Coach Mike Smith, long-distance runner Tyler Day earn national honors

Mike Smith and Tyler Day

They’re No. 1.

After a historic indoor track season, two Lumberjacks came out on top of national rankings: cross country and track and field director Mike Smith the honor of National Men’s Coach of the Year, and senior runner Tyler Day was named the Division I Men’s Track Athlete of the Year.

Smith announced Friday as National Men’s Coach of the Year

The U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced Friday that Smith was named the National Men’s Coach of the Year.

The first coach from a non-Power 5 Conference to earn the honor in award history (dating back to at least 1994), Smith is the first Lumberjack coach in program history to receive this honor. He has led the program for four years and is a two-time recipient (2017, 2018) of the Bill Dellinger Award.

Smith’s award completes the trifecta for the indoor season having previously earned Big Sky and Mountain Region Coach of the Year honors. Smith was voted both the Men’s and Women’s Coach of the Year in the conference while his regional Coach of the Year award was the eighth of his career.

Under Smith’s guidance, the NAU men reached historic heights in 2020, earning the program’s first No. 1 national USTFCCA Indoor ranking. The Lumberjacks held the top national spot for two weeks before taking a No. 2 ranking in the NCAA Indoor Championships with a record seven athletes that would have competed.

This indoor season, junior Luis Grijalva and Day recorded the nation’s fastest times in the 3000m and 5000m, respectively. Senior Geordie Beamish would have entered the NCAA Indoor Championships as the defending national champion in the mile, while sophomore Theo Quax (mile), junior Blaise Ferro (5,000 meter), sophomore Ryan Raff (5,000 meter) and freshman Abdihamid Nur (5,000 meter) would have been first-time NCAA participants.

Day, Grijalva and Beamish also earned all-time best collegiate marks this indoor season. Their best times placed them sixth, seventh and 13th respectively in the 3,000 meter and helped NAU become the second program with three different men in the all-time top 15.

Smith guided the Lumberjack men to their ninth consecutive Big Sky Indoor Championship—23rd in program history—where 11 Lumberjack men earned all-conference honors. NAU recorded five event wins on the way to 141.5 points, significantly outpacing runner-up and host Idaho State’s 89.5 points.

Day earns the 2020 Division I National Men’s Track Athlete of the Year

Capping off a successful career, the USTFCCCA announced Day as the 2020 Division I National Men’s Track Athlete of the Year for the indoor season.

Day is the first NAU men’s cross country and track and field athlete to receive a National Athlete of the Year honor and only the second Lumberjack athlete in history. Johanna Nilsson was named the National Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year (2005) and National Women’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Year (2006).

Day also is the first athlete from the Big Sky Conference to earn this honor and the first distance runner to do so since Edward Cheserek in 2016.

After a historic final indoor season, Day qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in both the 3,000 meter and 5,000 meter races with top three times in both events. He was poised to potentially capture his first career individual national title before the event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the BU John Thomas Terrier Classic on Jan. 24, Day turned in a record-breaking performance in the 5,000-meter with a time of 13:16.95, which ranked him third of all-time.

On Feb. 15, he clocked a new personal record in the 3,000-meter race with a time of 7:45.70 at the BU David Hemery Valentine Invitational. This was the third-fastest time—behind NAU teammates Grijalva and Beamish—and ranked him No. 13 of all-time.

Two weeks later, in his final collegiate meet, Day helped the NAU men win their ninth consecutive Big Sky Indoor Track and Field Championship. Day placed No. 3 in the 3,000-meter and ran the anchor leg of the Lumberjacks’ distance medley relay team at the conference championship meet. They broke the previous record set 40 years ago by more than 11 seconds, clocking a time of 9:42.57.