Men’s cross country under-performs in regular season finale
By Mark Saunders
It was a valiant effort with a disappointing performance from the Northern Arizona University (NAU) men’s cross country team on Oct. 12 at the Adidas Invitational at the University of Wisconsin.
The men’s team had two runners finish within the top 50 of the men’s 8K and placed 13th overall at Thomas Zimmer Championship Course. NAU walked out of the competition against 46 other teams with 447 team points.
Stanford’s men’s squad led the participating teams with 135 points, followed by Iona  and Oklahoma . ASU placed 21st with 528 points and UA came in at 25th place overall with 608 points.
Coach Eric Heins said he was not expecting the team to do as well as they did to end the team’s regular season competition. He was expecting better.
“No, we’re not satisfied with how we did,” Heins said shortly after the invitational. “We know we’re better than that overall.”
Junior Brian Shrader led the Lumberjacks, placing 28th individually in the men’s 8K with a time of 23:51. Freshman Futsum Zienasellassie passed the finish line at 23:53, good enough for 31st individually. Other notable NAU runners include freshman Nathan Weitz [24:20], sophomore Caleb Hoover [24:26], freshman Alejandro Montano and sophomore Matt McElroy both finishing at 24:28 and sophomore Cody Reed [24:46].
UA sophomore Lawi Lalang was first to cross the finish line in the 8K with a time of 23:03, followed by fellow Wildcat senior Stephen Sambu [23:07] and Iona College junior Matt Gillespie [23:25].
Zienasellassie said the meet was unlike any track meet he has raced in before.
“I never went against this many people before. This was totally different,” Zienasellassie said. “I ran okay. We have a lot of space to improve. Now it’s time to put this race behind us and move onto Big Sky.”
The men’s team faced 316 other listed runners in Friday morning’s invitational, more than the amount of runners from their three previous meets this season combined.
“Our past races have been really small,” Heins said. “We learned from what we did this race and now we know where we’re at and what to do when we meet those teams again.”
Zienasellassie said he knows the team will bounce back in their next competition.
“I think what we have to do as a team is just work together and we’ll learn as a team and get better,” Zienasellassie said.
The men’s cross country team will hit the ground running again on Oct. 27, facing 11 other teams in the Big Sky Conference Championship at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff.