FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – While half the squad competes at Texas Relays in Austin this weekend, six more Northern Arizona University track and field athletes—all from the distance crew—head west to run at the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, California.
Members of the NCAA National Champion Cross Country team Matt Baxter (10,000m), Geordie Beamish (5000m), Cory Glines (10,000m), Peter Lomong (5000m) and Nathan Weitz (10,000m) will lace 'em up for the men, while outdoor redshirt-sophomore Maggie Carruth (1500m) represents the NAU blue and gold on the women's end.
"We're trying to, eventually, have our athletes compete at the national level," said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Mike Smith. "If you look at the steps of how to do that, it begins with getting regional qualifiers. The best bet to accomplish that is to get into races like this one where the field is deep and the weather is consistently good."
"If you're into the NAU distance program, you know that opening up at Stanford this weekend is a big deal for us."
This will be the fourth outdoor 10K race of Baxter's collegiate career, and after a great season last spring the redshirt-junior from New Plymouth, New Zealand, is looking to make some big strides this time around. He will run in the first of two sections, with teammate Glines joining him.
Glines is the reigning Big Sky Champion in this event after an incredible rally in the final 200m or so at outdoor conference last year—winning the race by 0.08 of a second and earning FloTrack's "Kick of the Week." This will be Glines' first competitive race representing NAU since that NCAA Championship race.
Both Baxter and Glines' 10K section begins at 9:34 p.m. tomorrow night.
"[Glines] is really coming around," said Smith. "He did a lot of big, big training over the winter. Any time you train like that, it's pretty taxing on the body so that's why we gave him some rest during indoors. Now, in the last three weeks or so, we've been seeing some really special things from him in training. I'm excited to see what he does this weekend."
For Beamish, Lomong and Weitz, all three 'Jacks test their skills in the 5K event which is broken up into three different sections. Lomong will go in the third of three sections at 7:45 p.m., while Beamish is in section two (8:03 p.m.) and Weitz in section one (8:40 p.m.).
"[Weitz] has given a lot to the NAU program over his tenure as a Lumberjack," said Smith. "This is the first time he's lining up in an NAU uniform since that great day in November, so I know this means a lot to him. We're very appreciative of him and what he's been able to contribute to NAU over his career."
If there is one particular performance to take note of if you are a Lumberjack distance junkie, though, will be Carruth's in the women's 1500m race Friday at 12:58 p.m. While those close to the team understand how good the men listed above are, Carruth is coming off a performance at the UC Irvine Spring Break Invitational two weekends ago that could eventually be viewed as one that propelled her career from good to great.
At UC Irvine, Carruth notched her first career 1500m win with a huge PR of 4:32.03—besting her old career-best mark by over 15 seconds. It will certainly be interesting to see how she fairs tomorrow against a talented field of distance athletes.
Currently, there is no live stats link that has been provided, but fans hoping to watch the action live can do so (if you have a FloTrack subscription) here. Additionally, the Lumberjack Twitter page (@nautrackfieldxc) will be following the action all day long, tweeting results as they come in.