TUCSON, Ariz. – Against some stiff competition, the Northern Arizona University track and field team proved that up-and-down the roster they are a squad to be reckoned with nationally.
The competing universities included host Arizona, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Texas Christian. Take it from us when we say any Lumberjack student, alumnus or fan would have been proud of the way our men and women competed. They didn't just hang in there…they proved they belonged.
"We showed these universities today that we're just as good," said Director of Track and Field Mike Smith. "Between this year and last year, we are in the conversation nationally in every event category: throws, jumps, sprints and distance. I want our athletes to be mindful of the fact that there was no one here that we cannot compete with."
The first three scored field events of the day—the women's hammer, the men's hammer and the women's long jump—could not have gone any better for the Lumberjacks, as Brooke Andersen, Adam Keenan and Shanice McPherson all secured event victories.
Andersen was the first to do so, fouling her first two throws but collecting herself enough to muster a 65.22m finals-qualifying throw. She only improved from that point on, ending Saturday morning with a meet-best 215-04.00 (65.64m) mark. Andersen, the nation's No. 2 ranked hammer thrower, is now a perfect 3-for-3 in event victories during the 2017 outdoor season.
Keenan followed her performance with an impressive one of his own, tossing a 222-05.50 (67.81m) bomb to win the competition by a full seven feet. It was the second such win of the season for the Victoria, British Colombia native.
Despite it being what NAU jumps coach Roderick Townsend called a "rest week" for his unit, coming off a strenuous weekend at Texas Relays, McPherson continues to add to her Lumberjack legacy in the long jump event. Today, McPherson was the definition of consistent, surpassing 6-meters on four of her six jumps and finishing with a meet-best 20-03.25 (6.18m) mark.
"As a unit, we came in with the mindset of just executing a lot of technical stuff," said Townsend. "We were able to get the job done today, and I'm excited about next weekend. All of our training is gearing up for us to do well next week, so fingers crossed we'll be able to accomplish some great things."
For the sprints crew, where do we start? It could be with Jasmine Malone, a sophomore sprinter who continues to perform well beyond her years. Saturday, the native of Chandler, Ariz., was flying around the track and especially in the 200m event, where she recorded a sub-24 second mark for the first time in her young career. Malone finished with a personal-best 23.98 time for eighth place.
We could also reference newcomer James Chevious III, whose skills on the track are just as energized as his personality. In his bread-and-butter event, the 400m dash, Chevious knocked a couple tenths of a second off his collegiate best and hustled his way for the victory in the third heat with a 48.33 mark.
Ashley Taylor is another name we cannot forget, as she ran a season best in the 400m hurdles (59.38) for the second-place finish.
What it comes down to, though, is that every athlete who put on the NAU navy uniform today exhibited the kind of effort championship caliber athletes and people possess. In turn, that allowed for the Lumberjacks to have another outstanding day on the track, in the field, and add another chapter in what has already been a fun season.
With five weeks left to go before Big Sky Conference Championships, NAU is right where they need to be.
"I'm proud of where we are now and the approach we're taking," said Smith. "With conference not too far away, we wanted to see effort and progression. Our athletes gave that to us today, and I couldn't be happier."
Rachel Pott turned in a large PR in the women's hammer throw today, busting her old career best by over five meters (50.54m) … Shawn Collins eclipsed the 18m mark for the first time his Lumberjack career (60-02.00, 18.34m) en route to the second-place finish in the shot put … Jumper Matthew Kisiel, who has been nagged by injuries, was able to perform today and competed well in the men's high jump—matching his PR, which Coach Townsend said he cleared by three-feet "easily" … Ryan Lanley was determined to also nail a PR today and that's exactly what he did in the 800m race with a time of 1:55.72 … Jumper Obang Odol competed in the men's high jump, but his most impressive performance today came as a the third leg of the men's 4x400m relay squad and recording a 50 second split