FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona cross country team will look to extend its postseason run Saturday, as both the men's and women's squads head to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the NCAA Mountain Region Championships. The women's team will take to Rose Park Golf Course first with the 6,000-meter event beginning at 10:30 a.m. MST. The men's 10,000-meter race will follow at 11:45 a.m. MST.
With an appearance in the NCAA Cross County National Championship meet on the line, Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins believes his No. 7 men's team has what it takes to advance.
"These regional meets require a different strategy from other championship meets," Heins said. "We don't want to over exert ourselves in the first 10K of the season, so I told the guys to run a controlled pace and to try and meet the expectations we have discussed. If we do all of the above, we will be in good shape to move on to Terre Haute, Ind."
Senior David McNeill, individual winner of the last two regional meets, will be looking to make some history of his own Saturday. Dating back to 1978, no man has won the 10K event three straight seasons. The two-time NCAA Mountain Region Cross Country Athlete of the Year already has two individual titles to his name this season.
Also leading the charge for the Lumberjacks will be junior Diego Estrada. The Big Sky second-place finisher will be making his return to regional action for the first time since his freshman campaign where he finished 16th overall.
Senior Jason Pedersen, junior Andrew Belus, Matt Coloe and Ahmed Osman and sophomore Tim Freriks will also be in action. The men's team has captured four regional titles (1986-88, 2002), and will be looking for its fifth on Saturday.
The competition will be stiff on both sides. The men's team comes into the regional meet as the top-ranked squad and will be challenged by No. 10 New Mexico, No. 15 BYU and No. 9 Colorado. The women's race features three top-10 teams as No. 3 Texas Tech, No. 8 Colorado and No. 10 New Mexico will all be in the hunt for the team title.
This will be the third 6K event of the season for the women's team. Sophomore Rochelle Kanuho, fresh off her fifth-place finish at the Big Sky Championship, will be striving for another strong placing Saturday. The Flagstaff native has three top-five finishes since making her collegiate debut at the Grand Canyon/Southwestern Invite.
Joining Kanuho on the women's side will be senior Danielle Hunt, junior Lisette Michaels, sophomores Alex Myers and Lyndsey Rakestraw and freshmen Carissa Gwerder and Sarah Raber.
All seven women will be racing at the Mountain Regional for the first time in their careers.