Morley Wins Collegiate Debut Race for UM

Morley covered the three-mile route on the Bridger Creek Golf Course in a time of 16:43 to win the women’s race

By Beacon Staff

Montana freshman Makena Morley opened her collegiate running career with a dominating victory Saturday morning at the Montana State Invitational in Bozeman.

Morley, a former high school state champion and state record holder from Bigfork, covered the three-mile route on the Bridger Creek Golf Course in a time of 16:43 to win the women’s race, which included the Grizzlies and Bobcats, plus Utah, Utah State and Idaho State, by more than 40 seconds.

Morley led Montana to a fourth-place team finish. Freshman Gavin Hasty and sophomore Nathan Wellington, both top eight among Division I runners, did the same in the men’s five-mile race.

“Makena went out and did what we expected her to do. It was exciting to see her take care of business,” said UM coach Collin Fehr. “She went hard from the gun and really showed her strength.”

Utah State’s Kashley Carter was second in 17:26, Montana State freshman Alyssa Snyder placed third in 17:33. Only six runners in the 63-athlete field were able to finish within a minute of Morley’s time.

“This is really a good starting point for Makena and where she’s headed and the goals she has for later in the season,” added Fehr.

No other Grizzlies cracked the top 25 among Division I runners, but the next seven Montana runners all finished within a 26-second window.

Freshman Emily Pittis ran an 18:15, sophomore Emily Cheroske an 18:28, and freshman Bridget Creel, back running in her hometown of Bozeman, also clocked an 18:28.

“Emily was very strong throughout the race. She ran with consistency and showed what a great competitor she is, and Bridget stepped up. All three of the freshmen women ran really well today,” said Fehr.

“As a whole, the women’s team competed well. Makena was out in front, and the rest ran well as a pack. They were focused and driven to work with each other. This was a really good starting point for the women.”

The men’s team matched the women with a pair of freshmen among its top three finishers. Hasty, who ran a 26:11, finished fourth among Division I runners, Wellington was eighth in 26:28. Rounding out the top three was freshman Jonathan Eastwood, 13th in a time of 26:36.

“Gavin was really impressive,” Fehr said. “He executed the plan he had going into the race and was very relaxed early on. He was controlled and consistent through the middle sections, then he let loose the last mile and a half and made up a ton of ground and moved into the top 10.

“And Jonathan stepped up in his first five-mile race and managed the distance with a lot of composure and maturity.”

Junior Adam Wollant, who ran a 26:47, was Montana’s No. 4 runner. Sophomore Paden Alexander ran a 27:21 to round out the team’s top five.

“Overall the men were great,” said Fehr. “They ran as a pack and pushed well together. As they continue to train and improve together and become more mentally refined over that distance, they can move up the standings.”

Utah, with its top four runners within the top eight Division I finishers, won the women’s team title with a score of 35. Utah State was second with 41, Montana State third with 80, Montana fourth with 120.

Utah State’s Colby Wilson won the men’s race in a time of 26:05 to edge Montana State freshman Justice Lamer by less than a second. Idaho State’s Ty James was third in 26:08.

Utah State, with a team score of 45, easily won the men’s team title. Montana State was second with a score of 77. Idaho State, with 85, was third, Montana, with 87, placed fourth.

The Grizzlies will compete in two weeks at the Montana Invitational at the UM Golf Course.

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