Montana Grizzlies sending 6 athletes to NCAA West Regional

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Posted at 8:47 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 22:47:03-04

(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)

MISSOULA — Several Montana student-athletes will have their track & field 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 in those events: Matthew Hockett (men's javelin), Tanessa Morris (women's hammer), Evan Todd (men's javelin), Matt Ward (men's hammer) and Brent Yeakey (men's discus). Additionally, Joel Mendez qualified in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase.

The group is a strong mixture of experience and youth, with three Grizzlies making repeat trips to NCAA Regionals (Morris, Todd, Yeakey). Additionally, three of Montana's qualifiers are just sophomores (Hockett, Todd, Ward).

In order to qualify, an athlete must rank in the top 48 in their region, which for Montana consists of the western half of the United States. Montana's top-ranked athletes are Todd (10th), Mendez (17th) and Morris (17th).

Montana's NCAA Regionals qualifiers will compete next week (Wednesday through Saturday) on the campus of the University of Arkansas. From there, the top 12 athletes from the West Region – along with the top dozen from the East Region – will qualify for the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

Who will compete for Montana:

Matthew Hockett / Sophomore / Oakesdale, Washington
Event: Men's javelin
Regional Experience: N/A
Season-Best Mark: 205-5
NCAA West Region Rank: 50th
Current Mark Needed To Finish Top 12: 226-10
Notes: In his first collegiate season, Hockett surprised many by scoring in the javelin at the 2021 Big Sky Championships with an eight-place finish. He has improved even more during his second collegiate season, adding another 8 feet to his PR and placing fifth at last week's conference meet. While he is a longshot in this year's field, qualifying for Regionals as just a sophomore is a major accomplishment and sets him up well moving forward.

Joel Mendez / Senior/ Goodyear, Arizona
Event: Men's 3,000-meter steeplechase
Regional Experience: N/A
Season-Best Time: 8:42.22
NCAA West Region Rank: 17th
Current Time Needed To Finish Top 12: 8:40.45
Notes: Mendez has had an historic 2022, running indoor and outdoor times not seen at Montana – in both the steeplechase and 5,000 meters – in decades. He has won the steeplechase three separate times this spring, including in April at the prestigious Bryan Clay Invitational in California, where he set his PR. That time is just 2 seconds off from a current top-12 pace, however, most recently, at the Big Sky Championships, he finished ninth.

Tanessa Morris / Senior / Brooks, Alberta, Canada
Event: Women's hammer
Regional Experience: 39th in 2021
Season-Best Mark: 210-4
NCAA West Region Rank: 17th
Current Mark Needed To Finish Top 12: 218-4
Notes: Morris has done just about everything during her 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 NCAA Regionals experience, qualifying a season ago and finishing 39th. She will look to improve on that rank in Fayetteville, currently seeded 17th with a legitimate chance to hang with the nation's elite.

Evan Todd / Sophomore / Kalispell, Montana
Event: Men's javelin
Regional Experience: 26th in 2021
Season-Best Mark: 229-2
NCAA West Region Rank: 10th
Current Mark Needed To Finish Top 12: 226-10
Notes: When Todd is at his best, he has All-America potential, entering the NCAA West Regional with the 10th-best mark. He hit that distance in the first meet of the season but was right in line with that measurement last week when he won a Big Sky title in the javelin. Just a sophomore, the Montana native has high expectations for himself, now qualifying for Regionals in each of his two collegiate seasons so far. He finished 26th in 2021 and has only improved since then.

Matt Ward / Sophomore / Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Event: Men's hammer
Regional Experience: N/A
Season-Best Mark: 209-0
NCAA West Region Rank: 34th
Current Mark Needed To Finish Top 12: 221-0
Notes: 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 will likely need even more in Fayetteville, currently seeded 34th, but just a sophomore, qualifying for NCAA Regionals bodes well for his future.

Brent Yeakey / Redshirt Senior / Redmond, Oregon
Event: Men's discus
Regional Experience: 33rd in the discus in 2021; 46th in the shot put in 2019
Season-Best Mark: 179-9
NCAA West Region Rank: 45th
Current Mark Needed To Finish Top 12: 191-11
Notes: By again qualifying for NCAA Regionals, Yeakey continues to cement himself as one of the top throwers in school history. In addition to three school records (indoor shot put, outdoor shot put, outdoor discus), Yeakey is also an 11-time scorer at conference, reaching the podium in the discus in back-to-back seasons. He will be making his third trip to NCAA Regionals, placing 33rd in 2021 in the discus, while also qualifying in the shot put in 2019.