OGDEN, Utah – The Big Sky Conference announced Monday morning that the Northern Arizona cross country teams were selected to finish first in the preseason coaches poll. The men's team received eight out of a possible nine first-place votes, with the women's squad collecting six.
Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins believes that although it is an honor to be picked as the favorites, the real test comes at the end of the season.
"The selection of both teams to finish first means a lot of respect from the coaches in the conference, but in reality it doesn't mean anything until we get to the conference championships and back that up," Heins said.
With the women's team having won three-straight championships, and the men four, Heins knows that other teams will be looking to dethrone the Lumberjacks.
"There will be very good competition all around the conference this year," Heins said. "On the women's side, there are more than a few teams who have a shot to win. With the men, when you have won multiple times in a row there are always teams who would love to take you down, especially this year."
The women's team returns an impressive lineup of runners, including two all-conference selections Haley Lawrence and Kortnee Burton. Burton took second at last year's championship, coming in behind graduated teammate, and All-American, Veronica Pohl. Lawrence placed sixth overall. The Lumberjacks have won nine of the last 11 Big Sky Championships. Weber State has been selected second with 71 points, while Montana received 70 points. Sacramento State was voted fourth and Idaho State fifth.
The men's squad at NAU tallied eight first-place votes and 80 points. The Lumberjacks have won 13 of the last 16 Big Sky Championships, and will be looking to win their fourth in a row in 2010. Three-time cross country All-American selection David McNeill will return to defend his Big Sky conference title. McNeill earned his third cross country All-American honor after finishing second at the 2009 NCAA Championship with a time of 29 minutes and 7 seconds.
The only other programs to win a Big Sky Championship in last 15 years finished second and fourth in the poll. The 2002 champion, Montana State, tallied 73 points to come in second, while Montana came in third with 51 points. Weber State, 1997 & 2006 champions, received 57 points to take the No. 4 position.
The 2010 Big Sky Conference Cross Country Championship will be run on Saturday, Oct. 30 in Spokane, Wash.
Voting is calculated by each team receiving nine points for a first place vote, eight points for a second place vote, etc.
Coaches are allowed to vote for their respective teams. Below are the final results with the number of first place votes in parenthesis.
|Northern Arizona (8)||80|
|Montana State (1)
|Weber State (1)||71|