Estrada excels in season track and field debut, Kemper head and shoulders above all
BY ALLI JENNEY AND DEVONTAE BROWNE —
Excitement never ceased at the Walkup Skydome this past weekend when the Lumberjacks hosted the NAU Mountain T’s Invitational on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2.
With his mother in attendance on day two of the meet, sophomore jumper and hurdler Deante Kemper had the performance of his career. Kemper tied his personal best record in the high jump at 7 feet, 2.25 inches, and also finished second in the 60-meter hurdles, setting another career best with a time of 8.13.
“It felt really good tying my personal record,” Kemper said. “My next goal is break the record of 7 feet 3 inches. Every time I get ready to jump I try to jump high as possible.”
In addition to Kemper’s performance, the throwers, redshirt sophomore Gus Margiotta, redshirt freshman Brian Thompson and freshman Shawn Collins all set personal best marks in their respective events. Margiotta threw for 55-10.25, a second-place finish in the weight throw; Thompson collected first with a toss of 58-6; and Collins closed out the shot put with 55-8.5, placing third.
“It was kind of cool. I went in today hoping to push Brian as he was pushing me,” Margiotta said. “It’s good to have someone out there to train and throw with you as we both strive to be good as each other.”
Associate head coach throws and multis Oscar Duncan expressed his happiness with the performances of the throwers.
“The biggest thing was [Thompson] needed his Big Sky qualifier, [which] he got soundly,” Duncan said. “It’s great to have two athletes who complement each other. [Margiotta] was also able to get his Big Sky qualifier.”
Other noteworthy field performances include women throwers sophomore Jessica Bush and freshman Jessica Weise. The pair both set personal records in the shot put with 49-4.25 and 47-11.25, respectively. Junior Edgar Panford earned two fourth place finishes in both the long and triple jump, earning his season’s best of 48-9.5 in the triple jump.
On the track, both the men’s and women’s squad continued the energy of the meet, achieving event wins, Big Sky Conference (BSC) Championship qualifying marks and personal bests.
The men’s distance runners swept the top five spots in the mile run, led by redshirt senior All-American and Olympian Diego Estrada, who competed for the first time in an NAU uniform since the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships this past season.
“It felt really good, just to get the nerves out of the way,” Estrada said. “I don’t know how fit I am yet, but definitely a good indication to be able to run a 4:12, with splits all over the place and feel good about it.”
Altitude converted, Estrada’s time becomes 4:03.40, garnering a BSC qualifying bid, along with sophomore Caleb Hoover who ran for 4:09.60. Sophomore Alejandro Montano, redshirt senior Roman Acosta and redshirt sophomore Cody Reed rounded out the top five spots of the event.
In the men’s 800-meter mid-distance run, junior Caleb Potts was shy of a BSC bid, but placed first with a time of 1:54.14. Senior sprinter Miles Di Sabella earned his second BSC qualifying mark by running 22.08, in the men’s 200-meter dash.
For the women, sophomore sprinter Darriel Banks ran for a personal best in the 60-meter dash at 7.47, and a season best and BSC bid in the 200-meter dash, with a time of 24.91. Banks finished third overall in both events. In the 800-meter run, redshirt senior Agnes Laurent placed second overall, but recorded her career best with a 2:10.12 mark.
The three Lumberjack competitors swept the first three ranks in the women’s mile run. Freshman Melanie Townsend took first at 5:12.98, and sophomores Lauren Justus and Sarah Baker followed up in second and third, with 5:27.23 and 5:33.25, respectively.
“[Townsend traveled] all the way from Australia, a big adjustment for any freshman coming up to Flagstaff, so it was great to see her moving into that person we thought we recruited,” said director of cross country and track and field Eric Heins. “She ran two very smart races, with the 5K, a big negative split at the end and the mile, it was great to see her be able to do that.”
On Feb. 1, the final events were the men’s and women’s 5K run, and the Lumberjacks swept across both races. Montano, Reed and Acosta secured BSC bids with times of 14:38.49, 14:51.46 and 14:42.34, respectively.
Having picked up a qualifier two weeks ago in the NAU Invitational, Acosta helped pace Montano and Reed to achieve theirs.
Townsend (17:37.53), Justus (17:46.49) and sophomore Kylee Kieser (17:55.39) notched BSC bids, complementing the men with a sweep in the women’s race.
Reflecting on her first appearance running indoors and her two wins, Townsend accredited running with Justus as helpful encouragement.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing, and how many laps; I got completely confused, to be completely honest,” Townsend admitted. “I got a lot of confidence from [Friday], so coming in today, I felt good and I was ready to get that qualifier. It was so close, so it was bittersweet but [I’ll get it] next time.”
The Lumberjacks will be back at it, dividing squads to two locations this weekend. The distance team will compete in the Husky Classic in Seattle, Wash. on Feb. 8 and Feb. 9., while other athletes will travel to New Mexico on Feb. 9.