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Cross Country to Run in Big Sky Championships Saturday

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona cross country teams will be looking for their third-straight Big Sky Championship Saturday morning in Greeley, Colo., on the campus of Northern Colorado. This will mark the first time that Northern Colorado has hosted the Big Sky Conference Cross Country Championship since they joined the league in 2006. The action gets under way Saturday morning with the men taking to the course first at 9 a.m. MST, with the women’s race following at 10 a.m.

Interim Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins knows that his teams will have a tough task as they go for their third straight conference championship Saturday.

“It is always hard defending your title,” said Heins. “This year will be especially tough because it looks like there will be a good amount of snow up there. Weather is always a great equalizer, especially with the men’s team being ranked in the top five other teams will want to knock us off even more.”

For the women to successfully defend their crown, Heins knows his team will need a complete team effort to be victorious.

“We haven’t had a great race from top to bottom this season, just great individual efforts. I am sure the other teams in the conference will look at that and think they have a better chance at knocking us off. It is going to be a challenge. The one thing we continue to stress is to not overlook the other Big Sky competitors.”

Heading to Greeley on the fifth-ranked men’s team will be juniors Jordan Chipangama, David McNeill, Ben Ashkettle, Jason Pedersen and Kam Holbrook, sophomores Ahmed Osman and Andrew Belus and freshman Tim Freriks.

Chipangama heads into his first Big Sky Championship race having finished no worse than third in any race this season, including two first-place finishes in the Aztec Invitational and the Cowboy Jamboree. McNeill and Ashkettle lead the Lumberjacks in experience, as both have garnered All-Big Sky honors in the two previous conference championship races.

The women’s team returns three of the top-four finishers in last year’s conference championship race. Senior Veronica Pohl took the title, followed by junior Astrid Leutert who came in second. Senior Nell Rojas finished fourth overall in 2008. Also taking part in this years race will be sophomores Haley Lawrence, Kortnee Burton and Eliza Gawryluk and freshman Torin Shriver. Lawrence and Burton finished 11th and 13th respectively in last year’s event.

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