Collins, McPherson, Taylor Earn "Athlete of the Week" Recognition

NAU's Shawn Collins, Shanice McPherson & Ashley Taylor
NAU's Shawn Collins, Shanice McPherson & Ashley Taylor

OGDEN, Utah – The defending Big Sky Outdoor Track and Field Champions are still on top of the mountain—literally and figuratively—when it comes to boasting top-level talent, as the conference office awarded three of its four "Athlete of the Week" honors to Lumberjacks Monday afternoon.

Redshirt-seniors Shawn Collins and Shanice McPherson garnered the men's and women's "Field Athlete of the Week" accolades, while redshirt-junior Ashley Taylor nabbed the women's "Track Athlete of the Week."

All three are coming off solid showings at last Saturday's Jim Click Shootout, where their contributions in their respective events added to a spectacular team effort put forth by the Lumberjacks.

Of the three athletes recognized this week, Collins—the reigning conference champ in the outdoor shot put event—was the only one to register a personal-best mark/time in Tucson. There, he muscled a 60-2 (18.34m) throw on his fourth attempt from the shot put circle. That distance bested Collins' previous PR by nearly an entire foot as he went onto finish second in the competition behind Arizona's Aaron Castle, who is No. 11 in the NCAA.

Collins now slides into the top-25 nationally—right at No. 25, in fact—in the shot event, and became the first Big Sky athlete this indoor or outdoor season to eclipse the 60-foot plateau.

After setting the outdoor school and conference record in the women's long jump two weekends ago, McPherson recorded a first place finish at the Jim Click Shootout with a 20-3.25 (6.18m) leap on her final attempt of the day. McPherson, the nation's No. 6 ranked long jumper as of today, also sits atop the Big Sky rankings by almost two full feet. This is the second consecutive week McPherson has received an "AOTW" honor.

For Taylor, her most notable performance in Tucson came in the women's 400-meter hurdles, where she clocked a season-best, sub-minute time of 59.38. Finishing second overall in the event, Taylor—the defending outdoor conference champ in this event and a 2016 regional qualifier—now claims the No. 1 time in the Big Sky and the No. 19 mark in the NCAA West Region.

The Lumberjacks, after getting back into Flagstaff early afternoon yesterday from the Saturday meet, will have a quick turnaround as the team is scheduled to compete in California this Thursday through Saturday at Azusa Pacific, Mt. SAC and Long Beach.