TEMPE, Ariz. – Saturday's Grand Canyon University/Southwestern College Invite proved to be a productive trip for the Northern Arizona cross country teams. Redshirt sophomore Rochelle Kanuho carved up the 5,000-meter course at Evelyn Hallman Park in 18:16.15 to take the women's individual title. Senior Kam Holbrook led the men's team with a second-place finish in a time of 25:55.72.
Kanuho's winning time from Saturday's race is the best 5K-time by a member of the women's team this season.
Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins was thrilled for Kanuho, who becomes the first female runner to capture an individual title since former Lumberjack Veronica Pohl won the Big Sky Cross Country Championship in 2009.
"I am extremely proud of her for sticking it out in a rough year," Heins said. "She had a tough last year, and stuck it out. I can't say how proud I am of her for making it through that. She looks like another solid number one that we have."
After redshirting her first year on campus in 2008, Kanuho failed to compete in the 2009 season as well for the Lumberjacks. Saturday morning's race was the first time the Flagstaff native donned a NAU uniform on the cross country course. She also sustained an average mile pace of 5:53 over the 5K distance, matching her personal-best time in the mile run last track season.
Freshman Carissa Gwerder finished second behind Kanuho in 19:18.27, and was followed by Emily Bartz who claimed 11th on the day (20:16.55). Alexa Kearns crossed the finish line in 22nd (21:18.52), giving each women's runner a new season-best time.
The key to any top cross country team in the nation is depth, and Heins knows that is what he has with his fifth-ranked men's squad.
"We have a lot of depth on the men's team," Heins said. "With a sport where a rolled ankle can sideline you for a meet or two, it's good to know we have guys that we can plug in and produce."
Producing for the Lumberjacks Saturday was Holbrook, sophomores Joe Withers (25:56.92) and Myles Kloer (26:37.60) who finished third and fourth, respectively and redshirt freshman Daniel Filipcik (13th).
The Lumberjacks will be back in action next Saturday as the head to Terre Haute, Ind., for the NCAA Pre-Nationals.