NCAA West Prelims Come to an End for Northern Arizona

NAU's 4x100-meter relay anchor Kossi Tchenawou
NAU's 4x100-meter relay anchor Kossi Tchenawou

AUSTIN, Texas – After spending five days in Texas, the last three of which involved high-level competition from every area of the NCAA West Region, the Northern Arizona track & field team put a bow on the national preliminaries Saturday night in Austin.

In total, three Lumberjacks have booked tickets to Eugene, Ore., for NCAA Championships in two weeks: Brooke Andersen and Adam Keenan in the hammer throw, and Matt Baxter in the men's 10,000-meter.

Baxter was actually aiming for a second birth to the national meet tonight, running in the first heat of the men's 5000m. Also known as a "machine" given his bottomless energy tank, Baxter left it all out there on the track but fell just short of the NCAA cut line. His 14:24.66 time was eighth best in the 48 man field, but because that is also where he placed in his individual heat, the seven runners in front of him qualified and he became the last man out.

In his final race as a Lumberjack, Nathan Weitz competed in the second heat of the 5K and registered a time of 14:43.43—good for 20th best tonight.

The men's 4x100-meter relay team began the action for NAU late this afternoon at Mike A. Myers Stadium, running in the third and final heat. The Lumberjack relay team—made up of Tyren Wolfe, James Fisher, Isaiah Kennedy and Kossi Tchenawou as the anchor—ran a 40.31 time. With the top-12 relay teams punching tickets to nationals, NAU placed 22nd.

While the athletes did not secure a second-straight birth to NCAA Championships, their season should not be judged solely on this performance today in Texas. Running a season-best time of 40.29 at the Jim Click Shootout in early April, the 4x1 men went onto become the first back-to-back-to-back outdoor conference champions in the 400m relay since Sacramento State won four straight Big Sky titles from 2004-2007. Before this season, the Lumberjack 4x1 men had never won three consecutive outdoor conference championships.

"I'm proud of these athletes," said Associate Head Coach and Sprints/Hurdles Coach Kenny McDaniel, following the 4x1 competition. "Looking at the entire year, they competed hard and showed a lot of promise."

WHAT'S NEXT?

With NCAA West Prelims now officially over, we turn our attention to NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., from June 7-10. As mentioned earlier this week, no male/female duo has ever qualified for NCAA's in the hammer throw event in the history of the program. Keenan will look to follow up a 2016 All-American performance at nationals, where he placed seventh overall in the country, while Andersen competes at her first-ever nationals meet.

Meanwhile, Baxter becomes only the seventh NAU men's distance athlete ever to qualify for the 10K race at NCAA's. Most recently, Lumberjack legend Futsum Zienasellassie was the national-runner up in that event last season.