Marathon Day for NAU at Bryan Clay is One to Remember

NAU 4x400m relay anchor Nicole Fotinos
NAU 4x400m relay anchor Nicole Fotinos

AZUSA, Calif. – It was only a matter of time, but the Lumberjack women's 4x400-meter relay squad made up of Jasmine Malone, Ashley Taylor, Maggie Carruth and Nicole Fotinos broke the school record they set last season with an official, first-place 3:40.72 time tonight at the Bryan Clay Invitational. 

The Northern Arizona University 4x4 team improved on their season-best mark set last Saturday in Tucson by nearly two full seconds and bested the year-old school record by 0.57 of a second. With that time, the Lumberjacks climbed their way up the Big Sky rankings as well, sliding into sixth all-time. 

As of right now, that time would rank No. 29 in the NCAA.

"Top to bottom, one of the best non-championship meets I've been apart of here," said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Mike Smith. "As far as the level of consistency we're bringing into every meet, it's incredible. The idea is that we're going to get even better from here, so we're in a pretty good place with conference and regionals not too far on the horizon."

A full breakdown of today's action from each event category can be found below.

SPRINTS

A long, 15-hour day for the NAU track and field team began with the men's 4x100-meter relay team setting a Bryan Clay meet record with a 40.35 time—at 9 a.m. nevertheless.

Lumberjacks Tyren Wolfe, James Fisher, Isaiah Kennedy and Kossi Tchenawou pieced together three flawless exchanges of the baton en route to coasting to a first-place finish at Cougar Stadium. 

While the squad's season-best in 2017 is 40.29, this was certainly a great day for them and the rest of the sprints group if you ask NAU Associate Head Coach and Sprints Coach Kenny McDaniel.

"Today, we had a lot of high moments and then there were some medium moments," said McDaniel. "But any time you can break a meet record—especially at a meet like this where a lot of good teams and programs have competed in the past—that's amazing. Our relay men were a little down because it wasn't exactly the time they wanted, but I just keep telling them it hasn't happened yet. They're going to get there one day, they just have to be patient and believe it."

Outside of being a member of the record-setting 4x4 performance, Malone also hustled her way to a personal-best in the women's 400m dash with a 54.3 time. She placed fourth overall out of 79 athletes and called it the "smoothest 400m she has ever ran." She also competed as a member of the other Lumberjack relay team Friday, anchoring the women's 4x1 that logged a 47.06 mark for a sixth place finish.

Actually, it was a great day for the sprints crew from Flagstaff if you consider the number of heat/section victories the Lumberjacks posted. Khalil Dorsey, who was determined to get to Azusa today at any costs, ran in the sixth heat of the men's 110m hurdles. There, he won the heat with a 15.04 time—good enough for 17th overall in the 42-athlete field.

Sara Murray (14.92) in the 100m hurdles and James Chevious III (48.41) in the 400m dash also raced their way to heat victories, with Murray's coming in section six of 12 and Chevious' coming in the fourth of eight sections. Their sprints teammate Lorenzo Johnson also registered a first-place time in his section of the 400mH with a 55.55 time. 

Taylor—the Big Sky's reigning outdoor champion in the 400mH and the No. 1 ranked athlete this season on the conference's performance list—also competed well Friday in California. Taylor clocked in at 1:00.06 for the third-place overall finish in a field that included 68 athletes and nine sections.

JUMPS

All three men's high jumpers—Obang Odol, Matthew Kisiel and Chris Jones—surpassed the 6'7" mark today in Azusa, marking the first time since the 2012 indoor season three Lumberjacks have eclipsed that height.

For Jones, a true freshman from Phoenix, Ariz., his old PR of 6'4.75" (1.95m) did not stand a chance today as he cleared the bar for a new career-best at 2.00m. It was the same story for Kisiel, who cleared a jaw-dropping 6'9" (2.05m) height today for a new personal-best. As of right now, all three would slide into the Big Sky's top-five on the high jump performance list this season, with Kisiel actually moving into a tie for third in the conference.

All three NAU high jumpers remained composed throughout the competition, and their unbelievable progression is just a further testament to the stellar coaching they receive from two-time Paralympian gold medalist/Graduate Assistant Coach Roderick Townsend and Assistant Coach Ty Butts.

"We had some jumpers break through in a big way," said Smith. "That was a blast, and Coach Townsend's group is coming on at the right time, and I'm talking about the entire squad. Not just one or two of them, all of them." 

Helena McLeod, a freshman from Germany, also penciled in a new PR today in the women's triple jump event with a 11.22m leap while her teammate Cameron Rayford also PR'ed in the same event on the men's side with a huge 46'6" (14.18m) jump.

DISTANCE

It was a late night once again, as Bryan Clay extended well past 9 p.m. with NAU distance athletes trying their talents in the men's and women's 1500m races. On the men's side, it was Geordie Beamish leading the way with a 14th place time of 3:41.87—a career best by four seconds. It was an impressive performance to say the least, especially when you consider 269 athletes logged times tonight in that event.

For the women, Karina Ernst and Emily Roughan ran in sections seven and eight, respectively, with Ernst clocking in at 4:33.06 and Roughan registering a 4:36.13 time.

Carruth and Melanie Zibrat got things going for NAU distance today in the 800m event, with Carruth running in the first section and Zibrat in the third. Carruth cracked an individual PR there, running a 2:06.23 time and finishing seventh overall. For Zibrat, she ran a 2:14.36, which is the best time she has notched in the 800m event in nearly two seasons.

THROWS – Long Beach Invitational

The throws unit was the only one that competed at the Beach Invitational in Long Beach, Calif., today, with Brooke Andersen, Tiana Hatler-Stefick and Brittany Vielma representing the NAU women, and Jacob Kaufman and Justin Saxe doing so on the men's side.

For Andersen and Hatler-Stefick, it was their second consecutive day throwing the hammer, as they also competed at Mt. SAC Relays yesterday. Today, though, Andersen slung a meet-best 190-08 (58.11m) while Hatler-Stefick recorded a 179-07 (54.74m). Vielma's best throw Friday came at a distance of 165-08 (50.50m) while Kaufman missed a PR by a little over a meter (167-01, 50.93m) and Saxe nabbed a personal best at a distance of 151-04 (46.13m).

The Lumberjacks will send a couple more throwers to compete tomorrow at the Beach Invitational. There, Shawn Collins will throw in the men's shot put and discus, while Hatler-Stefick, Vielma, Rachel Pott, Jazzmine Ecker and Heather Calandra will throw shot for the NAU women.

Live Stats for that event can be found here