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Led by Ziola’s 2nd-place finish, Montana scores league-high 18 points in heptathlon

10 Dec 2021 | 08:02 | Track & Field

OGDEN, Utah – Montana opened the 2021 Big Sky Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships with a league-high 18 points in the women’s heptathlon, with four Grizzlies earning points. Sophomore Jansen Ziola placed second in the event with 5,362 points, followed by Jaree Mane (5,001, fourth), Morgan Radtke (4,656, sixth) and Whitney Morrison (4,595, seventh).

Ziola had a phenomenal meet all-around, winning four of the seven events. On Wednesday, she won the 100-meter hurdles (13.79) and 200 meters (24.43), before finishing first in the long jump (19-8.75) and 800 meters (2:18.23) on Thursday.

Ziola entered Thursday’s final three events in first place, and extended that lead after the long jump, which she won with a leap of 19-8.75, a season-best by more than a half-foot. The jump is also the best by a Big Sky athlete this season, giving her an opportunity to win an individual title on Friday.

After leading through five events, she fell behind Idaho State’s Ashley Vanvleet Sturgis during the javelin, however. Ziola threw 92-3, within 3 feet of her PR, but Vanvleet Sturgis reached 131-9, more than 200 points ahead of Ziola, to jump ahead of her in the standings.

Ziola knew she would need an historic time in the 800 meters, the final event of the competition. Her adjusted time of 2:17.52 was more than 3 seconds better than Vanvleet Sturgis, more than 4 seconds better than her lifetime best, and the third-fastest time by a Montana runner this season, despite Ziola not being a distance runner. She won the event, but narrowly finished behind Vanvleet Sturgis in the final standings.

The second-place finish gives Ziola scoring totals in all four multi-events she has competed in (twice in the indoor pentathlon and twice in the heptathlon), including three podium finishes.

Now in her junior season, Mane continues to make strides in the Big Sky. Thursday marked her third time scoring in the heptathlon – in three tries – and was her highest finish. In her most-recent season (2019), Mane finished seventh with 4,884 points.

Mane placed third in the javelin (126-9), sixth in the 800 meters (2:29.17) and seventh in the long jump (17-1.25). On Wednesday, she also recorded lifetime bests in the high jump (5-3.75), 100-meter hurdles (14.96) and shot put (40-5.5), an event she won and PR’d by nearly 3 feet.

Radtke earned her first collegiate points by placing sixth, highlighted by a win in the high jump on Wednesday (5-7.25) and a second-place finish in the 800 meters on Thursday (2:21.46). The redshirt freshman ended up recording PRs in six of the seven events, and also is in position to score Friday in the standalone high jump event.

Morrison, a Missoula native competing as a true freshman, finished seventh to score her first career points, as well. She missed the beginning of the season coming back from injury, but came on strong as the season progressed. She recorded six PRs during this week’s heptathlon and finished fourth in both the shot put (36-5) and javelin (120-7).

Morrison was in ninth place through four events, before jumping two spots on Thursday to score points.

Freshman Holly Sudol also flashed promise in her first heptathlon. She scored 4,306 points and finished 10th out of 14 competitors, highlighted by a third-place showing in the 200 meters (25.47) and fourth-place result in the 800 meters (2:26.44). She recorded four PRs.

After scoring 18 points and leading the women’s standings through one event, Montana will now turn its attention to an action-packed Friday and Saturday, when 40 more champions are crowned. Montana has the favorite in both the women’s hammer and men’s javelin, which both take place on Friday. Action begins at 11 a.m. and fans can follow along for free on Pluto TV (channel 1054), Facebook (livestream for all throwing events) and with live scoring.