Homecoming golden for Lumberjacks’ Shrader at George Kyte Classic
By Alli Jenney
Northern Arizona University hosted the George Kyte Cross Country Classic on a drizzly Saturday afternoon with the men’s squad proving to spectators and competitors alike their new team will continue their program’s legacy. After serving as a Duck while running at the University of Oregon, junior transfer Brian Shrader returned to Flagstaff as a Lumberjack and claimed victory in the men’s 8K race at Buffalo Park in 25:03.5, on a course all too familiar to him.
“It’s a nice homecoming where I’m out there running and in the middle of the race I see ‘Hey there’s my first ever high school [coach], and there’s my second high school coach, and there’s my track coach.’ It’s like all these coaches and my family obviously, some of my friends that I haven’t seen in a while and so much support it was very uplifting,” Shrader said. “In the middle of the race I found myself not even that tired because it was just such a great experience to be running in front of my hometown again.”
The Lumberjacks, ranked No. 17 nationally in the preseason poll by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association’s (USTFCCCA), know they have quite the season ahead of them.
Capturing six of the top-10 spots in the meet serves as some reassurance for what is in store for NAU. Redshirt freshman Alejandro Montano placed third with a time of 25:29.6, competing for the first time as a member of the team due to injury last season, and was followed by redshirt sophomore and Oklahoma State University transfer Matt McElroy who took fourth at 25:33.6. Sophomore Caleb Hoover managed to clinch the fifth spot in 25:34.2 despite being knocked down during the race and bear crawling to get himself back up.
“Every time I used to race last year for track, I would always kind of lie at the end and just fall all the way back and not do as well as I could have. But now coming out here, and now that I’m in a team and back in cross [country], I know that can’t happen,” Montano said. “I’ve been working mentally at the end just to have it and keep pushing, because it’s for my team now.”
Also showing strength was sophomore Chris Ganem and redshirt sophomore Cody Reed, who would take seventh and tenth overall with times of 25:40.9 and 25:51.6, respectively.
“I thought we executed better than all of last year, in terms of that execution,” said director of track and field and cross country Eric Heins. “Great start to the season. We’re still not where we need to be but that’s fine, this is Sept. 1. Keep supporting each other, keep working on what we need to work on and we’ll be there at the end.”
Although running unattached for the meet, freshman Rolanda Jumbo was the first Lumberjack to cross the finish line in the women’s 5K race at a time of 17:33.0. Sophomore Kylee Kieser would follow her up in fifteenth overall with a time of 18:03.4.
The women’s team would finish fourth overall for the day behind an impressive performance by Southern Utah University and in–state rivals ASU and UA. Meanwhile, Shrader and the rest of the men’s squad would gain bragging rights after sweeping the men’s overall title.
“There’s some magic on the team that I can’t exactly explain, but I’m out there and it’s an exciting feeling with this young team. It’s an exciting time to be a Lumberjack and I can’t be happier than where I’m at,” Shrader said. “I know we can do some exciting things and there’s some goals we have at the national level and I think a good way to sum it up is we’re just ready to shock the country.”
The Lumberjacks will compete again on Sept. 21 in the UCLA Invitational at the Robinson Ranch Golf Course in Santa Clarita, Calif.