The Northern Arizona cross country programs are headed to Terre Haute, Indiana, this weekend for the John McNichols Invitational hosted by Indiana State University. The invite will take place at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course on Saturday.
The men will compete in an 8K race and the women will take on a 5K race. This year's field features three top-10 nationally ranked teams on the men's side and four on the women's side. Last season the Purdue men and Butler women claimed victory in Terre Haute.
There are a total of 46 teams competing this weekend, (22 men and 24 women), including No. 1-ranked Northern Arizona, No. 5 Iowa State, No. 7 Stanford, and No. 24 Purdue on the men's side, and No. 3 Washington, No. 4 Michigan and No. 5 Arkansas on the women's side.
NAU has been the No. 1-ranked team in the country for 23 consecutive weeks heading into the weekend. The Jacks also sit atop the Mountain Region in the No. 1 spot.
Northern Arizona's men's squad is fresh off of a George Kyte Classic victory that featured the top distance school in Japan, Tokai University. Last time out, the Jacks saw sophomore Ryan Raff take first in the men's race. Raff was joined by several redshirt freshmen making their first appearances for Northern Arizona. Brodey Hasty, Mitchell Small and Theo Quax are all expected to race again Saturday.
The NAU women will get their first look at NCAA Division I competition this season on Saturday. Villanova transfer Taryn O'Neill is expected to make her debut for the program. The Jacks will be led by a strong junior class comprised of Hannah Behunin, Jenna McCaffrey, Delaney Rasmussen and George Kyte first-place champion Pipi Eitel.
The Lumberjack women received 21 votes in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Coaches' Poll and are sitting just outside of the top-30. A successful team performance could propel the Jacks into the top-30 in the next poll. Currently NAU is the No. 4 ranked team in the Mountain Region.
SWIMMING AND DIVING
Junior Niamh McDonagh, the two-time defending Pentathlon champion, will look to three-peat at the 24th annual Pentathlon Friday at 2 p.m. in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex. A total of 25 Northern Arizona swimmers are slated to compete at the season-opening intrasquad meet, which is free for all fans to attend.
“Every year the team is different and it’s exciting to see what the team will become,” Lumberjacks head coach Andy Johns said. “The Pentathlon is a great marker and will let us know where they are especially for the returners to see where they were in years past. For our newcomers, it’s our first opportunity to see them race.”
The Pentathlon, as customary, will feature five events – the 200m individual medley, 100m butterfly, 100m backstroke, 100m breaststroke and 100m freestyle. Each swimmer will earn points based on their times in each of the five events with the overall champion being the swimmer with the highest cumulative total.
McDonagh enters the meet as the two-time reigning champion after scoring 3,670 points in the 2018 Pentathlon. Her back-to-back win snapped a three-year stretch in which a newcomer was crowned the winner.
McDonagh repeated as champion last year despite placing first in only one event – the 200m IM. She did place in the top five in three other events though, including a second-place finish in the 100m breaststroke.
Three other first-place finishers return, headlined by 2019 WAC Swimmer of the Year junior Elisa Rodriguez. Rodriguez won the 100m freestyle last year, while senior Fernanda Montiel and junior Hope Williams posted first-place finishes in the 100m backstroke and 100m breaststroke respectively.
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Senior Kate Bier, the next highest overall returning finisher behind McDonagh, improved from fourth overall in 2017 to a third-place finish in 2018 with 3,280 points. Bier was just edged out for the top time in the 100m butterfly and came in as the runner-up in the event to go along with a fifth-place finish in the 200m IM.
Of the 25 swimmers who will suit up for the Pentathlon on Friday, five freshmen – Lainie Bell, Sara Jendbro, Haley Mayhew, Iliana Moore and Brooke Seiber – will be racing for the first time in their collegiate careers.
The Northern Arizona University men's tennis will head south to Tucson for the three-day Arizona Invitational, running from Friday to Sunday.
"We are looking forward to start competing again; I know the team is tired of practicing and hungry to compete," Lumberjacks head coach Maciej Bogusz said. "I am very excited to see our new players in a match situation and see our returners lead the team."
Five of the six returning players are competing this weekend: Mikael Purne, Daniel Dillon, David Nguyen, Chris Steele and Facundo Tumosa.
Tumosa was honored as the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year for achieving a 19-8 season record, going 9-1 in the Big Sky. He was also named to the All-Big Sky Second Team in singles, primarily playing at the No. 3 spot. In doubles, he paired with Lucas Taylor to earn Honorable Mention after going 17-5 at the No. 3 duo position.
Steele was named to the All-Big Sky Second Team in doubles. He and his teammate, Tom Fisher, made the Second Team honor for the first time in their careers after recording 18-10 at the No. 2 position.
Dillon participated and won three singles matches. Nguyen also played in three singles matches, winning two.
Bogusz led the team to a record-breaking year, achieving 19 straight wins, the longest winning streak in Northern Arizona history. They wrapped up the season with 22 wins and just six losses. They had a perfect Big Sky record at 10-0 on the season and went on to win the Big Sky Championship. They also had their first-ever NCAA appearance after winning the Big Sky.
Bogusz was named Big Sky Coach of the Year, becoming the third coach in NAU history to receive the honor.
Alexander Groves and Eban Straker-Meads will be making their debut as Lumberjacks at the Arizona Invitational. The five returners will also play on the court for NAU.
"We had three weeks of tough practices so the challenge will be to not let the aches and bruises affect our attitudes and energy on the court," Bogusz said.