Story and photos by Jessie Vanderson
The University of Northern Colorado has extended its recruiting reach in track and field into SoZona. In a major coup for the Greeley, Colo. school, the Bears’ women’s program recently persuaded three sophomore standouts from Pima College’s nationally recognized women’s program to head north from the warm weather and sunshine of Tucson, and compete for the Big Sky Conference school in the chill of northern Colorado.
Jaime Holiday (Tucson Sahuaro), Juliette Cossey (Phoenix Sandra Day O’Conner), and Shalise Fernander (Tucson Flowing Wells) all signed with the Bears of head coach Amanda Schick in mid-May. In signing the trio, the Bears landed three of the top women athletes in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC) this spring.
All three recruits scored points to help the Aztec women finish second at the NJCAA Region I championships last month at Mesa Community College. Cossey, who won the 2014 Division I state championship in the triple jump, won the region title in the triple with a mark of 39 feet, 5.75 inches, and finished fourth (17-11) in the long jump.
Holliday, a two year starter in volleyball for Pima, finished fourth (36-5.75) in the triple jump at the region meet, six in the 400-meters (1:01.4), and eighth in the 100-meter hurdles. (19.7). She also spent her career at Pima competing on the 4×100 relay. Holliday ran the first leg for an Aztecs’ 4×100 relay unit that failed to finish the race at the region meet. She ran the first leg for a quartet at Sahuaro that won the 2013 Division II state championship in the 4×100 (48.3).
Fernander, a two-year all star at forward on Pima’s nationally ranked women’s basketball team, sprinted to second-place (57.9) in the 400 and the 800-meters (2:17.3), and seventh in the 200-meters (26.5) at the region meet. She also teamed with Desire Montenegro (Tucson Sunnyside), Katherine Lyod (Tucson Catalina), and Kelsey Montano (Tucson High Magnet) on an Aztecs’ unit the joined to win the region title in the 4×800 (9:35.1). Last year, Fernander ran on an Aztecs’ unit the finished sixth in the 4×800 at the NJCAA Outdoor National Championships.
Fernander was also a two sports’ star in high school. She earned all state and all-city honors in basketball, and also finished third in the 400 (56.9) at the 2014 Division II state championship meet. She was the 2014 Willie Williams Classic champ in the girls’ 400 meters.
Both Holliday and Fernander will encounter a familiar face when the track season starts in 2017. Northern Arizona University sprinter Nicole Fotinos is a former teammate of Holliday. She ran the second leg on the Cougars’ 2013 4×100 state championship team. Fotinos, a junior, last month won the Big Sky Conference outdoor championship in the 400-meters (54.3). She also dashed to eighth-place (24.9) in the 200-meters to help the Lumberjacks win the women’s team championship. The Northern Colorado women had a fair year in track and field in the conference. The Bears finished ninth out of 12 teams with 45 points at the Big Sky Indoor Championships back in the winter. They finished ninth with (55) points this spring at the outdoor championships at Montana State University.
A Bears’ quarter did team to win the conference title in the women’s 4×100 relay with a clocking of (45.7). Fortinos ran the third leg for a NAU unit that joined to take fourth (46.1) in that race. She ran the anchor leg for a Lumberjack quartet that teamed to win the conference crown in the 4×400 relay (3:43.5). A North Colorado foursome joined to capture sixth-place (3:49.9) for the Bears.
You can bet that Northern Colorado will be keeping in touch with Pima head coach Greg Wenneborg, and his associate head coach, Chad Harrison, during the coming school year with a eye on a couple of Aztecs as potential recruits. Leading the group will be sprinter jumper Hannah Bartz (Marana Mountain View), sprinter Amber McCroskey and distance runner Katherine Loyd (Tucson Catalina). The trio were all freshmen this season.
Bartz, a 19-foot long jumper during the indoor season, won the region championship in the women’s long jump (19-4.75), took second (12.3) in the 100-meters, and third in the triple jump (35.9.25). McCroskey raced to third in the 100 (12.5), and 200 (25.6), and joined with Fernander, Montenegro, and McKenna McGrath on an Aztecs’ unit that teamed to take second in the 4×400 relay (3:58.3) at the region meet. Loyd finished second at the region meet in the 5,000 meters (18:51.5), third (4:59.0) in the 1500-meters.