OGDEN, Utah – The Big Sky Conference office announced Thursday afternoon that Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Mike Smith was voted the Big Sky's Indoor Men's and Women's Coach of the Year.
In his inaugural Lumberjack track & field season, Smith—with the help from a fantastic coaching staff that includes Kenny McDaniel, Nathan Ott, Roderick Townsend, Becca DeLoache, Jarred Cornfield, Ty Butts and Carl Caughell—guided NAU to a total of 22 All-Big Sky performances and 11 gold medals in Pocatello, Idaho. Historically, it was the ninth time, and first since 2014, the men and women won both indoor conference crowns.
At that Big Sky Indoor meet, the Lumberjacks not only secured two more conference championship titles to shell in the HLC trophy cases for years to come, but they also nabbed the men's and women's "Most Valuable Athlete" honors. When the meet was all said and done, it was NAU's Tyler Day shouldering two golds and a total of 23 points, while Shanice McPherson tallied 22 points of her own with a gold in the long jump and a silver in the 60-meter dash.
Seeing as Smith is the coach of the distance event group specifically, we would be remised not to mention the performances of Paige Gilchrist and the three athletes that podiumed following the 3000m championship run.
Gilchrist earned and received two first-place victories for her individual efforts in the mile and 3K events at Idaho State last Friday and Saturday. In doing so, she became the first Lumberjack female athlete since Amber Anderson in 2011 to swipe two golds at indoor conference. Additionally, she also ran the crucial fourth and final leg for the gold-medal-winning distance medley relay team.
With the men's championship anything but locked up heading into the second to last event of the meet (the 3000m run), Smith made the decision to send his work horses out to the track and it paid off big time. Two of NAU's three NCAA Indoor Championship qualifiers Day and Matt Baxter finished 1-2 in the race, while their teammate Andy Trouard brought up the rear to sweep the 3K podium finish and cement the 2017 title.
Other key performances were the championship titles Adam Keenan and Brooke Andersen won in the men's and women's weight throw events, while James Fisher (200m), Isaiah Kennedy (60m) and Jasmine Malone (400m) hustled their way to conference championships for the stacked sprints unit.
Smith took over at the helm official in early December of this academic year, as previous Director Eric Heins—a 27-time recipient of the Big Sky's Coach of the Year accolade—retired (for now) following a successful run at the university's first-ever NCAA National Championship.