(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA — Six Montana student-athletes were rewarded for their strong athletic seasons on Thursday, when the NCAA announced its qualifiers for the NCAA West Region. Montana has had 86 regional qualifiers in Brian Schweyen’s 11 seasons at the helm, including at least four every season.
Montana’s six NCAA West Region qualifiers come from six different events: Jane Booth (high jump), Olivia Ellis (400-meter hurdles), Hana Feilzer (hammer throw), Jensen Lillquist (javelin), Maryn Lowry (1,500 meters), Brent Yeakey (shot put).
“It’s excited any time you have an athlete reach their potential and advance to the next level, and especially so when we have multiple doing it,” Schweyen said. “I’m excited to watch them compete and see what they can do.”
The NCAA West Region will run May 23-25 on the campus of Sacramento State. FloTrack Pro subscribers can watch the live broadcast of the meet, in addition to on-demand video, documentaries, technique videos and more.
While the six qualifiers are impressive, Montana also has a strong chance to have an athlete advance to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2015. Among the 48 athletes in each event, the top 12 will qualify for the NCAA Championships, which will be held next month in Austin, Texas. The Grizzlies currently have two throwers on track to do so, with Hana Feilzer seeded 10th in the hammer throw and Jensen Lillquist at 12th in the javelin.
“They absolutely have a legitimate shot of moving on to the next level, and that’s something they’ve been thinking about for several years,” Schweyen said. “They’re both in position to do so and I’m excited to watch it unfold.”
In addition to the six qualifiers, Montana also had a handful of additional athletes who nearly made the cut. No one was closer than junior Darby Henthorn, who was one inch shy of meeting the qualifying distance in the javelin. Henthorn had a top distance of 150-10, needing a 150-11 to advance. Additionally, others who narrowly missed the cut but will return in 2020 include Jansen Ziola (2 inches in the long jump), Zena Smith (less than 2 feet in the javelin), Shawn Humphries (2.5 feet in the hammer throw), Carla Nicosia (14 inches in the triple jump) and Dylan Kipp and Brendan Thurber-Blaser (4 feet in the javelin).
Below is a look at Montana’s NCAA West Region qualifiers:
Jane Booth / High Jump
Booth has been in this position before, qualifying for regionals in each of her first two seasons, as well. Booth placed 30th in 2017 and 34th in 2018, but this spring, is going into the meet with momentum. Booth is coming off of a season-best performance in the high jump, placing third at the Big Sky Championships. She has a top jump this season of 5-8.5, and a lifetime best of 5-9.25.
Olivia Ellis / 400-Meter Hurdles
In three seasons at Montana, Ellis has accomplished plenty. She is part of Montana’s school-record 4×400-meter relay team, has reached the podium of the 400-meter hurdles and has earned Academic All-Big Sky recognition every semester. She can now add another accomplishment to her resume, by qualifying for regionals. Ellis ran a lifetime-best 1:00.20 to earn bronze at least week’s Big Sky Championships, which also extended her season.
Hana Feilzer / Hammer Throw
Regarded as one of the top hammer throwers in Big Sky history, Hana Feilzer will once again have the opportunity to showcase her talents on the big stage. She has twice qualified for regionals, finishing 40th in 2016 and 21st in 2017. After redshirting a season ago, Feilzer now looks to take the next step during her final season and qualify for nationals. The Montana school-record-holder has a strong chance to do so, currently ranked 10th in the West Region with a top throw of 209-10, which was set last week at the Big Sky Championships. The previous school record, which was also set by Feilzer, came at the facility in Sacramento she will be competing at next week.
Jensen Lillquist / Javelin
Like Feilzer, much of the focus next week will be on Jensen Lillquist, who will compete at NCAA Regionals for the fourth time, becoming the first male athlete under Schweyen to do so. Not only has Lillquist been here before, but he’s excelled – and overperformed. In three previous trips, he has finished better than his seeded position each time, including the last two trips, when he finished 14th both years. That’s a good sign for Lillquist, who is currently seeded 12th (232-6, set at last week’s Big Sky Championships) and will look to maintain that and earn his first trip to nationals.
Maryn Lowry / 1,500 Meters
A graduate transfer from Iowa State, Maryn Lowry made the most of her lone season with the Montana track team. Last week at the Big Sky Championships, she placed third in the 1,500 meters, and earlier this spring was named the Big Sky Athlete of the Week after running a lifetime-best 4:24.72. While this is Lowry’s first trip to regionals as a track athlete, she has been on the national stage several times in cross country.
Brent Yeakey / Shot Put
Brent Yeakey broke onto the scene at last year’s Big Sky Championships, scoring in the shot put, and continued his progression in 2019 by scoring in both the shot put and discus. He will continue his season in the shot put, reaching NCAA Regionals for the first time. His top throw of 58-6.5 was set earlier this month.