FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The United States and Canadian Olympic Trials came to a close Sunday night, and all 10 current and former Northern Arizona University track & field athletes represented their respective countries honorably.
There was NAU blue and gold representation throughout the trials for the past week and a half across an array of events. While none of the Lumberjacks were able to pencil in spots on Olympic rosters, there was still a ton of performances to be proud of.
Recent graduate Deante Kemper came the closest of any 'Jack to booking a trip to Rio this August, finishing in fourth-place in the high jump finals yesterday afternoon at U.S. Trials. Kemper, a five-time Big Sky champion and the school indoor (7-4.25) and outdoor (7-3.75) record holder in the high jump, solidified a spot in the finals with a preliminary-best jump of 7-0.25 (2.14m) before flaming out just inches short of Rio with a finals-best mark of 7-3.00 (2.21m).
Lopez Lomong, Diego Estrada and Brian Shrader—three of the best distance athletes to ever don the NAU colors—also made strong bids for the U.S. Olympic team, with all three advancing to the 5,000m finals after impressive times in the qualifying round.
Lomong, a two-time Olympian and NCAA Champion, finished sixth-overall in the qualifying run (13:48.48) before nabbing a 10th-place time (13:51.19) during finals. Estrada, an Olympian for Mexico in 2012 and a 10-time conference champ, finished directly behind Lomong in the finals with a 13:52.08 time, while Shrader—a 2014 NCAA Indoor All-American who went pro early last year—placed 14th in the finals at 13:58.48.
Estrada also ran alongside current Lumberjack Futsum Zienasellassie—this year's runner-up in the men's 10,000m at NCAA Championships—in the 10K run at U.S. Trials. Neither runner, however, was able to clock a finishing time, despite giving it their all for nearly the entire race.
On the women's side, former NAU distance star Rochelle Kanuho competed in the women's 5K event and, like her male counterparts mentioned above, earned her way to finals after finishing eighth with a qualifying round time of 15:33.80. In the finals, Kanuho—running for Hoka One One NAZ Elite—finished 15th with a 16:05.20 time.
Andersen, a two-time all-conference athlete in the hammer and the 2015 Big Sky Women's Hammer Throw champion, redshirted this past outdoor season in preparation for these trials and sure made it count. The Vista, Calif., native mustered a new career-best mark on her first attempt during the qualifying round last Wednesday with a 208-4 (63.50m) mark before promptly shattering that distance with a 210-9 (64.25m) PR on her second throw. Andersen fouled on her third attempt and finished 2.10m outside of a trip to finals.
Hoover, a three-time outdoor all-conference member in the steeplechase and a four-time outdoor all-conference member in the 5K, competed in the qualifying round of the steeplechase at the U.S. Trials. The Joplin, Mo., native and three-time NCAA All-American placed 15th overall with a 8:37.70 time—one spot and .10 seconds short of finals.
Former Lumberjacks Shamelle Pless (100m) and Lauren Stuart (hammer throw) also competed this last week at Olympic trials, but with these two instead looking for a shot to join the Canadian national team.
Pless, the seven-time all-conference athlete and school record-holder in the indoor 200m, competed in the 100m dash at the Canadian trials in Edmonton, Alberta, earning her way past the qualifying round and into the semi's. There, the 2015 USTFCCCA All-Academic athlete ran an 11.74 time that placed her 16th in the competition, which was not good enough to make the finals cut.
Stuart, the school record holder in the women's weight and hammer throw events, also earned a bye past the qualifying round, advancing to the finals where she slung a 210-0 (64.02m) throw. The Smithers, British Columbia, native finished fourth-overall but will not join Team Canada in Rio.