Track and field earns multiple auto-bids to Big Sky Championships in first meet of the season
By Raymond Reid
The NAU track and field squad began their indoor season with the Lumberjack Invitational, and 19 Jacks earned automatic qualifiers to the Big Sky Indoor Championships.
“We wanted to come into the meet and get some qualifiers,” said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins. “On the guys’ side, we have over half of the team qualified, with the girls, we have almost half.”
This was the first meet on the team’s indoor schedule, and also the first of six home meets through the season. The meet featured ASU, UA, The University of New Mexico, Southern Utah University, Cal State Bakersfield, Grand Canyon State as well as a few unattached athletes.
The Lumberjacks had a strong showing for their first meet of the season. One Lumberjack to do so was junior distance runner Tim Freriks. Freriks won the 3000 meter run with a time of 8:18.76, which was enough to qualify for the Big Sky Championships. Freriks is one of the leaders of the No. 25 ranked Lumberjack Men’s track team.
“It felt okay, I didn’t taper a lot or back down in training,” Freriks said. “I didn’t really have to think much because I had pace work. Considering all that, it felt good.”
Sophomore sprinter Adel al Nasser won the 400 meter with a time of 47.75, and also qualified for the Big Sky Championship meet.
“I feel really good about it, I didn’t expect to run this fast,” said al Nasser.
Along with Freriks and al Nasser, a pair of freshman women’s sprinters, Darriel Banks and Shamelle Pless, opened their collegiate athletic careers with fifth and sixth place finishes, respectively, as well as qualifying for the Big Sky Championships in the process.
“I was really nervous … I was actually surprised, especially in my 60 meter,” said Darriel Banks. “I still want to do better in my times, but it [qualifying] did help.”
Banks ran a Big Sky qualifying time of 7.59 in the 60 meter dash and 25.04 in the 200 meter, both team bests for the meet. She was just one member of the freshman tandem that exceeded their early season expectations.
Pless qualified in the 60 meter with a time of 7.74 seconds, as well as qualifying with a time of 25.53 in the 200 meter.
Banks and Pless are friends, as well as teammates, and are usually running partners in practice. The fact they were so close to one another in their final heats came as no surprise to Pless.
“It was definitely different, I’m so used to not running with a great training partner,” Pless said. “I’m glad I had her in those races alongside me because she definitely pushed me.”
In the women’s 3000 meter, junior Rochelle Kanuho took top honors with a time of 9:58:60 and matched Freriks victory.
“We just started practice together as a group on Tuesday,” said Heins. “Looking at the results I think we have at least 12 guys and seven girls qualified for the Big Sky Championship meet.”