Kennedy Burns Up Track En Route to Personal Best Mark at Texas Relays

Northern Arizona's Isaiah Kennedy
Northern Arizona's Isaiah Kennedy

AUSTIN, Texas – Yesterday afternoon, it was a relatively quiet day on the track for the Lumberjacks at the 90th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, presented by Spectrum, but that all changed when the Northern Arizona University track and field team competed Friday morning in Austin.

"It was definitely a learning experience for us today," said Associate Head Coach and Sprints Coach Kenny McDaniel. "Our athletes had the opportunity to see what they need to get ready for and what they need to work on moving forward. Obviously, there are a lot of good teams at this meet and our athletes hung in there and competed well, but I think they got caught up in the hype a bit. All in all, though, it was a learning experience for us and our athletes are walking tall after their performances."

Lumberjack Isaiah Kennedy, most recently coming off a win at the UC Irvine Spring Break Invitational to open his 2017 outdoor season, logged a blazing 10.51 time today in the 100-meter dash in the first of 12 heats. With that time, Kennedy PR'ed for the second consecutive meet and officially finished 29th in a field that included 117 registered athletes and the nation's No. 1, 3, 5 and 6 ranked 100m sprinters.

"[Kennedy] handled the exposure well," said McDaniel. "He did what he was supposed to, but he also knows how important the next month or so of training is for his development. He has the skills to compete with some of the best in the country and he understands that. Now, it's just about putting the work in and knowing where he needs to improve."

Joining Kennedy in the 100m dash were teammates Kossi Tchenawou (10.66 – 58th) and James Fisher (10.77 – 73rd). All three, with the addition of freshman Tyren Wolfe, turned in impressive times in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays Friday as well.

Discussing the 4x1 relay first, the NAU men—who qualified for NCAA National Championships last season, becoming the first group in Lumberjack history and only the second in Big Sky history to accomplish such a feat—combined for a 40.86 time to finish 16th. Unfortunately, Wolfe, Fisher, Kennedy and Tchenawou missed the cut by 0.57 of a second.

To put the performance into perspective, the Lumberjack 4x1 team was No. 85 in the NCAA after recording a 41.29 time at UC Irvine, so one would assume that they will slide up in the national rankings. Additionally, NAU outlasted the No. 23, 25, 40, 47 and 48 ranked relay teams in the nation today, so the progression has certainly been observable from meet-to-meet.

As far as the 4x4 relay, the men ran a 26th-place time of 3:15.73, while their counterparts on the women's side finished 14th with a 3:45.32 time. The latter squad, composed of Jasmine Malone, Ashley Taylor, Tylnn Carter and Nicole Fotinos, also missed the cut for finals by a slim margin (1.61 second).

"The main improvement for our 4x4 women is just going to be their confidence," said McDaniel. "Clarissa Maxey went down before today's action so we plugged in Carter. But our women understand what it takes to qualify and get to that regional meet…they just need a little more time to build up that confidence."

Carter, Fotinos and Malone also joined Shanice McPherson on the 4x1 relay, placing 33rd with a 47.49 mark. Malone was the lone Lumberjack women to compete individually Friday morning, running in the women's 100m dash.

There, Malone—whose career PR in this event is 12.06—almost met that time with a 12.10 mark. The NAU sophomore finished 4th in her heat and 66th overall in a deep field that included 100 registered athletes.

Sophomore Obang Odol closed out the day in the high jump event, scoring a meet-best 6-6.75 (2.00m) jump. He was able to clear the 2.00m mark on his second attempt, but could not avoid the bar on any of his three attempts at the 2.05m height.

Texas Relays continue tomorrow for the Lumberjacks, with some notable performers including Shawn Collins (shot put), Julia Viberg (discus) and McPherson in the long jump.