MADISON, Wisc. – Northern Arizona University's Diego Estrada once again finished ahead of many of the nation's elite runners, including the defending meet champion, with a third-place finish at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational on Friday.
"Diego had a good race, despite a headwind that slowed him down a bit toward the end," said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins. "He still ran strong, and overall he was satisfied with his finish."
Estrada (23:27), who already has an individual title under his belt from the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree two weeks ago, led the No. 13 men's team to an eighth-place finish in a field that featured 20 of the nation's top 30 teams.
Senior Jordan Chipangama finished second on the team, running the 8K course in 24:25, good for 39th. Junior Tim Freriks (24:37) was next in 66th, followed by seniors John Yatsko (24:49) and Andrew Belus (24:58) in 99th and 125th, respectively, to round out the scoring for NAU. Also finishing for the men were senior Matt Coloe (25:15) in 162nd and true-freshman Caleb Hoover (25:17) in 168th.
Heins says the team still has some areas to improve on before the Big Sky Conference Championships in two weeks.
"We were running in fifth place as a team at the 5K mark, so our finish told us that we need to work on finishing stronger," said Heins. "That's not typically the way we run, so it will give us something to focus on going into the conference meet in two weeks."
On the women's side, juniors Rochelle Kanuho (20:53) and Kortnee Burton (21:08) once again led the team with respective 41st and 67th-place finishes. The women's team, though they finished in 28th place, once again competed with a lot of national talent and gave great experience to a team chock full of newcomers.
"We were satisfied with the way our women ran today," said Heins. "We were aiming for top-25, so 28th is pretty good. Ideally we want our third, fourth, and fifth runners to finish a bit higher, but overall this was a great experience for our younger runners."
Finishing behind Kanuho and Burton were freshman Caroline Hogardh (21:42) in 161st, junior Agnes Laurent (21:43) in 164th, and senior Haley Lawrence (21:53) in 189th. The sixth and seventh finishers for the Lumberjack women were freshmen Lauren Justus (22:24) and Kerri Lenihan (23:22).
The NAU women's squad once again defeated some national vote-getters and contended with some of the nation's top-30 teams. That statistic hints that the Lumberjacks may well regain their dominance atop the Big Sky Conference over the next couple of seasons after a 2010 campaign that left them without key runners due to injuries and graduation.
Both Lumberjack teams are off this weekend, allowing for an extra week of preparation for the Big Sky Championships, to be held in Pocatello, Idaho on Oct. 29.