Hawke's Bay runner Geordie Beamish is among the top three university runners in the United States over the 3000m indoor distance this season.
Northern Arizona University junior Luis Grijalva as well as seniors Beamish and Tyler Day are first, second and third, respectively, in the tertiary institution ranking in the country.
"We all ran PBs [personal bests]," said the 23-year-old fifth and final year civil engineering student who graduates in May.
"Luis and I are all-time No 6 and 7 in the NCAA while Tyler is all-time No 12 so it's quite cool."
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The Academic All-American programme recognises athletes in four divisions — NCAA division I, II, III and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
First-team Academic All-District selections advance to the Academic All-America ballot, culminating in the announcement of three-tier teams at the end of the season. The athletes are divided into geographic districts across the US and Canada.
The NAU trio, running under the moniker of the Lumberjacks, were competing at the Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational in Massachusetts at the weekend.
Grijalva was first, Beamish third and Tyler fifth overall although they were the top three collegiate finishers among the top-14 times.
The winner stopped the clock at 7m 43.73s and, in the process, smashed his previous personal time best by almost 12s. Grijalva also eclipsed the university record of 7:44.63 that Diego Estrada had established in 2012.
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Beamish was breathing down Grijalva's neck in a time of 7:44.67 while Day finished at 7:45.70. Beamish whittled down more than 12s from his previous best time while Day shaved off a whopping 16s of his PB.
Ironically the trio had simply set out with the immediate task of posting NCAA Indoor Championship-qualifying times but had ended up all cracking the all-time university top-15 mark in the men's 3000m history.
"The [Boston University] placings aren't really that important in that race because it was a random one on the East Coast but, more importantly, it's the times we ran looking towards the national meet in Albuquerque [New Mexico, early next month].
"It's good timing for us with the top-15 mark in the country," he said.
Beamish said with the three fastest times between them, there were two weekends left for rivals to break their dominance. He will give the final home NAU Tune Up meet this week at the Walkup Skydome a miss but he will lace up his spikes for the Lumberjacks during the Big Sky Indoor Championship at Pocatello, Idaho, in a fortnight.
So can Beamish put more grunt to improve his PB?
"Uum ... yeah, sure, but I'm probably not going to run another one this year," Beamish said with a laugh. "You just have to end up in a race like that again, which probably isn't going to happen again this year."
He explained that sort of time was often accomplished indoors, which is staged during the Northern Hemisphere winter, but with the onset of spring and the outdoor meetings beckoning from April time was running out.
Beamish said the trio were intentional about training under the tutelage of Mike Smith and his assistant, Jarred Cornfield.
"We went there [Boston University] with the intention of running fast rather than just do a tactical race," he said of their pre-race mind set.
"Because we train together so much that racing together kind of feels kind of normal."
Cornfield was happy with their collective accomplishment with Smith away at the East Coast with the rest of the NAU stable at the Husky Classic in Seattle, Washington, last weekend.
Beamish, of Hastings, took care of most of his senior lectures last year so he's got fewer papers now and, consequently, less academic pressure and more time to focus on his running.
The former Hereworth and Lindisfarne College student — who completed his final years at Wanganui Collegiate in following in the footsteps of his father, Simon, and elder brother, Hugo, now 31 — is still contemplating whether he'll remain in the US after graduating or return home.
"I'm still trying to figure it out. I think I'll still try to do a bit more running."
Scotsman Alec McNab was schoolboy Beamish's first mentor. Geordie Beamish had emulated Hugo (also a US scholarship graduate) in winning the New Zealand secondary schools' crosscountry title as well as the 3000m one, which Hugo had claimed twice. However, Geordie had also won the 1500m title, a distance Hugo didn't compete in.
McNab had represented his birth country in the Commonwealth Games over similar distances and was in his maiden year on the Wanganui Collegiate staff when father Simon Beamish had enrolled there in his first year.
Geordie Beamish doesn't think the Tokyo Olympics is a bridge too far for him in the 1500m or 5km races this year.
"I'll have to run a bit faster," he said before explaining while his times were "okay" the new criteria for Olympics meant it wasn't necessary to run standard times any more.
"That's why it's too complicated with the world ranking system that adds up all these points."
If anything, Beamish felt the new criteria would probably help his cause despite the rankings mutating all the time.
With the qualifying window open until June, he remained hopeful of his chances. It was a subject that he had broached with his university mentors but not something they lost sleep over because the mantra is to focus on the day-to-day stuff.
"We focus on training and don't worry about the results."
A circumspect Beamish said it was definitely the right decision for him to leave behind the sheep-farming property in the outskirts of Havelock North where mother Josi helps his father to pursue his career.
"I think I've had opportunities here that I wouldn't have had at home so, definitely, it's been worthwhile."