SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Northern Arizona University women's track & field team captured its second consecutive Big Sky outdoor title Saturday afternoon, as it threw, leaped and ran its way to victory at Hornet Stadium. For the Lumberjack men, Adam Keenan was named the Big Sky's "Male Most Valuable Performer" for his stellar achievements in the field events.
It was a day to dig deep and put it all on the line. Entering the final day, the women found themselves in seventh place. They knew it was going to take solid performances from the entire team and despite a few bumps on the track and in the field, they persevered and stood atop the podium as the 2017 champions when it was all said and done. Since arriving on campus, Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Mike Smith is now two-for-two in locking up women's conference championships.
The men were looking secure their sixth straight outdoor championship and 12th consecutive conference title overall today, but it just was not meant to be as the Lumberjacks finished in fourth with 97.6 points behind 2017 champion Sacramento State (131.2), No. 2 Southern Utah (119) and No. 3 Weber State (115).
"We knew this meet was going to be very close...coming down to single points," said Smith, discussing the women's team title. "Coming into today, we knew day two was going to have to be very big for us. We asked them to do a lot today, and they came through. Our win is a reflection of staying focused and seeing the meet through until the very end--literally up to the last event. That's what great teams do."
The women's 4x100-meter relay set the tone with a stellar first place performance by Clarissa Maxey, Nicole Fotinos, Shanice McPherson, and Jasmine Malone. The quartet raced to a time of 46.66 to win the first set of gold medals on the day.
Malone and Fotinos delivered a 1-2 punch in the 400 meters taking the top two spots back home to Flagstaff. Malone grabbed the title after registering a 53.63 – the ninth fastest time in Big Sky history. Fotinos clocked in at 53.97 to win the silver medal.
Malone wasn't quite done as she took third place in the 200 meters and joined the 4x400-meter relay team of Fotinos, Ashley Taylor, and Maggie Carruth on top of the podium. The relay win was quite impressive, as the Lumberjacks held a slight four-point lead over Montana at the time heading into the final event.
McPherson sprinted her way to a second place finish in the 100 meters with a personal record of 11.60. She also took sixth in the 200 meters with a time of 24.87.
Taylor—the defending 400-meter hurdle champion—completed the race in a time of 58.98 to capture eight points for the second place finish.
Carruth maintained her solid performance on the week as she raced her way to an 800-meter title with a time of 2:07.38. She nabbed a second place finish in the 1,500 meters with a time of 4:25.02, while Mikayla Malaspina took fourth place in the 1,500 meters with a time of 4:29.08.
Emily Roughan added a sixth place finish in the 5,000 meters to close out the individual events for the women.
In the field events, Julia Viberg's mark of 49.84m (163-06) gave her a second-place finish in the discus throw. Tiana Hatler-Stefick improved two spots from last year to capture fourth place in the hammer throw with a distance of 57.37m (188-03).
The final women scores were NAU in first (125), followed by Montana (116), Sacramento State (107), Weber State (99), and Montana State (93) to round out the top five.
It started as a promising day for the men, as sprinter Kossi Tchenawou secured second place, All-Big Sky performances in the 100m (10.37-PR) and 200m (21.11-PR), while also joining forces with James Fisher, Tyren Wolfe and Isaiah Kennedy to win the 4x100-meter relay with a 40.49 time.
In the men's 5K, two-time NCAA All-American Matt Baxter crossed the finish line in fourth place with a 14:18.41 time for five points, while Blaise Ferro (14:31.09), Cory Glines (14:31.92) and Geordie Beamish (14:33.84) all added points in the same race by placing sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.
Two-sport NAU athlete Khalil Dorsey competed in the 110mH finals today and notched four points to the men's cause with a 14.74 time, while jumper Cameron Rayford cemented a stellar weekend with an eighth place finish in the triple jump (14.31m, 46-11.50).
Other notable field performances came from Shawn Collins, who could not defend his 2016 outdoor shot put title today but still ended with fourth place and five points (16.56m, 54-4.00), while all three high jumpers for the Lumberjacks (Obang Odol, Matthew Kisiel and Chirs Jones) tacked on 0.2 of a point after a five-way tie for eighth.
Some of the Lumberjacks will head to NCAA West Regionals in Austin, Texas, May 25-27. A list of regional competitors will be finalized once the nation finishes up with conference championship action this weekend.