Lumberjacks Set the Tone for the 2017 Season at Friday Night Duels

NAU's Shanice McPherson and Brady Williams
NAU's Shanice McPherson and Brady Williams

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona University track and field team could not have asked for a better start to its 2017 season, as each unit showcased some stand out performances Friday afternoon at the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome.

"In all my years coaching here, this was the best first-meet of the season we've ever had," said Associate Head Coach Kenny McDaniel. "Everyone competed very well tonight, and our offseason preparation really showed in each phase. I told our athletes that their performances tonight should leave them with a feeling like they could compete tomorrow; they should be itching to get back out there. It's going to be a very good season, and I'm just proud of the way they competed."

VIDEO: Recapping the 2017 Friday Night Duels

The most notable performance tonight came from throws athlete Brooke Andersen as she set the new school record in the weight throw event, surpassing Lauren Stuart with a 55-09.75 (20.36m) throw on her first competitive attempt of the new year. Currently, she sits in fifth place all-time on the Big Sky Conference women's weight throw rankings.

Redshirt-junior James Fisher continues to excel is his bread-and-butter event—the 200m dash—showing Friday he has not skipped a beat since winning the 2016 conference indoor and outdoor titles in that event. The native of Arlington, Texas, came away with a first-place finish and a time of 21.63 before altitude adjustment.

Lumberjack Assistant Coach Roderick Townsend put an emphasis on recruiting coming into his second season as the jumps coach and his efforts in the offseason will surely make a large impact this season. Fans received their first taste of graduate transfer Shanice McPherson—a two-time NCAA Division II long jump national champion—as she competed in both the long jump (1st—19-08.75, 6.01m) and 60m dash (3rd—7.63) tonight for NAU. It will be interesting to see how her season progresses in relation to the Big Sky's Conference indoor record for the long jump, as it currently sits at 20-6.50—surely within reach.  

A theme Friday was garnering new career-bests, as multiple members from each group did just that. Distance-wise, Harvey Nelson and Sean Gregg nearly matched each other step-for-step in the men's mile run, finishing within three seconds of one another. Gregg PR'ed with a 4:31.74 time while Nelson did so at 4:34.10.

For throws, sophomore Brittany Vielma hit new PR's in the shot put (13.29m) and weight (15.72m), while Rachel Pott and Tiana Hatler-Stefick did the same in weight throw. Sophomore Brady Williams also muscled up tonight in the men's version of the weight throw, logging a 53-11.75 (16.45m) mark to place fourth.

Redshirt-sophomore sprints athlete Tylnn Carter—who battled injuries during her freshman year—came on strong tonight and showed a lot of heart to set a new personal-best 400m time at 56.58. Her teammate Clarissa Maxey did the same thing in the same event, hitting 56.47 to finish fourth. 

The offseason training and progression of jumps sophomore Obang Odol was also on display tonight, recording a PR in the high jump (6-10.75, 2.10m). Placing second overall in that event, it was evident Odol is going to be a valuable asset to the 'Jacks come conference time.

Athletes from the University of Arizona, Arizona State, Grand Canyon, San Jose State, Pepperdine and Southern Utah also competed Friday night in the Walkup Skydome. 

The Lumberjacks are back in action next Saturday, January 21, for the 2017 Lumberjack Team Challenge. Field events are slated to go on at 9 a.m. MT, when the track events will begin at 10:30 a.m.