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November 20, 2009

Lumberjacks to Compete at Cross Country Championships Monday

Pictured L to R- Ahmed Osman, Ben Ashkettle, Jordan Chipangama, Veronica Pohl, Simon Gilna, Andrew Belus, David McNeill - Not Pictured, Jason Pedersen

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The No. 13 Northern Arizona men’s cross country team takes off tomorrow morning for Terre Haute, Ind., in hopes of capturing it’s first national title at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, Monday. After receiving an at-large bid earlier this week, the men’s team will send seven runners to compete in the 10,000m championship race.

Interim Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins has some goals in mind for his runners, but wants his athletes to cap off their season to the best of their ability.

“I would really like to see every man and woman that is racing Monday for us be able to finish their season on a high note,” Heins said. “We were sixth last year, and we will try to improve upon that this year. I just want them to go in there with confidence and a positive attitude and try to come out with our heads held high and happy about how they performed.”

Making the trip to compete in the championship race for the men will be senior Simon Gilna, juniors Ben Ashkettle, Jordan Chipangama, David McNeill and Jason Pedersen and sophomores Andrew Belus and Ahmed Osman.

Of those making their first appearance at the cross country championships, Chipangama is no stranger to the course in Terre Haute. The junior college-transfer finished third earlier this season at the Indiana State Pre-Nationals Invitational, and is ready to give his best effort in Monday’s race.

“First, my individual goals come second to the team,” Chipangama said. “It is a team race, so I will try to do my very best because every second will count for my team. I will go there with a 110 % effort and give it my all. I cannot predict the outcome, because everybody knows how the race will start, but nobody knows how it will end.”

Others making their first appearance at the NCAA Cross Country Championships will be Belus, Gilna and Osman.

Senior All-American Veronica Pohl will also be a part of the women’s 6,000m championship race after she qualified individually with an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships last week in Albuquerque N.M.
Although she is the lone member of the women’s team to qualify, Pohl wishes her whole team could be there to run alongside her.

“I am going to represent the whole team very well because I would love to be running with all of them,” Pohl said. “I hope I get all of my energy from them so that I can run the best race I am capable of. I want to be better then last year, and I hope to place in the top 10.”

In last year’s season finale, the men’s team came in sixth, led by the 15th-place finish o f McNeill (29:53). The women’s squad finished the championship event in 23 rd, with Pohl (20:24) crossing the finish line in 16th. Both McNeill and Pohl garnered All-American honors with their top-40 finishes.

The Versus Network will televise Monday’s championship races with the men taking the course at 10:08 a.m. MST, and the women at 10:58. Versus is available on Dish Network channel 151 and channel 142 on NPG Cable Flagstaff. This will mark the first time ever the cross country championships will be broadcast in high definition.

The NCAA will also be streaming the event live on the web at NCAA.com.