CVHS's Denike picks NAU for track

Two state universities began a bidding war for the rights to claim Chino Valley High School's Jodie Denike.

But in the end, the standout track and cross country runner settled on Northern Arizona University rather than Arizona State to further her running career at the Division 1 level.

It's obvious why Denike's stock was so high to interested college programs. She leaves CVHS with a total of seven 3A State Championships including six in track and field alone.

And when the Lumberjacks came calling, so did ASU. The Sun Devils countered NAU's offer with a bigger scholarship deal but Northern Arizona head coach Ron Mann made it a priority to match ASU's offer and win the Denike Sweepstakes.

"That was an interesting scenario," Mann, into his 21st season as track and cross country coach at NAU, said of the bidding war. "Jodie knew where she wanted to come to school and that was one of our final discussions before she signed her national letter of intent … she said, 'Coach I want to come to Northern.' I said, 'Then let's make it work.'"

For Denike, her first choice was NAU all along.

"Basically I like the weather up there. And I heard that they had a really good program," she said from her home on Saturday.

NAU indeed has a really good program with Mann's teams are coming off a 2000 cross country season in which Mann recorded his 50th Big Sky Conference championship (men's and women's cross country and track and field combined).

The men won their third straight Big Sky cross country title and Mann was named Big Sky Coach of the Year for his third time in 2000.

"It's been a tremendous time at Northern," Mann said from the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Friday. "When you talk in terms of track and field and cross country, Northern can hold their head with anybody."

As she did as a prep, Denike will compete in both track and field and cross country as a Lumberjack.

After four successful high schools years running both, though, Denike clearly has her own preference between sports.

"Definitely track," she said. "Over the years I just got burned out on cross country but he (Mann) says I'm going to need to do it for the events that I'm going to run in track."

Friends of Mann's in the Prescott area clued the longtime Div. 1 coach into Denike and her prep accomplishments before Mann's formal recruiting process started this past spring where Denike earned three 3A State Championships in track and field.

"One of the things that I really liked about her is that she's a very agile athlete," Mann said. "I think she'll acclimate (to the college level) well. She's a very strong athlete, she's very dedicated and she's very much a competitor."

Denike will head up for a visit at the campus previews this coming weekend before she reports to cross country training camp on Aug. 20.