Diego Estrada put up the fourth-fastest time in Northern Arizona University history in the men's 1,500-meter run Friday night at the Mt. San Antonio College (SAC) Relays to lead a big day of competition for the Northern Arizona University track and field teams.
Estrada's mark of three minutes and 41.90 seconds was good enough for seventh place in the talent-rich Invitational Elite division.
"Diego wanted to get out into a competitive race that was a little out of his comfort zone in preparation for his race next weekend," director of track and field and cross country Eric Heins said. "Specifically, he wanted to go out and run a fast closing lap, which he did to perfection."
Estrada, who will open up in the 5K next weekend at the Payton Jordan Invitational, already had the nation's third-best time in the 10,000 meters coming into the weekend and will likely rank among the top 20 times in the country in the 1,500 meters after Friday's effort.
Sophomore Brian Shrader and true freshman Nathan Weitz also had strong showings in the 1,500 meters earlier in the day. Competing a short distance away at the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa, Calif., Shrader (3:44.24) and Weitz (3:44.74) teamed up to capture third and fourth place, respectively, completing a trio of Lumberjacks that now sit atop the Big Sky Conference standings in the event.
On the women's side, sophomore sprinter Darriel Banks ran well as she won her heat of the 100-meter dash in a 10th-overall time of 11.87 and tied a season best in the 200 meters (24.19). Shamelle Pless was right behind Banks, clocking 12.17 in the 100 meters and coming up just short of a career-best in the 200 meters (24.53).
Senior Miles Di Sabella had a similar showing on the men's side in the short sprints. Di Sabella won his heat of the 100 meters in a time of 10.93, and came in under 22 seconds in the 200 for the second straight meet (21.66).
True freshman Julia Viberg had yet another stellar outing in the discus in her first year at NAU. Viberg represented the NAU throwers well at Mt. SAC with a sixth-place finish and a throw of 175-5 (53.48m) in the women's Invitational division.
Meanwhile, sophomore Jessica Weise led the Lumberjack women's effort in the throws at the Bryan Clay Invite, setting a personal best in the shot put of 48 feet, 9 inches (14.86m) to take second overall. The mark was more than 18 inches farther than her previous best throw of 47-0.25.
Tearing it up in the throws for the men was freshman Micael Ljungberg. The native of Sweden was the runner-up in the men's discus at the Clay Invite, tossing 169 feet, 1 inch (51.55m) in continuing a stellar inaugural season with the Lumberjacks.
Late Thursday night at the Mt. SAC Relays, the Lumberjacks witnessed lifetime-best showings from four of their five competitors entered into the men's and women's 10,000-meter runs.
Bahlbi Gebreyohanns (30:06.56) and Alejandro Montano (30:16.03) found PRs for the men, while Kylee Kieser (36:25.10) and Kenzie Estes (37:17.18) did so for the women. Cody Reed (30:44.20) narrowly missed his own personal best, but still captured a Big Sky qualifier in the event along with his four teammates.
Sophomore Emily Bartz knocked four seconds off her career low in the 800 meters at the Clay Invite, taking 11th overall in a time of 2:13.27. Shayla Freeman also PRed with a time of 2:15.21.
In the men's 800 meters at Mt. SAC, junior Caleb Potts lowered his season-best time in the event to 1:52.07. Senior Arnaud Froidmont, the only other Lumberjack entered in the race, unfortunately was tripped up on the first turn and did not finish. He'll have another chance to put up a time, however, today at the Beach Invitational.
Other notable performers included Lauren Stuart, who put up a hammer throw mark of 189-5.75 (57.75m) to take second Thursday at the Clay Invite. Stuart competed again Friday, this time at Mt. SAC, where she placed seventh overall with an improved mark of 191-0 (58.22m).
Also putting together solid performances Friday were Kylene Knutsen, who took seventh in the javelin at the Clay Invite with a toss of 140-8 (42.87m), Vernon Jamison, who virtually tied a career best in the 110-meter hurdles (14.38) in taking 12th overall at Mt. SAC, and Dai McFadden, who's season-best time of 53.84 in the Mt. SAC 400-meter hurdles was good enough for 18th overall.
Several NAU athletes had yet to finish competing by press time Friday night, so look for their marks in today's release on NAUAthletics.com.
The final day of the Lumberjacks' weekend swing through southern California begins at 9 a.m. this morning at the Beach Invitational from Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif.
