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October 17, 2009

Cross Country Teams Turn in Solid Efforts at Pre-Nationals

TERRA HAUTE, Ind. – Saturday morning on the campus of Indiana State, the Northern Arizona cross country teams took part in the Pre-Nationals Invitational. In the first race of the morning, the second-ranked men’s squad finished third overall (115) in the “blue” race behind No. 7 Oregon (79) and No. 3 Alabama (114). The No. 27 women’s team took to the course nearly two hours after the men and finished 14th overall.

Interim Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins knows that any team in the top 10 is capable of winning the national championship in a month, and today’s men’s race was a perfect example.

“It was a solid effort,” Heins said. “We came into it trying to put ourselves into position to win the race, and I think we did that. We were leading the race at the 5k mark, but dropped off towards the end.”

The Lumberjacks received another strong effort from junior standout Jordan Chipangama. The Zambia native finished third overall in a time of 23:47 in the 8,000m event. Diego Estrada followed up Chipangama’s effort with a strong one of his own, finishing fourth overall in a season-best time of 23:49. The top-five finishes by Chipangama and Estrada mark the third time in three races they have finished within the top-five slots.

Junior Ben Ashkettle recorded a season-best time of 24:10 in just his second race of the year to go along with his 16th place finish. Finishing 39th overall for the Lumberjacks was sophomore Ahmed Osman (24:35.7) and junior Jason Pedersen rounded out the scoring with a 53rd place finish (24:43)

Also racing Saturday for the men’s squad was junior All-American David McNeill, who finished 61st in his first race of the season (24:48). Sophomore Andrew Belus finished 92nd in a season-best time of 25:05.3.

The women’s squad was led by senior Veronica Pohl, who finished the race 16th overall in a time of 21:03 in the 6,000m event. It was Pohl’s first race since she finished first at the Aztec Invitational Sept. 19.

“The thing about cross country is that it is a team sport,” Heins said. “You can have individuals run well, but in order to be successful you need a team effort. Veronica put herself in the mix in that top group and finished really high. Astrid ran her guts out and Kortnee and Haley both ran solid races compared to where they finished last year. There were some good things to take away from the race, but overall it was disappointing.”

Sophomore Kortnee Burton (21:50) and junior Astrid Leutert (21:56) finished 76th and 81st respectively. Following closely was sophomore Haley Lawrence (21:58), who finished 85th. Freshman Torin Shriver (22:27) and senior Nell Rojas (22:33) rounded out the runners for the Lumberjacks Saturday.

The Lumberjacks have two weeks to prepare for the Big Sky Championship in Greeley, Colo. on Oct. 31st. Both teams will be looking to defend their Big Sky titles on the campus of Northern Colorado.