Throwers come out strong and freshmen continue to set high expectations
After competing in the ASU Invitational at Sun Angel Stadium on March 23 and 24, the NAU outdoor track and field team increased its number of representatives for the Big Sky Conference Championship, by adding seven more women and five more men. The preseason polls rank the Lumberjacks at No. 44 in the nation, and NAU’s own standout freshman high jumper, Deante Kemper, currently sits twelve spots ahead of the next freshman for his event. He is tied for sixth in the nation.
The freshmen continue to outperform their class on both the men and women’s squads. Kemper finished second behind ASU sophomore Bryan McBride with a height of 7-feet, 0.5-inches and claimed sixth in the mens 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.87 seconds. Fellow hurdler, Vernon Jamison improved his time from the previous week by a tenth of a second for the event and established a new personal best of 14.91 seconds. In his first outdoor appearance, distance runner Chris Ganem ran to a third place finish in the mens 1,500 meter race in 3:48.10, now ranked at No. 14 in the nation. Redshirt freshmen Gus Margiotta secured a BSC qualifier and third place finish in the mens shot-put with a mark of 15.50 meters and sprinter Dai McFadden cut down his 400-meter hurdle time by an entire second from last week’s performance to 53.56 seconds, placing seventh.
The first year women proved dominance in their respective events as sprinter Darriel Banks garnered second place finishes in the 100 and 200-meter dashes with times of 11.89 and 24.57, respectively. In her first time competing javelin thrower, Brittany Price threw for a distance of 43.96 meters, claiming seventh overall as well as a personal record.
“Brittany [Price], you know, I mean that was great to see. Her elbow was bothering her a little bit last week, so we rested her, and it obviously worked out pretty well because she comes out and throws a foot PR [personal record], qualifies for conference,” said director of track and field and cross country Eric Heins. “We haven’t had a javelin thrower for a while that could score at the conference level, so we’re excited about that.”
Assistant track and field coach Oscar Duncan, who oversees the throwers noted, “I think conventional wisdom would say there’s much more [Price] can do this year.”
Coach Duncan’s veteran throwers had a solid day as well. Redshirt senior Pascal Tang took second in the mens hammer throw with a final mark of 62.63 meters; behind ASU’s redshirt junior Jordan Clarke. Fellow redshirt senior and thrower, Karl Gehrke threw a personal best mark of 54.10 meters, landing fifth in the men’s discus.
“Well Karl [Gehrke] is an interesting case in the sense that last year he injured his leg, and he was not able to participate because of the injury,” Duncan said. “His psychological progress has been astounding and his physical progress up until this point has been miraculous. He’s a tough kid mentally and physically, and he’s really had to work, I think in many cases, twice as hard as some of the other competitors because of the injury that he faced last year.”
On March 31, the Lumberjacks will look to carry their momentum when they compete against Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah.