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November 16, 2008

Women's Cross Country Gets At-Large Bid to NCAAs, Men Automatic Qualifiers

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- The Northern Arizona University women were announced as one of the 13 at-large selections as the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Committee announced the team and individual qualifiers for the 2008 Division I Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships. The NAU men’s team gained one of 18 automatic bids by way of their second place finish at the Mountain Region Championship Saturday.

Thirty-one teams were selected to participate in each championship. The top two, seven-person teams automatically qualified from each of the nine regions, for a total of 18 teams. Thirteen additional teams were selected at-large.

“We had a strong feeling, but until you actually see it you’re still nervous just sitting around all day waiting for 5:00,” said Head Cross Country Coach Eric Heins. “We obviously feel really good having both the men and the women in.”

The Lumberjacks are the only teams from the Big Sky going to the NCAA meet, and the only team from the Mountain Region to send both their men’s and women’s squads. This is the second consecutive year that NAU will have both teams in the race. In 2007 the men finished fourth overall and the women took seventh.

Indiana State University will host the Championships, November 24, at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course located at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind. The women’s race will begin at approximately 12:08 p.m. Eastern time, followed by the men’s race at 12:48 p.m. Both championship races will be broadcast live on CBS College Sports Network and streamed online via NCAA.com.

Returning to Indiana to lead the Lumberjacks is sophomore David McNeill who claimed All-American honors as a rookie with his 10th place national finish. At the Pre-National meet on October 18 in Terre Haute, McNeill took second, and has backed that up with comfortable Big Sky and Mountain Region championships.

“David is a super competitor, and he’ll go in there and run his style of race,” stated Heins. “Obviously there are some really talented guys across the country, but he can certainly run with those guys and make it close at the end.”

The NAU women return only one runner who scored at last year’s championship, sophomore Astrid Leutert. But the women also ran the course in October and have handled the pressure of each big race well.

Heins says both teams will be up for it. “Anytime you go to the national championships, it’s a new experience, but it’s something we’ll talk about and prepare for this week, not only physically, but mentally as well.”