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McNeill Makes Mountain Region History With Individual Title

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Northern Arizona senior runner David McNeill claimed the men's individual title at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships for the third-straight year, leading the men's team to a fourth-place finish (88) from Rose Park Golf Course Saturday afternoon. McNeill (29:24) became the first man in Mountain Region history to win three-straight titles dating back to 1978.

"Diego (Estrada) is most comfortable running up front so I let him do his thing for as long as possible and it was of equal benefit to both I think.," McNeill said. "With about 2K to go I put in a bit of a surge. I did my thing, Diego did his thing, and I think we both did what was best for the team today. And at the same time, we wanted to make sure we could get to nationals in good shape."

Between McNeill and Estrada (29:33), who scored a third-place finish of his own, the Lumberjacks put up four points between their top two guys. Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins was pleased with the overall results from Saturday.

"I don't think we executed our race plan that we wanted to run this weekend," Heins said. "Overall, we still ran better this year at the regional meet than we did last year. Having David and Diego up front scoring four points for us today was huge."

A fixture up front for the Lumberjacks for four seasons, Heins is still impressed with McNeill's ability to bring it every meet.

"It is pretty impressive, especially with teams in our region that are constantly top-10 teams nationally every year," Heins said. "That really says a lot about how good David is and how he brings it for every big race."

NAU has now won the last four men's individual titles dating back to 2007 when former Lumberjack Lopez Lomong claimed the 10K championship.

Junior Ahmed Osman joined McNeill and Estrada on the All-Region team, scoring a 21st-place finish in a time of 30:35. He was followed by senior Jason Pedersen (31st), junior Andrew Belus (32nd), sophomore Tim Freriks (41st) and junior Matt Coloe (45th).

After finishing fourth, NAU will learn if they qualified for the NCAA Cross Country National Championships Sunday afternoon no later than 5:00 p.m. MST. The championship meet will take place Monday, Nov. 22, from the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind.

It was a solid end to the 2010 campaign for the Lumberjack women as the team finished 15th overall in the women's 6K race.

"Coming into this week, we had goals of Rochelle (Kanuho) finishing in the top 30, Lisette (Michaels) in the top 50 and our five scorers between the 75-100 range," Heins said. "We accomplished all of those goals, and it was great for the women to be able to end the season on a high note."

"It says a lot about our women to be able to reach their goal of top 15 while running some of their best times of the year at altitude," Heins said. "If we can add Haley (Lawrence) and Kortnee (Burton) back into the mix, along with some top recruits, we will be right back where we need to be."

Kanuho paced the women's team for the fourth-straight meet, finishing 28th in a season-best time of 21:31.7. Michaels, who placed 44th overall, was able to lower her 6K time as well with a 21:55.0 mark.

Senior Danielle Hunt closed out her NAU career an 87th-place finish (22:50) to finish third on the team. Sophomores Lyndsey Rakestraw (95) and Alex Myers (96) rounded out the scoring for the Lumberjacks.

DID YOU KNOW…Three Lumberjack student-athletes were among the 37 graduating seniors that were recognized with the prestigious Gold Axe Award in 2010 for their achievements. The recipients included Jessi Jones (women's swimming), Lauren Salter (track and field) and Emy Ziemba (cheer and dance). The athletics department has produced 16 Gold Axe recipients since 2004.