SACRAMENTO, Calif. – On the final day of the 2017 Big Sky Outdoor Championship on Saturday, North Dakota junior thrower Molli Detloff put forth a performance for the ages. It may have also aged her head coach.
Detloff “gave us coaches heart attacks,” according to UND head coach Kevin Galbraith, on the way to earning Big Sky Conference Most Valuable Athlete of the Meet today. The Elk River, Minn., native won a conference championship in the discus and was the runner-up in the hammer, becoming UND's first student-athlete in Division I history to lead the conference meet in points.
The milestone day, however, did not come without dramatics.
Detloff's day started smoothly enough. She exploded for a hammer throw of 202 feet, 5 inches (61.70 meters) – just missing her school record of 202-06 – to take second place relatively uneventfully in the opening event the day.
Then came the discus.
A pair of disappointing throws in the prelims – she barely hit 40 meters on the first and failed to do so on the second – had Detloff on the edge of not qualifying for the finals. But she came through with a big throw (47.06) on her third try to advance. In the finals, however, Detloff again struggled on her first two throws. And again, she came through on the third effort. That throw landed at 168 feet, 9 inches (51.44) and vaulted her to the top of the standings. Once there, the two competitors who had been ahead of her faulted and just like that, Detloff was the Big Sky champion.
“She put the pressure on them big-time,” said Galbraith. “It was just a series of comebacks.”
Those two performances, combined with her fifth-place effort in the shot put on Friday, gave Detloff 22 points, more than any other competitor. It also made her the first Fighting Hawk to be named Most Valuable Athlete at the Big Sky meet.
“She had a fantastic meet by any way you want to look at it,” said Galbriath. “She's a clutch performer.”
UND also received a pair of all-conference showings on the men's side with third-place finishes by Zachary Ray in the pole vault and Michael Quesenberry in the shot put. Ray's leap of 15-06.25 (4.73) was a season best for the Centennial, Colo., native.
“We had good competitions out of a lot of people,” said Galbraith. “Quiz was competing hard with the guys that were out there. Zach Ray, that was great getting him on the podium.”
It all added up to a sixth-place finish on the women's side and a ninth-place showing on the men's side. It was an improvement of three spots from the previous year for the men, while the slide of two spots on the women's side came as no surprise to Galbraith.
“Coming into the meet, I was hoping for sixth. I knew with the injury problems and the redshirts we had this year -- with some of the challenges we've had…I was very pleased with sixth.”
A pleasant surprise for Galbraith came in the 4x400 relay, where UND had been plagued all year by a string of injuries on both the men's and women's side. But UND was able to run its full complement of runners today and both squads produced season-best times.
The women's relay of Stephanie Clarke, Heather Harrower, Meghan Janssen and Tianna McKinney actually clocked the fourth-best 4x400 time in school history (3:48.38) and placed seventh. The men's team of James Hollister, Jared Michel, Tyler Olson and James McFarlin finished eighth in its race with a time of 3:19.38.
“That was the first time on both men's and women side that we were able to run our ‘A' relay all season,” said Galbraith. “We were ranked dead last on both coming in – injuries and other problems – and we just couldn't get the four running at the same time. A lot of seniors were on those teams, so some nice things happened for them today.”
In addition to her 4x400 contribution, McKinney also scored in both the 200 and 400 meters. Her time of 54.80 in the latter was a season best.
“We competed well,” said Galbraith. “Tianna McKinney was hurt for a month and for her to score in both events and run a season best, that's an amazing weekend.”
Fellow sprinter Natasha Brown placed fourth in the 100 meters, clocking a time of 11.87 seconds. She just missed her season best of 11.86.
Other women's scorers included Clarke in the 400 (7th) and senior thrower Molly Griep in the discus (6th) and hammer (7th).
“This was a good weekend. I'm really pleased with the way we competed,” said Galbraith.