Each AZ track team leaves NAU Open with share of wins

Once again, Northern Arizona University provided an opportunity for the state’s three Division I track & field programs to compete head-to-head, as the NAU Open ran over the weekend.

And, as usual, each of the schools left Flagstaff with something positive.

The meet isn’t a major event on the schedule, and the Pac-12 schools don’t generally send all of their top athletes.  But it does provide an opportunity for the athletes who attend to try to improve upon their earlier season marks and tune up for the next big event.

And the schools look forward to the chance to establish in-state bragging rights in their strong events.

Arizona State, for example, held out some of its best competitors in various events throughout the schedule and University of Arizona sent a combination of sprinters, jumpers, and throwers while leaving home most of the distance runners and throwers.

But competing against NAU athletes also provides experience against solid competition.  The Lumberjacks have already qualified over half of their 22-athlete quota for the Big Sky Conference Championship.  At least one male or female athlete is ranked in the top five in the conference in all but one event.

The meet also gives some athletes from the bigger programs their first chance of the season to compete.  The Wildcats used the event to introduce some of their underclassmen, giving three freshmen and three sophomores a chance to compete for the first time.

The Lumberjacks also invited a few other schools to the party, to provide a little extra competition.  Included in this year’s field were four California teams: San Diego State, two Cal State campuses, and LaVerne University.

When the dust settled, Arizona State’s men’s and women’s squads combined to win nine events, while NAU had a combined six wins, and Arizona claimed five titles.

The Wildcats are nationally-ranked on both sides of the program, with the men sitting at No. 5 and the women’s team at No. 10.  Their wins came in the 60-meter hurdles, won by senior Dahlys Marshall in a time of 8.36; the shot put, captured by sophomore Bozidar Antunovic who threw the iron ball 60’3.25″; and performances by a couple of freshmen, Kate Penney (mile run) and Molly Callahan (3,000 meters).  The final victory came in the women’s 4×400 relay.

The ASU women are the No. 17-ranked team and picked up three of the Sun Devil wins as Christabel Nettey won the long jump (19’11.5″), Alycia Herring led a 1-2-3 sweep of the 200-meter dash (24.42), and Andrea Crook‘s leap of 38’02” won the triple jump.

Six wins went to the Sun Devil men: Ryan Millus in the 60-meter dash (6.64), Rashad Ross in the 200 meters (21.15), Bryan McBride in the high jump (7’03”) and the long jump (23’2.75″), Cameron Taylor in the 60-meter hurdles (8.00), and John Kline in the 800-meter run (1:50.47).

NAU got its best chance to brag a little in the last event of the day.  The men’s 4×400 relay team beat both ASU and UofA teams in the event, which the Jacks completed in 3:10.74 to put them at 24th in the nation in the event.

The other winners on the men’s side were Arnaud Froidmont, who took first place in the 400 meters with a time of 46.82, and Pascal Tang, who won the weight throw.  Froidmont’s time ranks him first in the Big Sky Conference and ninth in the nation.

Three women brought home titles as well, including Nicole Elliott‘s win in the weight throw to give the Jacks a sweep of the men’s and women’s event.  Lauren Laszczak took first in the high jump (5’3″.75″) and Carissa Gwerder added a win in the 800 meters with a time of 2:17.58.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)