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August 23, 2011

Lumberjack Men Favored to Win Big Sky in Cross Country Preseason Poll

OGDEN, Utah – The Northern Arizona men's cross country team has been unanimously chosen as the preseason favorite to win the Big Sky Conference Championship by the league's coaches.

"We have a pretty similar team compared to last year," said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins. "Having Jordan [Chipangama] and Diego [Estrada] up front will be great for the men's team."

The Lumberjack men are looking to win their fifth consecutive Big Sky crown, and are aiming for their fifth straight top-10 finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Though the team will compete this year without three-time conference champion David McNeil, who graduated after a storied career with the Lumberjacks, they return a slew of talent from last year's team. Led by seniors Estrada, who finished 16th at last year's national meet, and Chipangama, who placed fifth at the NCAA Championships in 2009, the Lumberjacks have solid leadership heading into this season.

Senior Andrew Belus and junior Tim Freriks also bring valuable national championship experience to the table, rounding out the Lumberjack's team and providing even more leadership to the team's younger athletes.

NAU's women were picked to finish in the top three, receiving 65 votes, including two first place votes.  They hope to regain their league dominance in the Big Sky after an injury-plagued team left them with a fifth-place finish at last year's conference meet.

"Having Haley Lawrence and Kortnee Burton coming back from injuries this year will be a great advantage for our team," said Heins. "Our younger girls, along with a couple recruits from overseas, should help the women's team to be solid this year as well."

Lawrence and Burton return after missing all of last season due to injury.  They will join international recruits Agnes Laurent of Belgium and Caroline Hogardh of Sweden in assisting last year's team leader, junior Rochelle Kanuho. 

Kanuho, who competed for local Coconino High School, paced the team at last year's Big Sky Conference Championship with a strong fifth-place finish.

 

MEN'S RESULTS

School - Points (first place votes in parentheses)
Northern Arizona - 81 (9)
Montana State - 67
Weber State - 66
Sacramento State - 49
Eastern Washington - 42
Montana - 35
Idaho State - 35
Portland State - 19
Northern Colorado - 11



WOMEN'S RESULTS

School - Points (first place votes in parentheses)
Weber State - 76 (5)
Montana - 66 (2)
Northern Arizona - 65 (2)
Idaho State - 60
Sacramento State - 48
Montana State - 35
Eastern Washington - 25
Portland State - 16
Northern Colorado - 14