FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Azusa Pacific’s bid to build a complete team to contend for national titles in two weeks gained significant momentum Saturday with standout performances at both the Mountain T’s Invitational at Northern Arizona University and the Westmont Sunshine Indoor Open in Santa Barbara. In all, the Cougars registered over 50 performances this weekend which met the minimum NCCAA qualifying standard.
Sophomore Remontay McClain won the 200 meters in Flagstaff with a time of 21.23, and he also placed sixth in the 60-meter dash finals with a time of 6.74. Both marks, after conversions for altitude and to 55-meters for qualifying purposes for the National Christian College Athletic Association championships in mid-February, placed McClain at the top of both the 55-meter and 200-meter NCCAA national performance lists.
Senior Breanna Leslie led the way for the women’s contingent in Flagstaff, running a career-best 8.53 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles prelims before shaving an additional 11-hundredths of a second off that mark in the finals with a time of 8.42. After conversions for altitude and distance, Leslie easily has the top spot in the NCCAA’s 55-meter hurdles national performance list.
In Santa Barbara, the Cougars picked up a sweep in the women’s and men’s mile from Diandra Carstensen and Ryan Phillips, who led a group of 11 of Azusa Pacific’s distance and middle-distance athletes at the Westmont Sunshine Indoor Open. Carstensen blazed to a personal-best 5:05.66 to win the event by seven-tenths of a second over Vanguard’s Megan Williams, while Phillips pulled ahead on the final lap to edge Concordia’s Ricky Avila by one-hundredth of a second for the win with a time of 4:16.15.
Carstensen moved into ninth on Azusa Pacific’s all-time top-10 list with her performance, and she also now sits atop this year’s NCCAA national performance list. Phillips, whose final-lap split was 59 seconds, moved into fourth on the men’s mile NCCAA performance list.
Other top performances for the men’s team included four additional NCCAA national-qualifiers along with McClain in the 60-meter dash and six NCCAA-qualifiers plus McClain in the 200. Ronald Douglas and Sameer Sedam were a part of both of those groups, and Slater Ezell and Jake Hare added qualifying times in the 60-meter hurdles to their qualifying 60-meter dash performances.
“It was a good couple of days here in Flagstaff,” men’s head coach Kevin Reid said. “Remontay ran really well in a very fast race in the 60-meter final, and it was really good stuff from the team overall. It was a good, solid effort all the way across the board in the altitude and cold.”
Sophomore Matt Nash built on his solid opening day to close out the heptathlon with 4,139 points, which currently ranks fourth on the NCCAA list. Nash ran a 9.28 for a 60-meter hurdles PR, and he cleared 13-feet, 7.25-inches in the pole vault before closing out the two-day event with a 1,000-meter time of 3:26.48. Nash’s marks in two of the events (long jump and pole vault) also exceeded NCCAA national-qualifying standards for those individual events, while he also easily exceeded the NCCAA heptathlon minimum.
In the throws, freshman Talaiasi Taueli registered a top-five mark on the NCCAA shot put list with a best throw of 52-feet, 11.5-inches, and he also met the NCCAA qualifying standard for the weight throw with a toss of 42-feet, 2.75-inches. Junior Brad Beckwith placed fifth in the weight throw with a mark of 51-feet, 1.5-inches, less than a foot away from last week’s season-best of 51-feet, 10-inches, which has him currently in seventh on the NCCAA national performance list.
Senior David Schulte led a group of four long jumpers who posted national-qualifying marks, leaping 22-feet, 5-inchs to claim third place in the event. Other national qualifiers in the jump were LaJuan Moye (high jump) and Anthony Bryant (triple jump).
For the women’s team, four other athletes joined Leslie in posting NCCAA-qualifying marks in multiple sprint events. Senior Anita Fung knocked 12-hundredths of a second off last week’s 60-meter time by clocking a 7.92, and her 200-meter time of 26.27 also registered as a national qualifier. Mareka Clark also met the qualifying standards in the 60 and 200, while Jazmine Alexander’s 200 and 400 and Jordan Chesley’s 200 and 60-meter hurdle performances all registered as qualifiers.
“It looks to me like the group in Flagstaff did really well,” said women’s head coach Preston Grey, who accompanied the 11-athlete group that ran Saturday at Westmont. “It’s always important to have a balanced team, and we’re looking at events from the 55-meters all the way to the distance races, hurdles, jumps, and throws. We can pretty much score in almost anything on the track, which is pretty impressive, and we don’t have to count on one area to give us a chance to score points all day long. The athletes are stepping up across the board, and they’re feeding off each other.”
Freshman high jumper Sydney Eaton cleared 5-feet, 5.25-inches to move into third nationally on the NCCAA performance list, while sophomore Casey Schade cleared a career-best 10-feet, 0.75-inches in the pole vault to join Kim Sanchez as national qualifiers in that event. Both vaulters are currently listed in the top eight of the NCCAA national performance list.
Junior Megan VanWinkle moved up to third on the NCCAA performance list for the long jump, registering 18-feet, 3.75-inches while Leslie also posted a national qualifier with a leap of 17-feet, 5.25-inches on Saturday.
A day after posting a shot put PR, senior Cheri Smith registered a mark of 52-feet, 8.75-inches in the weight throw to move into second on the NCCAA performance list. Sophomore Danica Dobosy sits just two spots back in fourth on the national list after she recorded a throw of 49-feet, 9.75-inches.
The Cougars tune up for the mid-February NCCAA Indoor Nationals with one more competition next week, the Grand Valley State Big Meet in Allendale, Mich.