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Griz CB Jimmy Wilson in a game during 2010. (Photo by Greg Lindstrom)
When the game clock in Washington-Grizzly Stadium showed all zeros following a season-ending loss to rival Bobcats in November, 15 University of Montana seniors walked off the football field with their teammates. The game was over. For all but perhaps a select few, another will never start.

For 15 seniors, the waiting began that day: for graduation, for jobs, for a life after football. Or, for a shot at the next level. For some who have a shot at the NFL, this weekend could mark the end of that waiting period.

It is unlikely that a Montana athlete will be picked when the NFL draft commences today at 6 p.m. and the same is probably true of Friday's rounds. But during the last four rounds, picked on Saturday, several Grizzlies will have a stake in the televised action.

"I'm going to be in front of that TV biting my fingernails the whole time," said defensive back Jimmy Wilson, one of three or four Grizzlies listed as prospects on draft boards ranging from Sports Illustrated to ESPN.

 
 
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(Photo by Ben Coulter)
After several painful competitions (see hockey, lacrosse), the powers that be decided on a more relaxing series finale of AJ Versus. For the last time, the Montana Kaimin presents: AJ Versus golf (mini) with Rose Stepanek.

While deciding to play the golf team, I knew there’s no worldly way I’d be able to keep up on a real golf course. I can’t drive. I can’t chip. I can’t pitch.

But what I can do is putt through a windmill or into a fountain or around a dragon’s tail. Sadly, Missoula’s lone mini golf course at Westside Lanes — best known for its bowling — has no wacky obstacles. Still, it’s better than fairways and sand traps.

 
 
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Coach Wayne Tinkle (seated) has little room to work with new recruits due to limited scholarships. (Photo by Ben Coulter)
For a second straight offseason, men's basketball at Montana will be replacing its most valuable player.

The graduation of senior Brian Qvale leaves a near 7-foot hole in the Grizzlies' lineup, but outside of the center's absence, this fall's team will likely look very similar to the group from this spring. To add more names to the roster, coach Wayne Tinkle will have to make room first.

Tinkle won't have scholarship offers to work with if he wants to lure any more players to Missoula during the spring signing period after the addition of two recruits from last fall. Jordan Gregory and Kevin Henderson make 14 Grizzly basketball players under scholarship, one more than the maximum allowed.

To make room for the two incoming players — and any others put on scholarship in the next few weeks — Tinkle's current roster will likely need some trimming. But that can and often does happen, the coach said.

"Some players may not be on the same page with the direction we're going," Tinkle said, but not specifically referring to any of his present players. "People may leave the team."
 
 
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Anika Green hits the hurdles. (Photo by Greg Lindstrom)
As far as track meets go, this weekend's dual is much like all the others on the schedule. It's no more important than last week's and no more important than those slated for later this month.Still, there's always something a little different about the annual Griz-Cat Dual, according to Montana Track and Field Director Brian Schweyen. You can feel it in the air, he said, and see it in the athletes' performances. And there's only one word to describe it.

"Excitement," Schweyen said.

The Grizzlies and the Montana State Bobcats will square off this Saturday at Dornblaser Field, with a full day of events starting at 9:30 a.m. The Griz-Cat dual, the final appearance for the Montana track team in Missoula this spring, pits in-state rivals against each other for one day of "quick-moving competition," Schweyen said. The Grizzlies have been dominant in the annual recently, sweeping the men's and women's competitions in three of the last four seasons including last year.

 
 
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The UM tennis squad a recent practice. (Photo by Ben Coulter)
The Montana women's tennis team will be experiencing déjà vu when it takes on Northern Arizona this Saturday at the Big Sky Conference Championship Tournament.

The Grizzlies' opening round matchup will feature the same team and same players as last weekend's regular season finale.

Montana coach Steve Ascher is hoping the outcome will be different this time around.

"I always appreciate rematches, especially if you come out on the losing side the first time," said Ascher, referencing his squad's loss last weekend.

 
 
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UM senior Amanda Bran. (Photo by Steel Brooks)
While Montana's clinching of a Big Sky Conference Championship berth was the biggest tennis news of the weekend, a close second was the return of Amanda Bran.

After a February foot injury derailed her promising senior season, Bran spent more than two months rehabbing — working with trainers sometimes two or three times a day. She sat watching her teammates and waiting. On April 9, her wait ended.

"I was a bit nervous actually stepping back in," said Bran, who suffers from plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation near the heel that makes bearing weight difficult. "But after a few minutes it felt all natural again. It was amazing."

The rust didn't show on Saturday as the women's tennis star helped the Griz knock off Idaho State 6-1, guaranteeing a second straight Montana postseason trip. The Australian-born tennis player rekindled the fire with doubles partner Constance Alexander to the tune of an 8-0 thrashing.

 
 
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UM basketball coach Wayne Tinkle. (photo by Greg Lindstrom)
Griz coach Tinkle staying at UM; contract extension on the way

Montana men's basketball coach Wayne Tinkle is content where he is.

The Grizzlies' coach, who met with Fresno State at the end of March about the team's vacant head coaching position, opted to return for his sixth season at the helm of his alma mater.

"The people we have here and the team we know we have coming back kept me here," Tinkle said.

Tinkle is set to make a base salary of $122,596 for the 2010-2011 season, the final year of his contract, but school administrators hope to have him around longer than that. Montana Athletic Director Jim O'Day said the school is looking at signing Tinkle on for another three-year deal. A contract could be finalized by the end of the year, O'Day said.

"We'd like to have something by the end of the academic year but [discussions] could last through the end of the fiscal year," O'Day said.

 
 

Click here to see video of AJ Versus Track

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(Photo by Greg Lindstrom)
In honor of the Montana outdoor track and field season's opening day, the Montana Kaimin brought its A-game to the track. The goal, besides not looking too stupid, was to help multi-event athlete Lindsey Hall prepare for the heptathlon.

The idea behind the heptathlon is spectacular for someone like me (i.e., not a real competitor). Seven tries at seven different events? There's got to be one in there that I can do well at.

Let's see now, high jump, long jump, hurdles? I can handle that. Javelin, shot put? Check and check. Eight hundred meter run followed by a 200-meter run? Wait. Nobody told me there would be running involved! If I wanted to run, I'd just chase those mile runners around. I guess we'll have to turn this heptathlon (that means seven) into a pentathlon (that means two less than seven).

Luckily, Montana's resident heptathlon expert, Lindsey Hall, agreed that watching me run laps would be boring and probably too depressing to handle. We can nix that, she said. Now on to the high jump!