UM Spring Sports Roundup
by Zach Dundas
Wrestling hundreds of pounds of pulsating, obstinate animal flesh? No problem.
Rebuilding a team purged of starters by graduation 1997? A walk in the park.
Facing schools bent on knocking the Montana greenhorns down a peg at this spring's College National Rodeo Finals? Piece of cake.
But all those athletic battles pale in comparison to the sadness and loss inflicted on UM's rodeo team by the sudden heart attack that claimed Joe Durso's life on July 24. That tragedy, with the speed and force of lightning, denied Montana rodeo its mentor, head coach and driving force.
Detton, along with her teammates, faces a year with a hole in the middle. "Joe was just so instrumental, for me personally as well as for the whole program," she says. "He was the head coach, and he took care of a lot of the financial work, handling scholarships and so forth. Now we're in the middle of a big reconstruction."
Durso, a longtime broadcasting professor who'd agreed to serve a second consecutive year as interim dean of UM's School of Journalism, left behind an abiding rodeo legacy.
In the last several years, the team he brought together made numerous strong showings in the Big Sky region and at the national level. Despite the roster's youth this spring, the men's team beat out six schools to win the Big Sky region; the women's team finished a respectable third. Sophomore Bryant Mikkelson was named all-around Big Sky cowboy and junior Amanda Fox took second in goat-tying at the College National Rodeo Finals in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Detton credits this success to team fortitude built on years of adversity-hard times that now seem minor-league in the wake of Durso's death. That toughness, though, should serve them well as the club searches for a new coach and the team picks up the pieces, financial and emotional.
"Of all the teams in our region," Detton says, "it seems like this team has been tested over and over again. I think it brings us together and tries our strength. We've had to struggle with every other team watching us, and I think that's made us a better team."
Head coach Kris Nord, a sixteen-year veteran at UM, faced a season with a young team and tough competition from some of the Big Sky's Sun Belt schools. Still, he squeezed plenty of on-court moxie out of his squads and feels pleased with the results.
"I think, all in all, it was a great season for both our teams," Nord says. "We're at the point now that I think we can go down and compete on any given weekend and maybe win the championship if we come up with good tennis. We are just as good as any team in the Big Sky."
The men's and women's teams advanced to the Big Sky semifinals and lost to the eventual champions, Sacramento State's men and Northern Arizona's women, a testament to the teams' competitiveness. The lady 'Jacks shut Montana out, but Nord says his men's
4-1 loss was a much tighter contest than it might appear.
Before the league tournament, the season included some crushing decisions over the likes of Lewis and Clark College, Gonzaga and Eastern Washington University, as well as splits in nip-and-tuck battles with MSU. The Grizzly men, paced by the wicked doubles and singles play of sophomore David Froschauer, finished 9-9. The women tipped the scales the right way with a final tally of eleven wins, six losses.
Nord points with special pride to players like junior Jen Canuso, who returned from a devastating knee injury to put together a solid campaign. "It probably wasn't the sort of season she's used to," Nord says. "But coming off a complete rebuild of the knee and a whole summer and fall of not playing, it was a great performance."
In four years spent in Grizzly soccer shirts, seniors Lisa Oyen and Railene Sophmore goalkeeper Natalie Hiller, the first Missoula native to play for the Lady Griz.
Sophmore goalkeeper Natalie Hiller, the first Missoula native to play for the Lady Griz.
And, this spring, with their eligibility spent, Oyen and Thorson were able to make news that outweighed anything their old team did in the exhibition season. In May, the pair signed contracts that took them into a brave new world-semi-pro, big-city soccer in a brand-new American league.
Thorson, a towering goalkeeper who owned the penalty box for UM, now wears the traditional number one shirt for the Denver Diamonds of the four-year-old W-League, a nationwide circuit hoping to lay the groundwork for a major league following the 1999 Women's World Cup.
"I got a little bit of parental pressure to go with Denver," says Thorson, a Seattle native. "Also, I chose them because of their coaches and their plans for the future."
Oyen headed to the other side of the continent. The hardy defender who frequently launched attacks out of the back for Montana now plies her trade on Miami Beach, for the W-League's Gliders.
While Thorson went through tryouts with a number of league clubs before landing with the Diamonds, the Gliders signed Oyen sight unseen. In each case, though, it would seem the right choice was made: Both Denver and Miami are on top of their W-League divisions at this writing.
You could say they sweat in the shadows.
Grizzly track and field-a venerable athletic institution, Montana's contribution Junior Darcy Lewis holds off Portland State runner during a 1500-meter race.
Junior Darcy Lewis holds off Portland State runner during a 1500-meter race.
But that can't erase the accomplishments of a few Montana tracksters. The Grizzlies' own versions of citius, altius and fortius (swifter, higher, stronger) live on-sometimes with a vengeance.
Take the time this spring, for instance, when Calvin Coleman made the record books. In a dual meet with the Bobcats of Montana State University, the freshman from Niceville, Florida, shattered a thirteen-year-old Griz long jump mark with a leap of 24 feet, 10 inches. Coleman's other life as a cornerback in Mick Dennehy's football army will probably bring him 10,000 times the public kudos, but his jump was 5 feet 2 inches short of a first down, folks.
Some of Coleman's teammates likewise spiced up a season in which the men's and women's teams finished seventh in indoor and outdoor Big Sky Conference championships. Troy McDonough mastered the ten-headed, leg-racking beast also known as the decathlon. McDonough chalked up 7,473 points at the Big Sky Championship meet to claim UM's lone men's title and set the standard for every Griz who faces this form of torture from now on.
Brooke Stinson, a junior from Ontario, took the women's 200-meter Big Sky title, posting a school record time of 23.63, which means she cranked it up to about 20 miles per hour.
UM also sent a pair of delegates to the National Junior Championships in Illinois in June. Freshman vaulter Nicole Zeller finished thirteenth overall, and freshman runner Kyle Wies advanced through preliminary rounds of the 800- meter before falling in the semifinals.
"It was a good year," says head coach Tom Raunig, who just completed his second UM season. "We finished seventh in the Big Sky in men's and women's, but each team scored twenty more points than in previous years. Seventeen of thirty-two athletes were freshmen, so we're excited for the team's potential in the upcoming year." M