Three Northern Arizona University teams brought home conference championships Saturday, Feb. 25.
Both the men’s and women’s track and field teams became Big Sky Conference champions at the indoor championship meet in Pocatello, Idaho. It’s the ninth time in school history both Lumberjack squads won the indoor title.
At the same time, the swimming and diving team was at the Western Athletic Conference championship meet in Houston, on its way to a fourth consecutive championship after a season that started with the death of a teammate.
“This one is super gratifying; each championship has been a little different, but this one is special because of the adversity we faced all year long,” coach Andy Johns said. “This one was for Hayley Edmond. She was with us all year, especially this weekend.”
Track and field
This is the second time in four seasons both the men and women won this title, making the victory extra sweet for track and field director Mike Smith.
“It was a huge day for NAU track and field and for Northern Arizona as a university,” he said. “It’s hard to pick one favorite moment because the performances up and down each event group were absolutely incredible. I couldn’t be more proud.”
It was the 20th indoor title in program history for the men and 12th for the women.
Senior Shanice McPherson was named Most Valuable Female Athlete, and sophomore Tyler Day was named Most Valuable Male Athlete. Day, part of the cross-country team that won a national championship in November, won the 3,000-meter run, with All-American teammates Matt Baxter and Andy Trouard in second and third place.
McPherson, a two-time Division II long jump champion, won that event at the Big Sky tournament, earned
silver in the 60-meter dash and got on the scoreboard for the 200-meter dash.
Swimming and diving
The NAU women cried tears both happy and sad after winning the conference championship. They bested the second-place team by more than 20 points, with seven gold medals between swimming and diving, and took home a number of individual honors as well, including Co-Swimming Coach of the Year for Johns for the fourth consecutive year, Diving Coach of the Year for the second year in a row for Nikki Huffman and WAC Diver of the Year for Tanya Kurach.
The team members were competing for more than themselves or NAU, however. The season, with its crowning finale, was motivated in large part by Hayley Edmond, a swimmer who transferred to NAU in 2015 and swam for the Lumberjacks for a year before being diagnosed with cancer. She died in August.
“The emotions right now are amazing,” senior swimmer Urte Kazakeviciute said after the meet. “There are definitely tears and smiles. We couldn’t have done this without every girl on this team.”