AUSTIN, Texas – Northern Arizona's Maggie Carruth ran the race of her life today, setting a new personal best in the 800-meter run at NCAA West Preliminaries, but missed the cut for national championships by 0.14 of a second to highlight Friday's action in Austin for the Lumberjacks.
Carruth, competing in the first and fastest of the three heats in the 800m quarterfinals, clocked in at 2:05.56—besting her pervious PB by 0.67 of a second recorded earlier this spring. Carruth did not punch a ticket to nationals, but her progression this 2017 track season has been nothing short of amazing. In fact, because of her performance today, Carruth moved up into second all-time on NAU's 800m leaderboard—right behind Lumberjack hall of famer Johanna Nilsson.
In addition, Carruth had never even qualified for the outdoor 800m finals race at conference until this season, let alone the NCAA west regional meet. Now, she's the reigning 800m Big Sky champ and is poised to compete for a spot at nationals for the next two seasons.
"If you would have told me we would be in this situation—as it concerns [Carruth]—when I first arrived here, I wouldn't have believed you," said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Mike Smith following competition. "This is someone that is absolutely committed to what we're doing, and she deserves every bit of this. That was an awesome race. She has such a bright future ahead of her."
Julia Viberg came into the competition today eying a third-career trip to Eugene, Ore., in the women's discus event. Previously, no other women's athlete has ever accomplished such a feat in the history of the Big Sky Conference. Unfortunately for Viberg, though, she was unable to punch a ticket to NCAA Championships after throwing a meet-best 163-10 (49.94m) earlier this afternoon. With the top 12 athletes advancing, Viberg placed 26th overall.
This is not to say Viberg had a disappointing showing Friday in Austin, for she actually finished six spots higher than her west region ranking (No. 32) coming into the meet. However, this will be the last time Viberg puts on an NAU uniform, as the four-time All-Big Sky athlete, three-time conference champ and two-time All-American's eligibility is now officially expired.
Nicole Fotinos also ran in her quarterfinal race Friday, competing in the second heat of the 400m dash. Fotinos, who set a career-best time in this event yesterday, placed 24th in the field with a 56.21 time.
While it might not have been the performance she envisioned, Fotinos took a huge step forward. Last year, she was unable to advance to the 400m quarterfinals race at this meet but did so this season. Additionally, Fotinos improved her ranking by 18 spots today—going from No. 42 to 24 in the west region.
"[Fotinos] was nervous today," said Associate Head Coach and Sprints/Hurdles Coach Kenny McDaniel, "but this was definitely a great learning experience for her. I'm very, very proud of her and what she accomplished today and this entire season."
Lumberjack shot putter Shawn Collins competed at NCAA West Prelims for the second consecutive season, but was unable to hold his position today in the shot put circle. The redshirt-senior closed out his collegiate career with three fouls in Austin this afternoon.
The final NAU competitor of the day, Ashley Taylor, ran in the 400m hurdles quarterfinal race. Taylor, the three-time NCAA West Prelims competitor, was in search of her first bid to the national meet, but recorded a 1:00.39 mark and missed the cut.
The NCAA West Prelims finish up tomorrow, with Lumberjacks Nathan Weitz and Matt Baxter running the men's 5000m, while the 2016 NCAA Championship qualifying men's 4x100m relay team will look to become the first Big Sky school to make nationals in back-to-back seasons.