Montana Grizzlies sends 6 athletes to NCAA West Regional

(Editor’s note: University of Montana press release)

MISSOULA — Several Montana student-athletes will have their track seasons extended, as six Grizzlies qualified for the NCAA West Regional in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Montana’s throwing unit will be heavily represented, with five of the six qualifiers coming to these events: Matthew Hockett (men’s javelin), Tanessa Morris (women’s hammer), Evan Todd (men’s javelin), Matt Ward (men’s hammer) and Brent Yeakey (male record). Additionally, Joel Mendez qualified in the men’s 3,000 meter steeplechase.

The squad is a solid mix of experience and youth, with three Grizzlies making repeat trips to NCAA Regionals (Morris, Todd, Yeakey). Additionally, three of the Montana qualifiers are just sophomores (Hockett, Todd, Ward).

To qualify, an athlete must place in the top 48 in their region, which for Montana consists of the western half of the United States. Montana’s top athletes are Todd (10and), Mendez (17and) and Morris (17and).

The Montana NCAA Regional Qualifiers will face off next week (Wednesday through Saturday) at the University of Arkansas campus. From there, the top 12 athletes from the West Region — along with the top twelve from the East Region — will qualify for the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

Who will compete for Montana:

Matthew Hockett / Sophomore / Oakesdale, Washington
Event: javelin men
Regional experience: N / A
Highest score of the season: 205-5
NCAA West Region Ranking: 50th
Current score needed to finish in the top 12: 226-10
Remarks: In his freshman college season, Hockett surprised many by scoring in the javelin at the 2021 Big Sky Championships with an eighth-place finish. He improved further in his sophomore college season, adding an additional 8 feet to his PR and placing fifth in last week’s conference meet. Although he’s a long shot in the field this year, qualifying for Regionals as a sophomore is a major achievement and sets him up well to go forward.

Joel Mendez / Senior / Goodyear, Arizona
Event: Men’s 3000 meter steeplechase
Regional experience: N / A
Best moment of the season: 8:42.22
NCAA West Region Ranking: 17and
Current time needed to complete the Top 12: 8:40.45
Mendez had a historic 2022, setting indoor and outdoor times not seen in Montana — both in hurdles and over 5,000 meters — in decades. He has won the steeplechase three times this spring, including in April at the prestigious Bryan Clay Invitational in California, where he established his public relations. That time is just 2 seconds off a current top-12 pace, however, more recently at the Big Sky Championships he finished ninth.

Tanessa Morris / Senior / Brooks, Alberta, Canada
Event: women’s hammer
Regional experience: 39and in 2021
Highest score of the season: 210-4
NCAA West Region Ranking: 17and
Current score needed to finish in the top 12: 218-4
Remarks: Morris has done just about everything in his two-year Griz career, winning back-to-back Big Sky titles in the hammer and earlier this month setting a school record in the event. She also has experience in NCAA Regionals, qualified a season ago and finished 39and. She will look to improve on that rank at Fayetteville, currently seeded 17and with a legitimate chance to hang with the nation’s elite.

Evan Todd / Sophomore / Kalispell, Montana
Event: javelin men
Regional experience: 26and in 2021
Highest score of the season: 229-2
NCAA West Region Ranking: tenand
Current score needed to finish in the top 12: 226-10
Remarks: When Todd is at his best, he has All-America potential, entering the NCAA West Regional with the 10and-best grade. He reached that distance in the first meeting of the season, but was in line with that metric last week when he won a Big Sky javelin title. Just a sophomore, the Montana native has high expectations for himself, now qualifying for regionals in each of his two college seasons so far. He finished 26and in 2021 and has only gotten better since.

Matt Ward / Sophomore / Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Event: man hammer
Regional experience: N / A
Highest score of the season: 209-0
NCAA West Region Ranking: 34and
Current score needed to finish in the top 12: 221-0
Remarks: Ward is coming off the best performance of his young career, finishing fourth in the hammer at the Big Sky Championships with a lifetime best throw of 209-0. He’ll likely need even more in Fayetteville, currently seeded 34but just a sophomore, qualifying for NCAA Regionals bodes well for his future.

Brent Yeakey / Redshirt Senior / Redmond, Oregon
Event: male discus
Regional experience: 33rd to record in 2021; 46and shot put in 2019
Highest score of the season: 179-9
NCAA West Region Ranking: 45and
Current score needed to finish in the top 12: 191-11
Remarks: Qualifying again for NCAA Regionals, Yeakey continues to cement himself as one of the best pitchers in school history. In addition to three school records (indoor shot put, outdoor shot put, outdoor discus), Yeakey is also an 11-time conference scorer, reaching the podium in discus in consecutive seasons. He will make his third trip to NCAA Regionals, placing 33rd in 2021 in the discus, while also qualifying in the shot put in 2019.

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