Men claim top honors, women place third at Big Sky meet
Both the NAU men and women’s cross-country teams excelled at the Big Sky Conference Championship this past weekend in Pocatello, Idaho, and broke course, school and individual records.
The men’s team won their fifth consecutive conference title, setting a new school record for the most conference wins in a row.
Senior runner Diego Estrada dominated the Centennial Course, taking top honors. This is the seventh year in a row that the Big Sky Conference individual crown has gone to an NAU runner.
At last year’s conference championship, Estrada took second behind fellow teammate David McNeill. Going into this year’s meet, Estrada’s main goal was to win the team title. And that is exactly what he did. Estrada placed first and finished the race with a time of 24 minutes and 15 seconds, setting a new course record. The past record was set back in 2002 by Montana State’s Casey Jermyn, who’s time was almost 40 seconds higher than Estrada’s 2011 finish.
Even with his first-place finish, one of Estrada’s primary concerns was making sure all of his fellow runners finished just as strong.
“Diego didn’t take over the lead until the final 2,000 meters,” said director of cross-country and track and field Eric Heins, via NAU Athletics. “He was sitting back to try and bring along the rest of the teammates.”
Not only did Diego Estrada take home the number one spot, he was also awarded a different kind of honor and received his official American citizenship the Friday before the meet.
Four runners from NAU finished in the top-10. Coming in second behind Estrada, with a time of 24:38, was senior Jordan Chipangama. In fifth place, junior Tim Freriks finished with a time of 24:57, followed by senior Matthew Coloe in seventh place with a time of 25:03.
“Matt’s performance, for a middle distance runner on a challenging course like this, really got us fired up going into Mountain Regionals in two weeks,” said coach Heins, via NAU Athletics.
The women’s cross-country team placed in the top-5, finishing third overall behind first place Weber State and second place Idaho State.
“The women got out in front early on, and I thought we put ourselves in a position at the beginning of the race to finish within 5– 10 spots of where we ended up,”said Heins via NAU Athletics.
Two NAU runners ran to top-10 finishes for the women’s squad. Senior Kortnee Burton finished in third place with a time of 17:46, followed by junior Rochelle Kanuho in 10th place with a time of 18:23. This is Kanuho’s second year in a row receiving all-conference honors.
Senior Haley Lawrence finished the race in 18th place with a time of 18:44 — her highest team finish of the year. Freshman Lauren Justus also set a personal record, coming in 25th place with a time of 19:19 and breaking the team top-five for the first time since NAU’s George Kyte meet on Sept. 3.
Both teams have a break until Nov. 11, when the Lumberjacks will travel to Provo, Utah to compete in the NCAA Mountain Regional Championships.