An Olympian record shattered, solid performances by freshmen across the board
After a two-week hiatus, the NAU track and field team hosted its second home meet of the season this past weekend for the Mountain T’s Invitational. After this weekend’s results, the Lumberjacks now have 28 athletes qualified for the Big Sky Conference Championships in 21 various events.
From freshmen to team veterans, records were challenged and personal bests set, leaving the team with high hopes for the remainder of the season.
A major accomplishment was awarded to red shirt junior distance runner Diego Estrada, who broke Olympian Lopez Lomong’s school record for the mile with a remarkable time of 4 minutes, 4.36 seconds. Estrada secured a NCAA altitude converted auto-bid time of 3:55.46, currently the second best time in the country.
The support from the stands was a sight to see. Coach Heins was excited with the amount of people who were able to witness this in action.
“During [the race] I just felt relaxed. That first quarter mile gave me the confidence,” Estrada said. “I’ve always been told I don’t have the speed. People told me that too much that I believed it, but I think that’s a lie. I’m starting to realize I have the speed.”
Freshmen standout Deante Kemper’s mentality before each meet and jump is to think of anything but his event in order to avoid meet-day jitters. His mind must have been far from the invitational as he secured a new personal record by four inches, jumping 7-2.25 feet.
“What was really going through my mind was ‘Am I really about to do this?’ And then after I saw the bar stayed up, just a rushing feeling. I wish my mom was here. So I got to try and do it again for her.” Kemper said.
Kemper achieved his goal to qualify for the conference championships and now looks forward to make it through conference championships and onto nationals as a freshman.
“At this time, it’s tied for 12th in the country,” said director of track and field and cross country Eric Heins. “He’s a guy we really believe in and that he can get to do some special things over the course of his collegiate career.”
Fellow freshmen teammates, Chris Ganem and Caroline Hogardh, swept the men and women’s 800-meter race with times of 1:55.15 and 2:14.19, respectively. Hogardh was followed by red-shirt junior Agnes Laurent in the race with a time of 2:16.03.
According to Heins, “Ganem went out and probably ran tied with the fastest he’s ever run; and it’s only the second meet of his indoor career.” He [Heins] said Hogardh and Laurent ran perfectly for their opening race, participating for the first time this track season, and picked up Big Sky qualifiers.
“I should probably have gone a little faster because I didn’t get tired, I guess it was a solid first race.” Hogardh said.
Other notable marks from the women’s team include red-shirt junior Kortnee Burton’s win in the 3000-meter run with a time of 10:26.41 and freshman Alexis Clay’s mark of 5.28 meters in the long jump open. Red-shirt seniors Pascal Tang and Karl Gehrke threw 62-11.5 feet and 55-7.5 feet, to earn first and second in the weight throw respectively. The meet finished with another win for the Lumberjacks as the men’s A-squad 4×400 meter relay team of red-shirt senior Dennis Givens, red-shirt junior Arnaud Froidmont, junior Miles Di Sabella and sophomore Adel al Nasser ran a time of 3:12.23.
“Coaches have been really excited about this year but I think the athletes, the team, they are starting to see it,” Heins said. “And now to see the marks going up, we had a great opening weekend, which we’ve only been training together for four days, and now you get two solid weeks of training, and come out and even improve on those marks. This team is really pretty solid up front.”
Next weekend the Lumberjacks will host their third home meet, the NAU Open, on Feb. 4 in the Walkup Skydome.