NAU cross country finishes both teams in top-10, men earn at-large bid to championships
The NAU men and women’s cross-country teams competed at this year’s NCAA Mountain Region Championships in Provo, Utah, with both teams landing in the top-10, and the men’s team earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
The men’s squad placed third, one spot higher than last year’s meet, and the women finished in seventh, eight places higher than the previous year. The men’s team moved to No. 12 in the nation after the top-3 finish.
Seven Lumberjack’ made the All-Regional team – five from the men’s and two from the women’s.
This is the fifth consecutive year, and the 20th time since 1984, the men’s team has gone to the national meet. In the last 11 years, NAU nabbed eight top-10 finishes at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, including two top-5 podium visits in their last four championship efforts.
“There’s not much to do now [to prepare for Nationals], it’s really about not backing the team off too much and not making them do too much,” says director of Track and Field and Cross-Country coach Eric Heins. “It’s that delicate balance between doing some workouts where they maintain their fitness and feel good about themselves. But at the same time, not back them off so much that they feel sluggish.”
All seven runners for the men’s squad placed in the top-50 at regionals, five in the top-25. Senior Diego Estrada led the team by coming in fourth overall, completing the 10K course in 30:30.
“I think I’ve been playing my role pretty good,” said Estrada. “If I have to rate it, I think I’ve been an ‘A.’ Just taking care of it.”
Coming in behind Estrada, with a fifth-place finish, was senior Jordan Chipangama, with a time of 30:33. This was a new personal record for Chipangama, who ran the 10K in 30:49 back in the 2009 Mountain Region Championships. Chipangama red-shirted during the 2010 cross-country season and was not able to compete in the championships.
Junior Tim Freriks finished 11th with a time of 30:52, followed by senior Matthew Coloe in 24th at 31:15, and senior Andrew Belus in 25th with a time of 31:16.
Rounding out the men’s squad were freshman Caleb Hoover in 38th place with a time of 31:38 and senior John Yatsko, finishing 43rd with a time of 31:48. Both runners debuted for NAU’s cross-country team this season.
Junior Rochelle Kanuho and senior Kortnee Burton were the top performers for the women’s squad, and the only two female Lumberjacks named to the All-Regional team.
Kanuho finished the 6K course in 16th-place with a time of 21:30. This was a personal best for Kanuho, who finished in 28th-place with a time of 21:31 at last year’s Mountain Region Championships.
Despite not being able to compete in last year’s Mountain Region Championships due to a groin injury, Burton finished strong in 17th-place with a time of 21:31. This was a new record for Burton, who improved upon her 2009 finish by six places and beat her time by 0:08 seconds.
“It was a new year in terms of a lot of new girls on the team, bringing some girls off the red-shirt,” said Coach Heins. “We set our goals pretty high and the girls didn’t back down from that. All of them went after it and were really successful.”
Freshman Caroline Hogardh was the only other runner to finish in the top-50, closing out the race in 44th-place with a time of 22:29. Following behind was senior Haley Lawrence in 62nd-place with a time of 22:53 and freshman Lauren Justus in 65th-place with a time of 22:56. Freshman Kylee Kieser and junior transfer Agnes Laurent were close behind in 67th and 76th, respectively.
“The work is done,” said Estrada. “I just have to do my workout on Friday and we’re good to go.”
Although the women’s season is now over, the men are looking to closeout a successful 2011 season and claim another top-10 national ranking at the NCAA National Championships next week.
The 2011 NCAA National Championships are scheduled for Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Indiana.