FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- A group of 32 Azusa Pacific track & field athletes competed at the Northern Arizona Team Challenge Meet at the “under-construction” Walk-Up Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz., Saturday, and several Cougars showed well as Azusa Pacific continues its march toward next month’s NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Meet host Northern Arizona won both the men’s and women’s team competition. The Azusa Pacific men finished second, trailing the Lumberjacks by a 135-85 count. The Cougar women finished fifth in the 8-team competition with 54 points. NAU won with 87.
Distance runners Poppy Lawman and Victoria Martinez posted the only victories for the Cougar women, Lawman taking the 800-meters with a 2:17.98, more than 4 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor, while Martinez won the first mile race she has run in 3 years, clocking a 5:17.10. Lawman’s time was good enough to punch her ticket to the NAIAs.
Though not a winner in her event, sophomore All-American Brianna Leslie certainly earned her place in the post-meet spotlight. Leslie blazed a personal-best 8.85 to finish second in the 60-meter hurdles. With that effort, she becomes just the third Cougar ever to register a sub-9-second time in the high hurdles.
First-year Cougars Megan Vanwinkle and Kat Luna also enjoyed fine showings in Flagstaff, and likewise secured spots on the Azusa Pacific contingent headed to the NAIAs in Ohio the first weekend of March. Vanwinkle, a freshman out of Indiana, went a team-best 17’ 9½” to finish third in the long jump, and Luna, a junior college transfer, was second in the 20-pound weight throw with a heave 57’ 6”, already the third-best throw in program history.
The Cougar men showed well with their 18 competitors, and All-American seniors Jordan Savidge and Casey Stevick led the parade. Savidge won the pole vault with a clearance of 16’ 0 ¾” and Stevick, a heptathlete by first calling, finished second in the 60-meter high hurdles with a career-best 8.33.
Junior college transfer Genessis Hampton, in his first appearance as a Cougar, won took the triple jump competition with a fine first-meet leap of 45’ 8½”.
In his Cougar debut, junior college transfer Deon Nolan finished third with a good season-opening time of 50.28.
The meet was staged without the support of fans in attendance. Construction on the NAU's Walk-up Skydome kept family, friends and other supporters out in the cold for safety reasons.
The Cougars come home next weekend to host their first home meet of the indoor season, an all-comers competition that begins Friday (Feb. 4) with the hepthatlon/pentathlon at 2 p.m. and continues Saturday (Feb. 5) at 9:30 a.m.