While Northern Arizona held out many of its potential All-Big Sky Conference athletes from competing in the season-opening Friday Night Challenge, a school record still fell to start the 2018 indoor season.
Coming off of an appearance at the NCAA Division I West Preliminary in the 100-meter, Kossi Tchenawou ran a 6.72 to win the 60-meter dash in the Walkup Skydome, setting a new personal best and Northern Arizona record. The senior sprinter also added another win in the 200-meter later in the night, breaking his personal record for the indoor event with a 21.38.
“Kossi, he is the energy and the lifeblood of that spring group,” said Northern Arizona’s director of track and field Michael Smith. “His excitement is tangible. It really says that he is ready to make another jump forward in a big way. We potentially could have an individual national qualifier in the 60 from NAU for the first time in school history.”
Tchenawou earned silver medals in the 100m and 200m at last year’s Big Sky outdoor championship meet, and a bronze medal in the 60m at last season’s conference indoor meet.
While only Tchenawou broke a school record, he wasn’t alone in setting a personal record in the first meet of the season.
Junior Brady Williams hit 15.15 meters on his first throw of the day, easily surpassing his former personal record 13.27 meters set a year ago.
“He hasn’t thrown a lot of shot. For all these guys when they are jumping into new events or events they haven’t competed in very often, it is a whole other mental and emotional challenge,” Smith said, with Williams only recording a mark in the event four times before Friday. “Those throws, you look at it and you think it is just this physical feat, but it is such a mind game. Brady is a good example of taking something new and really making it his in a big way.”
Smith praised his throwers for their marks in the meet, as Tiana Hatler-Stefick placed third in the shot put and fourth in the weight throw while Brooke Andersen topped the leaderboard in the weight throw.
Throwing a 21.06m on her third attempt, with the other five all reaching at least 20.40 meters, Andersen reached the second-best mark of her career trailing only a 21.66m thrown last season at the NAU Tune Up.
Andersen, the NCAA runner-up in the hammer throw at last year’s outdoor meet, competed alongside Arizona State’s Maggie Ewen, who won the NCAA championship with the collegiate record throw in the event last June.
“It is kind of like, ‘Where is this new bar that the big one is going to emerge from?’” Smith said. “The big thing is, it wasn’t just one throw, she was consistently there tonight. That was really awesome, that was the two best throwers over there at this little meet and it’s pretty cool we get to compete at that high of a level locally like this.”
Cameron Rayford, the Big Sky outdoor silver medalist in long jump a year ago, topped his previous best indoor triple jump with a 14.25m mark, bested only by a 14.31m at last season’s outdoor championship.
While Andersen and some other conference scorers competed to start their seasons, Northern Arizona held out its other NCAA qualifiers, including Tyler Day, who is expected to redshirt the indoor season alongside Luis Grijalva.
With much of the school’s top distance runners held out on both the men’s and women’s sides, Northern Arizona sent out a group of its younger runners. Freshman Jack Shea came away with wins in the mile and 3000m, while freshman Pipi Eitel won the mile and finished second in the 800m, running with freshman Hannah Behunin, who took third in both events.
Fellow freshman Delaney Rasmussen trailed the two in the mile, taking fourth to start the meet before pacing to first in the 3000m.
Other key returners also ran heavy workloads, as both Nicole Fotinos and Jasmine Malone competed in the 60m, 200m, 400m and 4x400m.
Malone finished fifth in the 60m and fourth in the 400m, highlighting her day with a second-place finish in the 200m. Fotinos took sixth in the 60m and fourth in the 200m, but came away with a new personal indoor record in the 400m with a 54.57 to win the 400m.
“Your season-best in the 400 is never going to come from the first meet. If she is starting there, she is going to be 53 in the open and she may split 52,” Smith said. “She is tenacious, she is just coming so hard, she wants to compete. That 4x400 relay is going to be so good.”
After competing against in-state schools such as Arizona State, Arizona and Grand Canyon, Northern Arizona hosts another indoor meet next week, with the Lumberjack Team Challenge set for Friday in the Walkup Skydome.