Already a two-time national champion as part of Northern Arizona’s cross country team, Andy Trouard broke through with a title all his own Saturday night.
Leading for nearly the entire race, Trouard held off Syracuse’s Justyn Knight around the last turn and down the final stretch of the men’s 3000-meter run at the 2018 NCAA Indoor National Championships at Texas A&M's Gilliam Indoor Stadium in College Station, Texas.
"You can only do what he did with supreme confidence," said Northern Arizona's director of track and field Mike Smith. "Everyone could watch the way he controlled that as a masterful way to beat the best people in the country in their event."
Knight, a constant thorn in Northern Arizona’s side over the past few months, pushed to pass Trouard on the backstretch of the last 200-meter lap, but the Lumberjack senior remained stride for stride with the 5000m champion from one night earlier.
"That's the best kicker in the country and Justyn Knight, I don't know if in the last two years we have ever seen him get beat in the last lap by a collegian," Smith said. "You hear the bell and you have Andy leading it. For a lot of people watching, you are thinking he's got a great shot at this, but I know that he's got a guy on his shoulder that seems unbeatable in the end."
Holding his place on the rail for the final turn, Trouard broke away from Knight in the last 50 meters and finished in 8:04.94. Knight beat Northern Arizona’s Matt Baxter and Tyler Day for November’s NCAA Cross Country individual title and won the 5000m in 14:14.47 a night earlier.
Trouard finished fifth in Friday’s 5000m, running a career best 14:16.39, before turning around and preventing Knight from completing the double. Trouard entered the race with the nation’s second-best time, trailing only Knight, after outkicking Stanford’s Grant Fisher at the Iowa State Classic a month ago.
Beating Fisher, who took fourth in Saturday’s 3000m, Trouard ran a 7:48.21 in a much faster pace in Iowa.
Starting in the inside group, Trouard led Saturday’s 16-man field as the groups came together following the opening lap. Remaining in first while the pace stayed slow for the first mile, Trouard only momentarily lost the lead ahead of the final push and stayed within the top two runners.
Smith said Trouard decided in the midst of the race to stay in front, something the Lumberjacks coach tries to tell his runners not to be afraid of, and credited the senior for his comfort and control while out in front.
Knight ran inside the top five for the race, with the two breaking away from the pack as the bell lap began. While Trouard locked up the inside lane, Knight began his final kick with about 150 meters left.
"We talk a lot about, on the 200-meter banked track, winning the straights. If you can accelerate on the straights, the turns are really hard to pass on," Smith said. "You can basically break the track up into these two 50-meter straightaways. If you can keep them from getting around you, you stand a really good chance of surviving the attack. He just did that masterfully."
With the title, Northern Arizona's first individual track win since 2010, accounting for 10 points and Friday’s fifth-place adding four, Trouard single-handedly placed Northern Arizona 15th in the national indoor meet. Matt Baxter, who entered as the final qualifier in the 3000m, just missed scoring for the Lumberjacks himself as he took 11th in the race with an 8:10.28.
Trouard’s national title wasn’t alone in Northern Arizona’s highlights on Saturday, as Ashley Taylor turned her final berth in the women’s 800 meters into an All-American fourth-place finish. Already guaranteed All-American honors after winning her heat and reaching the final eight-woman field, Taylor passed four runners in the last 50 meters of her race.
Finishing with a new personal best and school record 2:03.66, Taylor easily captured the best finish of her Northern Arizona career. Predominantly a 400m hurdler during her first three years of competition as a Lumberjack, Taylor moved to focus on the 800m this season at the prompting of Smith.
The 16th and final runner in the field after a pair of scratches, Taylor made the most of her stay at the indoor finals as she ended up with a higher finish in the event than the five fastest qualifiers entering the meet.
Lastly, Brooke Andersen finished 10th in the women’s weight throw for Northern Arizona, just missing the finals on Saturday. Tossing a best throw of 21.10m, Andersen just missed the ninth and final spot in the finals by 0.06 meters.
The Northern Arizona men's tennis team garnered its fourth victory of the season, and second in the Big Sky Conference, 6-1, over the Eastern Washington Eagles on Saturday.
"We bounced back today, coming out on all cylinders against a solid Eastern Washington team," said Lumberjacks director of tennis Ki Kroll.
With a new lineup, the Lumberjacks were able to clinch the doubles point before solidifying the win with three straight victories at the No. 1, 4 and 3 positions.
For the first time this season, doubles duo Ruben Montano and Tim Handel split up. Montano paired with senior Sebastian Eguez to win first 6-3 at the No. 3 position while Handel paired with senior Felix Schumann to clinch the point with a 7-5 win at the No. 1 position.
Northern Arizona went up 1-0 against Eastern Washington and carried its momentum into singles clinching the win at 4-0 before finishing out the remainder of the match.
Handel picked up the first win in singles for the second time this weekend, defeating EWU's Scott Paz 6-2, 6-4. Schumann and Thomas Fisher were next, notching wins on their courts 7-5, 6-0 and 6-4, 6-2, respectively.
The Eagles were able to get on the board with the next point, defeating Lucas Taylor after the match was clinched. Eguez and Montano finished it off with the final score at 6-1.
The Lumberjacks are now 4-7 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky going into the second stretch of the season.
Northern Arizona will have just a few days to prepare for a three-match week against Marquette University on the road and Big Sky opponents North Dakota and Northern Colorado in its home-opening weekend.
The Lumberjacks will compete against Marquette Thursday at 11 a.m. in Las Vegas before heading home for the first time this season to host the Fighting Hawks Saturday and the Bears Sunday. The Jacks' home-opening weekend matches will be played in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex and are both set for 10 a.m. start