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MSU Billings closes GNAC Championships on high note

MSUB Men's Shotput 22.png
Posted at 10:28 AM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 12:28:56-05

(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)

SPOKANE, Wash. – Junior Kailee Stoppel placed third in the women’s 800-meter final, eight more Yellowjackets had top-10 finishes and the Montana State University Billings track team ended the Great Northwest Athletic Championships on a high note when its 4x400 relay team ran the fourth-fastest time in program history during the final day of the conference meet on Tuesday.

The men’s team placed eighth with 20 points and the women’s team placed ninth out of nine teams, scoring 19 points. Additionally, the 19 points scored on the women’s side were the most they have scored at the conference meet since 2012.

“One of the things that I really like about this group is they’re happy with how we did, but they still wanted more,” MSUB head coach Jonathan Woehl said. “They’re hungry, they’re not satisfied and they want to be better, which has me excited for outdoor season. Once we get there with a few different events and then being able to be outdoors for practice – versus making do practicing indoors – I think it will really help us continue to get better and better.”

Sophomore jumper Kendall Lynn was MSUB’s high point-scorer on the women’s side, placing fourth in both the long and the triple jumps to account for 10 of the Yellowjackets’ 19 points. Freshman Braden Anderson was the high-point scorer for the men’s team, accounting for four of the team’s 20 points with his fifth-place finish in the shot put.

The meet started on a high note in the throwing circle, when Anderson made the shot put finals and popped off, setting a new PR with a 14.34m (47-0.75) mark. On his final throw, Anderson moved from ninth place all the way to fifth and PRed by four feet in the process. His mark was the best amongst all GNAC freshman, and he now ranks sixth-all time at MSUB in the shot put.

“Braden was probably the most clutch out of all the performances in the weekend,” Woehl said. “He was sitting ninth coming into his last throw and he had a huge PR that jumped him all the way to fifth place.”

Out on the runway, sophomore Kendall Lynn had her second fourth-place result of the meet, jumping a 5.27m (17-3.5) on her fourth attempt.

“That’s the story of all jumps: Not everyone’s going to have their day on championship day, but it’s about who can be the most consistent,” Woehl said. “That’s what Kendall did. She was right around her personal best in the long jump, then was around her season best in the triple-jump. I’m proud of her. I think it was a really good first GNAC Indoor Championships meet for her.”

For MSUB’s distance runners, Tuesday was a busy, PR-filled affair in three historically fast races across the board. Several GNAC meet records went down in the women’s 800, men’s mile and the men’s 3,000 meters, causing each field have strong lead packs.

Making the finals in the women’s 800 meters after setting the school record less than 24 hours prior, Stoppel came into the race seeded second. Simon Fraser’s super senior Allison Andrews-Paul – the eventual GNAC meet record holder in the 800 meters – took out the race strong, leaving Stoppel, Seattle Pacific’s Ellie Rising and the rest of the field in a chase pack. Stoppel and Rising battled it out until the third lap, when Rising made a move. Stoppel hung on to place third with a 2:16.07 – making her MSUB’s only female medalist.

“That’s why we do it,” Woehl said. “Coming out of high school, nobody would’ve ever thought Kailee would be a medalist at a conference meet, but she’s worked so hard and that hard work has paid off. I’d like to think she has really good coaches, but the work she has put in has been all her. She does an awesome job of buying in to what the training is, and it’s been working. She should definitely be very happy with what she did and be excited as we head into outdoor.”

As for the men, Ase Ackerman led the distance crew by pulling off back-to-back PRs in the men’s mile and the 3,000 meters – both of which saw at least three runners go under the previous GNAC meet records.

In the mile, Ackerman floated around a bunched-up front pack for the first few laps. The front pack of six negative-split the first two laps, then the leaders broke off. Ackerman found himself in the chase pack, rallied after a lull midway through the race, then finished in seventh in a tight finish between himself, WWU’s Kevin McDermott and SFU’s Ephrem Mekonnen. His 4:14.95 was a new personal-best less than 24 hours removed from setting a mile PR when he anchored MSUB’s distance medley relay.

“Ase did really well in the mile,” Woehl said. “There was one or two laps of that mile where the front group gapped him, but it’s hard to be frustrated with a PR.”

Later that afternoon, Ackerman led the first of two heats of the men’s 3,000 meters with Carson Jessop. The duo traded the lead for eight laps until WWU’s Kaleb Korta broke into the top three. Ackerman led for 12 laps, then placed second with a new personal best of 8:41.30 – which ranks fourth all-time at MSUB. To his credit, Jessop not only the 9-minute mark for the first time in his career, but also ran the eighth-fastest time in program history with an 8:53.40.

“Ase and Carson worked together really well in the first heat of the 3K,” Woehl said. “I think that was about as good as they were going to do – especially with Ase coming off of a quick turnaround after that mile.”

In the same heat, Bryant Edgerton ran a new PR with a 9:15.11; in the fast heat, Logan Straus placed 14th overall with an 8:45.96.

“I thought Logan did really well too,” Woehl said. “I knew he wanted to run a little bit faster, but he was right there with the leaders through the 2,000-meter mark. It wasn’t quite his day, but anytime you can be running in the 8:40s in the 3K, you’re doing alright. They’ll all have a little more experience that will be advantageous once we get to outdoor.”

For the women, freshmen Aubrie Christman and Dakota Lobmeyer led the way for the ‘Jackets in a shot put outing that saw Christman and Riley Noser set new personal-bests. Both Christman and Lobmeyer made it to finals, then

Christman’s 11.83m toss was the 10th-furthest in MSUB program history.

“They were battling through some minor injuries, but this was a really good experience for them as freshmen to go up against some upperclassmen,” Woehl said. “They did really well. I think with Riley and Ryann Moline, they’re going to end up being right there with them by the time we get to outdoor.”

The Yellowjackets ended the meet on a high note with the women’s 4x400 relay. Racing together for the second time all season, MSUB’s all-newcomer team of Madeline Severson, Katelyn Hamill, Annelise Clark and Chantel Chase competed in the first of two heats of the 4x400. All four freshmen ran a 63-second split or faster; their 4:10.80 was the fourth-fastest time in school history.

“They did a really good job of coming out and competing,” Woehl said. “Madeline already had a couple of big days by setting a new PR in the 400 meters and competing in the high jump, all four of them had either PRed in the 200 meters or the 400 meters, so with that in mind, I thought they ran really well. Chantel might end up being a 400-meter runner because she has such a motor and – holy cow – her first 200-meter split might be faster than what she ran her 200 meters in yesterday. With all of them being freshmen, hopefully we can keep it rolling.”

Simon Fraser won the women’s team title, whereas Western Washington won the men’s team title.

“What was good was everyone that scored points for us is coming back next year,” Woehl said. “Everyone that was close to scoring points was coming back next year, so there’s a lot of potential. We just have to keep on grinding and getting better. The meet was a good experience to get one more big meet under their belts – especially for the younger kids, because this was the first time they’ve ever gotten to do that. It was good to see how we responded under pressure.”