SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Racing for the first time on the cross country course in nearly 11 months, junior Diego Estrada made his season debut for the Northern Arizona cross country team with a third-place finish at the Aztec Invite from Balboa Park. The men's team finished second on the day, with the women placing seventh.
Estrada picked up right where he left off last year before suffering a season-ending lung injury. The third-place finish by Estrada matched his effort from San Diego last year, and is his fourth-consecutive top-five finish dating back to last season.
"It was a good experience out there today, and I am really excited coach allowed me to race this early in the season," Estrada said. "Overall I feel the race could have gone better, but I am just happy to be out there racing again. I am excited for the rest of the season, especially next week when we head to Stanford because it is close to home and I get to race in front of my family."
The team totaled 58 points on the day, and was one point shy of the victory. Redshirt freshman Daniel Filipcik recorded his second top-10 finish of the year after securing sixth-place on the day (26:08.3). Sophomore Joe Withers took 12th (26:24.8), senior Kam Holbrook followed in 15th and sophomore Myles Kloer rounded out the team with a 24th-place finish.
"It was a good day for some of the individuals on the team, but I think today shows that we have a lot to improve on," Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins said. "If we want to reach our goals this season, we will need to race better and not focus just on our times. "
The women began their 5K race at 8:45 a.m. PDT, and were led by senior Danielle Hunt (19:21.6) and junior Lisette Michaels (19:26.3) who finished 32nd and 33rd, respectively. For both ladies, the trip to sea level enabled them to drop almost 20 seconds off of their 5K times for the year.
Sophomores Alex Meyers and Lyndsey Rakestraw finished 50th and 51st, respectively. Rakestraw, a native of Woodinville, Wash., dropped 20 seconds from her time at the Aztec Invite last season (19:58.5). Freshman Carissa Gwerder concluded her first collegiate race, finishing behind her teammates in 52nd to round out the scoring for the Lumberjacks.
Both teams return to action next week when they head to Palo Alto, Calif., to take part in the Stanford Invitational. The race will feature two top-five men's teams as the Lumberjacks, ranked No. 3 in the USTFCCCA Coaches' Poll, will go up against the top-ranked Stanford Cardinal.