INDIANAPOLIS – Fresh off a sweep of Big Sky Indoor Championships last weekend, three of those Lumberjacks from the Northern Arizona University track & field program will once again pack their bags and hit the road for College Station, Texas, to compete at NCAA DI Indoor Track & Field Championships March 10-11.
The NCAA DI Track & Field and Cross Country Committee released its list of participants for indoor nationals late last night, and NAU's Brooke Andersen (weight throw), Matt Baxter (5000-meter) and Tyler Day (5000-meter) all earned spots in their respective event categories for their superb efforts throughout the season. For all three, this will be their first appearance at the indoor national meet.
Additionally, this will be only the fifth time in program history that three or more Lumberjacks will compete at NCAA Indoor Championships.
Brooke Andersen has been nothing short of absolutely amazing for the NAU squad in 2017, winning five of the six weight throw events she has thrown in this season. Most recently, Andersen nabbed her first-career gold in the weight at Big Sky's with a meet-best 66-8 (20.32m) toss—nearly five feet better than second-place.
That mark at indoor conference, though, doesn't do Andersen the justice she deserves, for earlier this year she actually broke both the NAU and Big Sky record in the weight event with a 71-0.75 (21.66m) bomb at the Walkup Skydome during the NAU Tune-Up. With that mark, Andersen became the first conference athlete ever to surpass the 70' plateau and moved to No. 9 on the NCAA performance list.
Contextually speaking, Andersen's appearance at nationals will be a semi-historic one as well, seeing as only three other Big Sky athletes have ever qualified for NCAA's in the weight throw event. In fact, one would have to go back as far as 1997 to find the most recent and only female Lumberjack to ever compete in the weight at nationals: Anna Soderberg, who also threw at nationals in 1996.
The other two athletes joining Andersen on the campus of Texas A&M will be 2016 United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches' Assoication (USTFCCCA) All-Americans and NCAA DI Cross Country National Champions Matt Baxter and Tyler Day.
Both NAU distance phenoms qualified with personal-best times they set at the Iowa State Classic earlier this indoor season. Baxter's third-place time of 13:44.27 at ISU shattered his old PR by over 28 seconds and he subsequently moved up to No. 8 in the nation in the 5K event. The New Zealand native is fresh off a silver medal finish in the men's 3000-meter run at Big Sky's last weekend—he did not run in the conference's 5K event.
While Baxter has pretty much been a lock for the national meet since the beginning of February, Day has been sweating it out waiting for his opportunity to shine at NCAA's and he received it late Tuesday night.
Like Baxter, Day's PR time in the 5K was recorded at the ISU Classic (13:49.53), but due to other impressive times in that event category, the man with the best hair in collegiate distance has been ranked No. 17 in the nation and on the outside looking in (only the top-16 from each event qualify for NCAA's). Day, however, caught a break when a runner ranked ahead of him decided to scratch his national 5K eligibility, allowing him to move into that elusive and coveted No. 16 spot.
Day is coming off a stellar weekend, one in which he secured the first two conference gold medals of his career—one in the 5000m and another in the 3000m—and earned the meet's "Most Valuable Men's Athlete" with a high of 23 points.
The Lumberjack distance duo will also be making history when they head to Texas in a week and half, seeing as never in the long and storied history of NAU or the Big Sky Conference have two athletes qualified for the indoor 5000m championship run in the same season.
As mentioned above, NCAA DI Indoor Championships will take place in College Station, Texas, on Friday, March 10, and Saturday, March 11. A schedule of events has yet to be made, but once the event arrives, live stats can be found here.