UMW runners step down in Missoula

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The University of Montana Western cross country teams fell a little flat in relation to expectations on a flatter-than-expected course at last week’s Montana Open in Missoula.

“We did okay,” said UMW Head Coach Dylan Zitzer, who has led his men’s and women’s teams up a steady incline of results and expectations during his seven years as coach.

“The course was fast. I just don’t think we were ready for it being such a flat course. It’s usually hilly,” said Zitzer of the tract at the University of Montana Golf Course that usually features a major upward slope as part of its annual race, which again this year attracted competitors, some from NCAA programs UM and Montana State University, along with top runners from the Frontier Conference.

“Our kids maybe got a little too excited about facing MSU and UM. So, they had a little bit nerves, maybe a little fatigue going in. We did not compete our best,” conceded Zitzer adding that his runners got surprised by some subtractions from the course they typically face at the annual event.

“It was a quick course. It was really different than usual. It’s typically pretty hilly, and I don’t think we were quite ready for how flat and fast and dry the conditions would be,” said Zitzer, whose women finished third among NAIA programs while his men placed fifth.

“The course was easier than we anticipated. It’s usually pretty hilly, but it was pretty flat, and it was definitely dry and firm.”

Luke Lutz paced the Western men with a 29th place and 22:32 on the men’s 7k tract on which Rocky Mountain College’s Jackson Wilson finished first.

Super senior Eireann O’Connor finished tops among Lady Bulldogs, traversing the 5k women’s course in 17 minutes and 49 seconds in a race won by Montana Tech’s Becca Richtman.

“Our conference showed up well at the meet and we should have been fine,” said Zitzer.

“It was a learning experience and I am hoping we can get better from it.”

Next up for the Bulldogs, a trip in the other direction to Billings to compete in the Yellowjacket Open at Amend Park on Friday, Oct. 8, starting at 11:45 a.m.