SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Just one more day left in the 2017 Big Sky Outdoor Track & Field Championships and the defending Northern Arizona Lumberjacks still have energy in the tank for tomorrow's finals. The meet, which is being held at Hornet Stadium, had just enough sunshine and cloud coverage to keep all in attendance on their feet.
With tomorrow only hours away, the NAU men find themselves in third place with 34 points, while the Lumberjack women have 23 points for seventh place.
The first gold medal of the day for NAU went to two-time hammer throw champion Adam Keenan. He entered the morning with the meet and Big Sky Conference record already in his pocket, so it was not a surprise that he bested both of his marks with a spectacular throw of 70.18m (230-03). Keenan also added a point for the Lumberjacks in the discus throw with a distance of 47.69m (156-05).
The women's throwers notched six points in the shot put themselves, with Tiana Hatler-Stefick logging a fourth place finish (five points) with a mark of 14.23m (46-08.25). Rachel Pott's mark of 13.99m (45-10.75) was solid for an eighth-place showing.
NAU continued its solid performance in the long jump with Shanice McPherson taking the women's title after a jump of 6.35m (20-10.00). McPherson's title is the first for NAU since 2004 in the event. For the men, it was Cameron Rayford who improved his personal best by almost two feet to advance to the finals and bring home the silver medal for the Lumberjacks with a mark of 7.45m (24-05.50).
On the track, James Fitzgerald collected five points for the men after a personal record performance of 9:05.19 time in the 3,000-meter steeple. Fitzgerald was quick on his feet this afternoon, improving his previous best by nearly 20 seconds. Picking up additional distance points was Matt Baxter, who took third place in the 10,000-meter run (30:32.31) and Cory Glines (30:42.01) who followed Baxter in for fourth.
The Lumberjacks claimed 14 spots in Saturday's finals, after competing in preliminary events this afternoon.
Khalil Dorsey – a football player in the fall and a track & field athlete in the winter and spring - was the first sprinter to punch his ticket to the finals, as he ran a personal best 14.63 in the 110-meter hurdles in his first outdoor championship.
Next up was James Chevious, who qualified for the men's 400 meters with a time of 48.52, just shy of his season-best mark of 48.33.
Kossi Tchenawou – silver medalist in the 100 meters a year ago – notched a time of 10.55 to win his heat and advance to Saturday. Joining him in the finals will be Isaiah Kennedy – the bronze medalist last season – who crossed the line in 10.68 for the third fastest time of the day.
Tchenawou, Kennedy and freshman Tyren Wolfe will all race in the 200-meter finals. Tchenawou (21.26) will look to improve on a fourth place finish from 2016, while Kennedy (21.31) claimed the silver medal last season. Wolfe's time of 21.64 was enough to advance him into the finals Friday, as the 200m will be NAU's most stacked event on Saturday.
Looking at the women's finalists for tomorrow, the Lumberjacks came prepared to run.
In the 400 meters, Nicole Fotinos – the reigning Big Sky Outdoor Champion – posted the fastest time in the prelims for the second consecutive season at outdoor championships with a 54.81 mark. Fellow 400-meter runner Jasmine Malone – who won the event this past indoor season - clocked a time of 54.94 for the third fastest. Malone will also compete in the 200-meter finals after registering a time of 24.60 today—also the third fastest.
McPherson, a top 15 long jumper in the country, showed off her sprinting abilities as she moved over to the track to PR in the 100 meters (11.71), while also turning in a 25.02 time in the 200 meters to move on to the finals tomorrow.
Maggie Carruth ran her 800-meter prelim race in a time of 2:09.02, which was the second best mark recorded today. She had the fastest time in the conference coming into this weekend, and she will look to claim her first career title tomorrow in the finals.
Two-time 400-meter hurdle champion (2014 and 2016) Ashley Taylor, ran the fastest time of the day in the event to reach the finals in search of her third gold medal.
The women closed out the night with fifth and sixth place finishes in the 10,000 meters. Miranda Myers, in her first 10,000-meter race of the season crossed the line in 35:59.45 to score four points for NAU. Emily Roughan was right behind her in 36:13.07 to add three more points to the Lumberjacks' score.
The Big Sky Championships will conclude tomorrow. The action gets started at 10 a.m. with the women's hammer throw, while the track events get going with the women's 4x100-meter relay at 12:15 p.m. The Lumberjack men and women are looking to sweep the outdoor titles for the second straight year and the third time in four years.
Men - Team Rankings - 6 Events Scored
1)Weber State (44)
2)Sacramento St. (43)
3)Northern Arizona (34)
4)Montana State (31)
5)Southern Utah (28)
7)North Dakota (12)
8)Idaho State (10)
9)Portland State (8)
10)Eastern Washington (6)
Women - Team Rankings - 8 Events Scored
1) Weber State 56
2) Sacramento St. 50
3) Montana 41
4) Eastern Washington 32
5) Montana State 31
6) Idaho 25
7) Northern Arizona 23
8) North Dakota 22
9) Idaho State 19
10) Portland State 10
11) Northern Colorado 3