FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – After spending the past seven months rehabilitating from knee surgery, Jason Pedersen was just looking forward to getting back to competing in the sport where he has had much success over the years. Pedersen did just that Saturday from Buffalo Park, as the fifth-year senior placed second overall (26:22.2) to lead the men's team to a first-place finish in the University division of the 30th George Kyte Classic.
"This is definitely my best finish here, although it wasn't the fastest time, I think I competed the best that I could've and I hope that carries over into the rest of the year," Pedersen said. "I spent a lot of the summer swimming and biking, and my knee is now at 100 percent for sure."
Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins was pleased with the overall effort of both teams for the first meet of the season.
"We ran to expectations today," Heins said. "We were without out top two girls, so I think those that went out there ran to their potential. Our plan on the men's side was to have all five in uniform stay together through the first two miles, and then our top three broke away at the end. For us it is still the preseason, so we are still working on a lot of things to reach our goal at the end of the season."
Heins was also pleased with the finish by Pedersen, the Lumberjacks' fifth finisher at the 2009 NCAA Championships.
"It was a good sign to see Jason finish as well as he did today after recovering from knee surgery last year," Heins said. "It is very good to see him back and healthy."
Finishing behind Pedersen on the day was junior Andrew Belus (26:36.4) and sophomore Tim Freriks (26:42.8) who finished second and third, respectively. Daniel Filipcik put together a nice debut for the Lumberjacks, finishing seventh in a time of 27:18.8. Junior Joe Withers rounded out the scoring for the Lumberjacks, taking 16th on the day (28:01.6).
The women's team, behind the strong effort of senior-transfer Danielle Hunt, finished third overall in the University division. Hunt, a native of Pittsford, N.Y., placed 14th on the day in her first race at NAU (19:39.4).
"I've been looking forward to competing this year for a long time, and it was great to go out there with the team and get things rolling again" Hunt, the lone senior on the roster, said. "I feel really close to the team even though I have only known them for a week. They are a bunch of hard working girls, and that is why I really admire them."
Junior Lisette Michaels and former Sinagua High School standout out, Alex Meyers, finished 16th and 19th, respectively, on the day. Sophomore Lindsey Rakestraw, took 22nd in her first George Kyte race, and freshmen Sarah Raber (28th) and Alexa Kearns (35th) rounded out the scoring for the Lumberjacks in their collegiate debuts.
NAU will return to action after an off week for the Aztec Invite from San Diego, Calif., on Sept. 18.