JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -- Thursday of the 3-day NAIA Track & Field Championship is always a day about doing what is supposed to be done. It’s the day that sets up the next 2 days and the title pursuit.
For Azusa Pacific, it was perfect Thursday at the NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championship Meet in the “Mini Dome” on the campus of East Tennessee State University. The Cougars did what they expected to do, scoring in the pentathlon and moving athletes through the prelim races.
“It was a good start for us,” said Azusa Pacific Women’s Head Coach Mike Barnett. “We got some very good performances, scored the points we expected and moved our individual and relays through the prelims.”
In other words, the Cougars avoided traps and stumbles that oftentimes can derail a championship chase before the meet gets into full swing.
The Cougar women are in second place after the opening day, scoring 9 points in the only event final held so far – the pentathlon. Senior Tiffeny Parker and freshman Brianna Leslie tallied personal-record performances, finishing second and sixth, respectively, to earn All-America recognition for both athletes. Parker scored 3,528 points, using a PR in the shot put (38’ 2¾”) and a season-best long jump (17’ 11¾”), to post the third best score in Azusa Pacific history.
Leslie PR’d in 4 of the 5 individual events, which included a 9.06 in the 60-meter high hurdles, to smash her previous pentathlon best by more than 100 points. She becomes the ninth Cougar in program history to earn All-America honors in the pentathlon, joining Parker who collected her first such award last year.
Though she finished out of the top 6 and the scoring for the pentathlon, sophomore Emily Nash followed in the footsteps of her teammates and also registered a PR in the pentathlon with 3,315 points, finishing eighth out of 15 competitors.
“I couldn’t ask for any more from the ladies,” said Barnett. “We got 3 personal records. They rose to the occasion of this being a championship meet and performed very well on a national stage. It was a great job by all of them.”
In prelim races, sophomore Lauren Jimison moved into the finals of the 5000 meters (17:57.54), and the Cougars’ 4x800-meter and distance medley relays each advanced to their respective finals.
Biola’s Natasha Miller won the pentathlon with 3,992 points to push the Eagles into first place with the 10 points that come with the victory. Parker garnered 8, and Leslie picked a point to account for the Cougars’ 9 points.
The men’s competition did not feature any event finals, but after the first day of the 2-day heptathlon, Cougars are in first, second and fourth place. All-American and pre-meet favorite Casey Stevick leads the 16-man field with 2,943 points, ending the first day with a PR in the high jump at 6’ 2 ¾”.
Competing in only his third heptathlon ever, senior Staphon Arnold is second with 2,930 points. Junior Jeff Altizer is fourth at 2,758 with his best event – pole vault – yet to come during Friday’s competition.
All-American sophomore Abednego Magut is into the finals of the 5000 (15:01.39) following toady’s prelim race.
The NAIA Championship Meet continues Friday at 10 a.m. (EST) with the completion of the heptathlon, starting with the 60-meter hurdles.
Click on “Real Time Results” above the follow the meet throughout the day.