Go Big or Go Home: Lumberjacks Gear Up for NCAA Regional Meet in Texas

NAU's Shanice McPherson
NAU's Shanice McPherson

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona University track & field team is set to leave for Austin, Texas, today to compete at NCAA West Regionals this Thursday, May 25, through Saturday, May 27.

In total, the Lumberjacks will travel 18 athletes to the Lone Star state, where they hope they can stir up some of the same success they had earlier this season at the 90th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays. Indeed, some of the NAU athletes competed at this same venue back in late March, with the most notable performances coming from long jumper Shanice McPherson and hammer thrower Brooke Andersen.

It certainly has been a spring to remember for McPherson, a two-time NCAA DII national champion and graduate transfer from New Mexico Highlands. It was at Texas Relays where she broke the school long jump record, going for a 21-2.00 (6.45m) mark on her final attempt. Most recently, McPherson is coming off two All-Big Sky performances at outdoor conference championships: a first-place victory in the long jump and second-place finish in the 100-meter dash.

Currently, McPherson—who holds the indoor and outdoor long jump records for NAU—ranks No. 7 in the west region and No. 17 in the entire NCAA. She is set to compete on Thursday at 5:15 MT.

Staying on the field side, Andersen has also posted one of the best seasons in Lumberjack history in her respective event, the hammer throw. While she did foul out at Big Sky Championships two weekends ago, the redshirt-junior from Vista, Calif., still ranks No. 3 in the nation with a career-best 221-3.00 (67.43m) mark.

This season, Andersen has logged three victories in the hammer, one of which came in Austin. She was a mere five inches off her CB with a 220-10.00 (67.32m) throw at Texas Relays in March and will look to replicate that kind of performance this weekend.

Andersen's counterpart on the men's side, redshirt-senior Adam Keenan, is coming off a performance at Big Sky Championships where he surpassed his CB and simultaneously broke the school and conference hammer throw record with a 230-3.00 (70.18m) toss on his fifth attempt of the day. It was a great showing for the Victoria, British Columbia, native, as his six recorded marks hovered between 68.01m and 70.18m.

With that 70.18m throw, Keenan became the first Lumberjack to win back-to-back hammer throw conference titles since Karim Chester did so in 2004 and 2005. Keenan will carry the region's No. 2 ranking and the nation's No. 11 ranking into his competition, which will take place Thursday at 1:30 p.m. MT.

Other notable performers for NAU this week/weekend included:

  • Matt Baxter, who will run in both the 5000m and 10,000m events. Baxter, who placed third in the 10K at Big Sky's two weekends ago, is the only Lumberjack to rank in the top-20 nationally in two different events (5K – No. 19 | 10K – No.16). Racing in only the 10K event last year at this meet, Baxter is eying a better performance this time around and is certainly capable of earning a bid to NCAA National Championships.
  • The men's 4x100-meter relay team, which consists of Tyren Wolfe, Isaiah Kennedy, James Fisher and Kossi Tchenawou, is also a group Lumberjack fans should take notice of. If you remember, the NAU 4x1 team secured a bid to NCAA's at this meet in 2016 with a 40.00 time. The group, which included now-graduated DeShon Norris, became the first Lumberjack 4x1 team and only the second Big Sky 4x1 squad to make their way to the NCAA meet. They look just as explosive this season, especially after winning the conference title 10 days ago.
  • For the women, three-time Big Sky Champ Julia Viberg (discus), who ranks No. 32 in the region, looks to follow up a second-place performance at Big Sky's and earn her third trip to the national meet in four tries at 10 a.m. MT on Friday.  
  • Jasmine Malone, this season's indoor and outdoor Big Sky Champ in the 400m event, will join teammate Nicole Fotinos in that event on Thursday at 5:20 p.m. MT.

The primary benefit of competing at the regional meet, outside of garnering great exposure for the program and university, is to extend one's season and earn a trip to NCAA National Championships in Eugene, Ore. In order to so, an athlete/relay squad must place within the top-12 of their respective event at regionals. For more information about NCAA qualifying, click here

The weather in Lawrence, Kansas, last year cancelled the first day of regional action (heavy thunderstorms), but as of right now, the forecast for Austin shows very little chance of rain Thursday through Saturday. Of course, weather can change as quickly as our athletes run on the track, so knock on wood.

For live stats for this weekend's action, click here. Additionally, a full schedule of events can be found here. Other information, such as streaming capabilities, can be found at the meet home here