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September 20, 2011

Kanuho Earns Second Big Sky Honor; Men Ranked 13th Nationally

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona University (NAU) cross country teams have had a successful week, as standout junior Rochelle Kanuho earned her second Big Sky Cross Country Athlete of the Week honor, while men's team earned a 13th-place ranking in the NCAA Division I National Cross Country Coaches' Poll Tuesday.

Kanuho, a native of Flagstaff, notched her second Big Sky honor of the year after finishing third overall at the Dave Murray Invitational, held in Tucson on Friday.  Her first award came after she led the Lumberjack women to a third-place team finish at the George Kyte Classic, NAU's only home meet, on Sept. 3.

"As our women's team continues to develop, it's great to have leadership from Rochelle in this capacity," Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins said. "She has consistently finished higher than runners from some of the nation's top teams, and it says a lot about her talent when she finishes in third place overall at a meet where high caliber teams are competing."

The only team that finished ahead of the Lumberjack women last weekend was Arizona, but Kanuho's performance showed once again that she is on par with nationally-ranked competition. 

Northern Arizona's men were ranked 13th nationally in the second poll released by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Tuesday.  In the first poll, released last week, the Lumberjack men were ranked 11th

The NAU men's cross country team has yet to see action from All-Americans Diego Estrada and Jordan Chipangama, so their top-15 national ranking speaks volumes about the rest of the group.  In their two competitions this season, the men's team finished in the top-three both times, and placed four individuals in the top-five collectively. 

"I'm excited to see our top seven compete for the first time," said Heins. "Our first real test will be our next meet [at Oklahoma State on Oct. 1], so we'll be looking to see how the men stack up against other top teams in the country, especially considering how our guys have stepped up so far this season."

The Lumberjack men are coming off a ninth-place team finish at the 2010 NCAA National Championships, their fourth consecutive top-10 finish at the national meet, and although they lost three-time Big Sky Conference and Mountain Region champion David McNeil, they have one of the deepest squads in team history.  Led by Estrada, a 2010 All-American, and Chipangama, a 2009 All-American, the men's team has a mix of veteran talent in junior Tim Freriks, senior Matt Coloe, and sophomore Bahlbi Gebreyohanns, and will rely on promising freshmen recruits Caleb Hoover and Chris Ganem. 

The USTFCCCA also released regional coaches' polls earlier this week, in which the NAU men earned a third-place ranking, behind only Colorado and Brigham Young University, within the Mountain Region.

Both Lumberjack teams will see their top seven runners compete together next at the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla. on Oct. 1.