Lumberjacks Eager to Start Chopping at 2017 Texas Relays This Weekend

NAU's Ashley Taylor & Adam Keenan (Keenan Credit: Larry Lawson)
NAU's Ashley Taylor & Adam Keenan (Keenan Credit: Larry Lawson)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Over 7,700 athletes from nearly 200 hundred colleges and universities compete this weekend in Austin, Texas, at the 90th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays presented by Spectrum. Sixteen of those competitors are members of the Northern Arizona University track and field team, and the Lumberjacks are eager to showcase their skills and talents on one of the sport's biggest stages.

Two outdoor seasons ago, the NAU squad traveled a similar number of athletes to this exact meet but overall, did not have the showing they necessarily anticipated.

This time around, though, Lumberjacks such as Brooke Andersen (throws), Adam Keenan (throws), James Fisher (sprints) and Shanice McPherson (sprints/jumps) are ready to erase that memory and discard the distaste of 2015 Texas Relays with a great performance this weekend.

For Andersen, the nation's No. 2 ranked hammer thrower (221-3, 67.43m), she actually threw at this event the last time NAU traveled to Austin. In fact, it could be argued that even though she was an NCAA West Regional competitor during her inaugural collegiate season, Andersen's second-place performance in the hammer at 2015 Texas Relays is what turned heads and propelled her onto the national scene.

This time around, she is more seasoned and no stranger to the national spotlight, so this weekend boasts some serious potential for the Big Sky's hammer throw record holder. She and teammate Tiana Hatler-Stefick will compete in this event tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. MT.

On the men's side, it is the NCAA's No. 2 ranked hammer thrower Keenan that will look to improve off a great season-opening showing at the UC Irvine Spring Break Invitational two weeks back. There, Keenan logged a first-place finish with a 225-2 (68.64m) toss. That mark, not even a career best for the Canadian native, sat atop the national rankings for over a week.

If past meets are any indication, Keenan has always risen to the occasion, so look out for the usually even-tempered Victoria, British Columbia, throws stud to maybe turn it up a notch or two in the hammer circle in Austin.

There is also reason to be optimistic about the sprints crew the Lumberjacks travel with to Texas this weekend, led by five-time Big Sky 200m champion Fisher. Fisher, who actually calls Arlington, Texas home, is most recently coming off a victory in the same event at the UC Irvine Spring Break Invite to open his outdoor campaign.

While he will not be running in his bread-and-butter event this weekend, Fisher will still compete in the 100m dash and join teammates Kossi Tchenawou, Isaiah Kennedy and Tyren Wolfe on the 4x100m and 4x400m relay squads at Texas Relays.

Finally, McPherson highlights things from the much-improved NAU jumps unit. The 2017 Big Sky Indoor "Most Valuable Women's Athlete" has yet to compete in the long jump event this young outdoor season, but the two-time Division II NCAA National Champion in that event is chomping at the bit to do so.

It should be exciting stuff, considering she tied the conference's indoor record at Big Sky Championships earlier this year and is more than capable of shattering the outdoor mark as well.

Other athletes competing this weekend at Texas Relays include Jasmine Malone, Clarissa Maxey, Tylnn Carter, Shawn Collins, Obang Odol, Nicole Fotinos, Julia Viberg and Ashley Taylor.

Additionally, the meet's full schedule and start times for each event can be found here. Live stats will be available here, while live streaming capabilities are only possible if your cable provider includes ESPN3. For more info, click here.