SWIMMING AND DIVING
The Western Athletic Conference has honored 17 members of the NAU swimming and diving team with Academic All-WAC awards. S
everal Lumberjack freshmen may also be added to list after they complete the requisite full-academic year at the institution.
NAU had the most Academic All-WAC honorees among the nine swimming and diving conference members. No other team had more than 13 selections. The Lumberjacks tied for the sixth-best team GPA among all NCAA Division-I swimming and diving programs after totaling a program-record 3.51 team GPA following the fall 2012 semester.
The team compiled a program-record 3.60 GPA during the fall semester while 10 student-athletes posted perfect 4.00 GPAs. To be eligible for Academic All-WAC honors, a student-athlete must have completed at least one academic year, have at least a 3.00 cumulative grade point average and have participated in at least 50 percent of the team's contests.
A list of the NAU Academic All-WAC swimmers and divers is as follows: Kristy Ardavanis, Jordan Burnes, Fi Connell, Andrea Derflinger, Ashani Gottlieb, Alex Huff, Alexis Juergens, Emily Lewandowski, Emma Lowther, Loy, Meagan Morrison, Palmer, Becky Russell, Smith, Gwen Smithberg, Jane Wakefield and Caitlin Wright
The NAU women's golf team, the preseason coaches' poll pick to win the Big Sky, will play to win a conference title for the fifth time in program history and the first time since 2009 as it hosts the 2013 Big Sky Golf Championship Sunday through Tuesday at the Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler.
"I feel comfortable with the five players we are traveling with and believe they all have the ability and the wherewithal to play great," NAU head coach Brad Bedortha said. "I've been telling them we need to stay confident and focus on the good things we are doing in practice and not focus on a bad swing here or there."
The conference championship will take place in Chandler for the fifth consecutive season and for the 11th straight year in Arizona. NAU finished third last season as Northern Colorado edged Sacramento State by just two strokes for the conference title. Portland State has won three of the last five Big Sky golf championships with NAU's 2009 win coming by six strokes over Sacramento State.
The Lumberjacks are coming off a sixth-place finish among the 19 teams that competed at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic two weeks ago on the same Ocotillo course. NAU tied for second with Montana among the nine Big Sky teams that competed at the event behind Portland State, which finished in third place. Nine of the 11 Big Sky teams played in the regular season-ending event on the same course as the conference championship.
"Obviously, Portland State played well at the last tournament and finished best among the Big Sky, but that's not necessarily a precursor per say," Bedortha said. "The golf course will be set up a little bit differently than it was at the Cowgirl from a sense of yardages, so there will be a bit of an adjustment from that standpoint. It just matters how people show up and play."
The five NAU players who will compete for a conference title are led by the team's only senior in two-time Big Sky Golfer of the Year Stephanie Kim. After struggling in the first round at the Cowgirl Classic, Kim responded with rounds of 76 and 73 to end the tournament in a tie for 22nd overall. She has the top stroke average (75.6) on the team this season and will be looking for her second individual Big Sky Championship win after taking individual medalist honors at the 2010 conference tournament.
Kaitlen Parsons, the only junior on the team, was NAU's top finisher two weeks ago with a three-round total of 231 to tie for 14th overall. Four of Parsons' six rounds this season at the Ocotillo golf resort have been 78 or below and she has five top-20 finishes this season.
"We're all really excited heading into conference," Parsons said. "Individually, we just need to focus on ourselves and have faith that our other teammates will pull through. We've definitely had rounds in the past where we have all chipped in and we're just hoping for the best this week."
Freshman Savana Bezdicek will look to continue a superb rookie season, during which she has won two individual titles and posted a team-best five rounds at even of under par. Sophomores Darian Spivey and Susana Mejia will round out the Lumberjack field after both had solid performances at the Cowgirl Classic.
Bedortha sees the Big Sky Championship as an open competition and has confidence that his team can emerge victorious to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA West Regional in Palo Alto, Calif.
"It should be very competitive; honestly I think it's a wide open race," he said. "It's just a matter of figuring out what each kid needs to do on that course to play their best golf. Hopefully we can play a little bit better, come in with a little more confidence, and compete a little bit better and see where we stack up at the end."
Admission will be free for all three days of the Big Sky Championship starting at 6:30 a.m. Sunday at the Ocotillo Golf Resort, which is located at 3751 S. Clubhouse Drive in Chandler.