Current and former track and field runners going across the pond
They might not have been running for the NAU track team, but four standout current and former athletes represented the blue and gold at the Payton Jordan Invitational and two earned bids to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
Redshirt junior Diego Estrada and alumnus Lopez Lomong grabbed tickets to London after hitting Olympic “A” Standard times at the event. Senior Jordan Chipangama, and former NAU Male Athlete of the Year David McNeill participated as well, but did not qualify.
Lomong, who graduated in December 2011, had a bit of an awkward end to his race. The South Sudan native came around what he thought was the final turn of the 5,000-meter race and began his kick toward the finish line, putting more distance between himself and the rest of the pack. The only problem was he still had one more lap to go and as he slowed down, everyone in the crowd was motioning him to keep going. The lapse Lomong had did not hurt him in the standings, because he managed to keep his lead and finished the 5K in 13:11.63.
Estrada ended this past cross country season by taking top honors at the Big Sky Championships and becoming an American citizen. His goal was to qualify for the U.S. team, but did not obtain his citizenship in time. Despite this, Estrada, who now holds dual-citizenship in the U.S. and Mexico, went to the Payton Invitational with the support of his friends and family. While the Salinas, Calif. resident was not able to take the top spot in the 10,000-meter run, Estrada did place in the top five with a time of 27:32.90 and will be running as part of the Mexican team in the Olympics.
“He ran perfectly,” said director of track and field and cross country Eric Heins via NAU Athletics. “After he made it through 5K, he just worked his way up to where he could be in the front five or six guys and stayed there the rest of the race.”