ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Led by a first-place finish from junior All-American David McNeill, the Northern Arizona men’s cross country team finished fourth overall (86) in the NCAA Mountain Region Championships Saturday on the campus of New Mexico. The women’s team, led by an eighth-place finish from senior All-American Veronica Pohl, claimed seventh place (176).
Interim Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins was happy with the way some of his younger runners stepped up to the challenge Saturday.
“It is never satisfying when you don’t win, but I feel that the guys put themselves into a position to qualify for nationals and it was exciting to see the way they competed today,” Heins said. “For the women, it was great to see how some of the younger runners stepped up to the challenge with Kortnee (Burton) and Torin (Shriver) doing so well.”
McNeill was in the front pack for most of the race until he broke open his lead on BYU’s Miles Batty just before the 9k mark in the race. The Australian native captured first place in a time of 29:51, 12 seconds better than Batty.
“It is always nice to win, and regional’s is a very significant race,” McNeill said. “I am excited about it, but at the same time I am trying to keep a level head for next week because that is when you truly get excited. I want to save my energy for the championship race.”
Following closely behind McNeill the entire race were juniors Ben Ashkettle and Jordan Chipangama. Ashkettle finished eighth overall (30:35), while Chipangama claimed the 14th spot (30:49) in the 10,000m event.
McNeill, Ashkettle and Chipangama were all named to the All-Region team for their top-25 finishes.
Rounding out the scoring for the Lumberjacks was sophomore Ahmed Osman (31:25) and junior Jason Pedersen (31:26.9), who took the 30th and 33rd spots respectively. Sophomore Andrew Belus ran a solid race claiming the 38th position in a time of 31:47. Freshman Tim Freriks rounded out the team in 79th (32:46).
The women’s race got underway at Noon with Pohl sticking with the front pack throughout the race and claiming the eighth spot in a time of 21:09 in the 6,000m event.
“It was a pretty hard course I thought,” said Pohl. “I am satisfied with my finish, and I am excited f or the opportunity to go to Nationals. I hope I can get the same place there too. “
Joining Pohl on the All-Regional team was sophomore Kortnee Burton who finished in 23rd place, 11 spots better than last year’s race, in a time of 21:39. Senior Nell Rojas (22:20) and freshman Torin Shriver (22:21) finished in 44th and 46th respectively, and sophomore Haley Lawrence rounded out the scorers for the women’s team in 55th.
Junior Astrid Leutert rounded out the team Saturday with her 62nd place finish (22:37).
The NCAA will
officially announce the field for the National Championships in
Terre Haute, Ind., tomorrow at 5 p.m. MST on NCAA.com. The
championship race is set for Monday, Nov. 23.