacramento State rallied to out-pace the Bobcats in the 4x400-meter relay final to post a win of less than two points.
Saturday in Cheney, Washington, Montana State once again felt a team championship slip through their fingertips. Behind strong performances by senior sprinters Dominique Whittington and Caprice Powell, Sac State made it a clean sweep both of the league’s indoor and outdoor titles but also of the Bobcats with a 145.9 to 142.2 win.
Montana State senior Heather Demorest earned Most Valuable Athlete of the meet honors by following up Friday’s 3,000-meter steeplechase championship in a school record time with a win in the 5,000 (17:05.48) and a runner-up finish in the 1,500 (4:25.48). She scored 28 points, more than any other athlete.
Senior hurdler Paige Squire claimed the Big Sky title in the 400-meter hurdles in a blazing time of 58.16 seconds. She finished third in the 100-meter hurdles (14.16), ran a leg on the MSU 4x400 team that finished second (3:41.08) and a leg on the 4x100 team that finished fifth (46.42) to have a hand in 29 points. Seniors Chantel Jaeger and Iris Hardason and sophomore Josephine Petruska ran on both relay teams with Squire.
Jaeger sped past everyone but Whittington in the 400 final. Whittington’s time of 53.77 bested Jaeger by .19 seconds for the Big Sky title. She also scored points with a seventh-place finish in the 200. Powell swept the 100 (11.72) and 200 in 24.20 (Jaeger was fourth). She teamed with Whittington on winning 4x100 (45.69) and 4x400 teams. In the long relay, Sac beat MSU by .02 seconds, 3:41.76 to 3:41.78. Sac’s other sealing victory came when junior Chloe Berlioux defeated Demorest in the 1,500 by 1.04 seconds.
Sophomore Christie Schiel ran a personal-best 2:10.76 to win her first Big Sky title in the 800. Junior Casey Teska scored eight points with a second-place pole vault finish (11-10). Senior Kristi VandeBergh threw the disc 156-05 to finish second.
Senior Carley McCutchen followed up Thursday’s heptathlon crown with seventh-place finishes in the long jump and the 100 hurdles. Junior Alisa Gilchrist’s fifth-place finish in the high jump, sophomore Dawn Blevins’ seventh-place finish in the javelin, sophomore Kaylee Schmitz’s seventh-place finish in the 800 and freshman Amanda Jaynes’ eighth-place finish in the 800 kept MSU in the league title hunt until the end.
The Montana State men attained its goal of a third-place finish thanks to yet another memorable performance by senior Cristian Soratos. The indoor All-America who placed second in the mile at nationals claimed two more Big Sky titles and another Most Valuable Athlete accolades. He took home the 800 in 1:49.22 and the 1,500 in a Big Sky-record 3:43.22. His point total rose to 24 with a fifth-place finish in the 5K (14:31.52).
For the first time in Big Sky history, two men's teams were crowned champions, as both NAU and Sac State finished with 157 points apiece.
Junior Tanner Gambill exploded for a 223-08 throw to win the javelin by more than 10 feet over teammate sophomore Ty Bermes. Senior Sean Ferriter’s second-place finish in the hammer on Friday was the only other podium finish for the Bobcat men.
Other scoring performances by Bobcat men includes freshman Kyle Douglass (4th, discus, 166-02), senior Michael Asay (6th, 1,500, 3:50.57) and seventh-place finishes by senior Ryan Kropp (pole vault, 15-07.75), freshman Alexander Lewis (long jump, 23-02.5), sophomore Mason Storm (110 hurdles, 15.56) and freshman Mitchell Hornig (100, 10.88). Senior Rory Bauer finished eight in the 400 in 49.77.
Colter Nuanez can be reached at BobcatBeat56@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @Bobcat_Beat.