In a fitting end to a storied career, Northern Arizona senior Tyler Day was named the 2020 Division I National Men's Track Athlete of the Year for the indoor season by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association on Wednesday.
Day is the first-ever Northern Arizona men's cross country/track and field athlete to receive a national athlete of the year honor, and he is just the second Lumberjacks athlete ever to earn the accolade. In 2005 and 2006 respectively, Johanna Nilsson was named the National Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Year and National Women's Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
Day is also the first athlete from the Big Sky Conference to earn the honor and the first distance runner to do since Oregon's Edward Cheserek in 2016.
Day had a historic final indoor season and was poised to possibly capture his first career individual national title at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships before they were canceled over concerns of the spread of the coronavirus.
The Gilbert native was a double national qualifier in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter races, and was set to enter the national indoor championships as a favorite in both events.
At the BU Terrier Classic on Jan. 24, Day turned in a record-breaking performance in the 5000m when he ran a new American collegiate record time of 13:16.95. Day broke Galen Rupp's previous record and his performance placed him third all-time behind only Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu.
Day returned to Boston, for the BU Valentine Invitational on Feb. 15 where he once again clocked a new personal record in the 3000m. His time of 7:45.70 was the third-fastest time this season -- behind only teammates Luis Grijalva and Geordie Beamish, who ran alongside Day in Boston -- and ranks 13th all-time.
Two weeks later in what wound up being his final collegiate meet, Day helped the Northern Arizona men win their ninth consecutive Big Sky Indoor Track and Field Championship and 23rd all-time in Pocatello, Idaho. Day took third in the 3000m and ran the anchor leg of the Lumberjacks' conference championship meet record distance medley relay team. The Lumberjacks broke the previous meet record set 40 years ago by more than 11 seconds with a time of 9:42.57.
Day's achievements landed him on The Bowerman Watch List, presented annually by the USTFCCCA to the most outstanding male and female track and field athletes in the country. He also became the fourth Lumberjack ever to record Mountain Region Men's Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
Day was part of Northern Arizona's cross country team from 2016 to 2018 and was a seven-time All-American between the three seasons (cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track & field).
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