Every year the Northern Arizona University men’s track & field team sets as its goal for the coming season a top-25 finish nationally.
This year, the Lumberjacks made it – and in the process set some school and conference records.
NAU finished the 2016 season in a tie for the 23rd spot in the national standings and sent eight athletes to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore. The No. 23 ranking was the highest finish in school history and the 10 points accumulated by the NAU athletes in Eugene matched a previous top mark for the program.
Futsum Zienasellassie, a senior who was born in Africa but came to NAU from North Central High School in Indianapolis, picked up eight of those points by finishing runner-up in the men’s 10,000-meter race. In doing so, he became just the fifth athlete in NAU history to register a top-three finish at the NCAA Championships.
His time of 29:10.68 was the second-fastest recorded by a Big Sky Conference athlete in the event and the highest finish by a Big Sky athlete in any event at the NCAAs in the last six years. He was also named a first-team All-American.
The other two points came from Adam Keenan, a senior from Canada, in the hammer throw. In his first time competing at the nationals, he finished in seventh place, but set a meet-high mark of 227’10” on his final throw. That was also a record high for any Big Sky athlete at the national meet.
Keenan holds the school and conference records in the hammer and became the first athlete in school history, and just the second in conference, to be named a first-team All-American.
Caleb Hoover advanced to the finals of the 3000-meter steeplechase and earned a 12th-place finish and second-team All-America honors. During his college career he was a member of 12 Big Sky championship teams (indoor, outdoor, and cross country) and also earned All-America honors for cross country.
The NAU men have won five consecutive Big Sky titles.
In all, the 2016 school year included 18 All-Conference performers at Big Sky Indoor Championships and 25 more at the outdoor championships. The women’s team was crowned conference outdoor champions, the second time in the last three years.
(Photo: NAU Athletics)