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October 1, 2011

Estrada Claims Cowboy Jamboree Title, Men Place Third, Women Fourth

STILLWATER, Okla. – Senior Diego Estrada took advantage of a narrow and sometimes treacherous course and captured the individual title and led the Northern Arizona University men's team to a third-place team finish at the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla. on Saturday.  The Lumberjack women's team was led by junior Rochelle Kanuho and senior Kortnee Burton's consecutive top-10 overall finishes in seventh and eighth, respectively, en route to a fourth-place team finish.

"I was pretty pleased with Diego's win after watching him come from behind in the final stretch," said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins.  "He was 50 meters behind the leader going into the toughest part of the course, and I didn't see him again until 400 meters before the finish.  He came out of the woods on that last part and ran right past the leader."

The Lumberjacks were competing in the 74th annual meet for the first time since 2009, in which the NAU men swept the individual and team titles.  Although the finish wasn't the same as two years ago, NAU's men still placed all of its scoring runners in the top-55 overall in a race that featured over 320 runners from nearly 30 schools.  Following Estrada's (23:34.34) championship performance was 2009 champion Jordan Chipangama, in 17th (24:24.82), junior Tim Freriks in 20th (24:35.34), senior Matt Coloe in 41st overall (24:59.52) and senior John Yatsko in 53rd (25:08.34). It was the second straight third-place team finish for the men.

Freshmen Caleb Hoover (73rd) and Chris Ganem (118th) were the final finishers for the Lumberjack men.   The two were among four freshmen competing for NAU, along with Kerri Lenihan and Lauren Justus for the women, and all four gained valuable knowledge of big meets from the high profile race. 

"Our freshmen ran pretty competitively today," said Heins.  "This experience is great for them, and they'll only improve as the year goes on when they compete with these caliber teams."

NAU's women finished fourth in the field of 20 teams, its third top-five mark of the season.  The Lumberjacks were also led by Kanuho for the third consecutive race, but they were happy to see the return of Burton to add another consistent top-10 runner to the mix. 

"Kortnee is like a machine," said Heins.  "She was very efficient, didn't get stressed out when she runs, and kept a great pace throughout the course.  She was pretty much perfect." 

Burton had a breakout sophomore campaign in 2009, but missed all of last season due to injury.

Aside from Kanuho and Burton, the NAU women saw steady performances once again from international newcomers Caroline (33rd) and Agnes Laurent (41st).  The pair locked up the third and fourth place spots in the team's finish at the Dave Murray Invitational in Tucson, Ariz. two weeks ago. 

Rounding out the scoring for the women was senior Haley Lawrence in 46th overall.  Freshmen Justus (48th) and Lenihan (76th) completed the team for the Lumberjack women.

The Lumberjacks are in action next at the Grand Canyon Invitational in Phoenix on Oct. 8.