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Records Fall in Pocatello as Men’s Cross Country Has Historic Day

POCATELLO, Idaho – The Northern Arizona University men's cross country team ended the 2011 Big Sky Championships in historic fashion as the Lumberjack men won their record-setting fifth-straight conference title. The Big Sky individual crown has now gone to an NAU runner seven years in a row as well, as senior Diego Estrada shattered the course record and took medalist honors Saturday at the Centennial Course in Pocatello, Idaho.

"That was the best-executed race plan I've seen in a long time from this group," said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins. "It was a hard enough course that other teams could've come back to us, so we just had to be patient and not panic. Our guys did that almost perfectly."

Estrada won the race in decisive fashion while shattering the course record, set in 2002 by Montana State's Casey Jermyn, by nearly 40 seconds. The victory is his second of the year. The first came at the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree on Oct. 1.

"Diego didn't take over the lead until the final 2,000 meters," said Heins. "He could have been panicking and thinking he didn't have a shot to win, but he was sitting back [in the pack] to try and bring along the rest of the teammates."

Estrada's time of 24:15.43 was 23 seconds ahead of teammate Jordan Chipangama in second place. Two other members of the NAU squad earned all-conference honors, with junior Tim Freriks finishing fifth (24:57.77) and senior Matt Coloe placing seventh (25:03.66).

"Matt's performance, for a middle distance runner on a challenging course like this, really got us fired up going into Mountain Regionals in two weeks," said Heins.

Senior Andrew Belus (25:18.67) finished just outside of the Top-10, but his 11th-place finish was good enough for fifth on the team. His 11 points, along with the four top finishers, gave the Lumberjacks a team score of 26 points, one better than last year and 16 points lower than second-place finisher Weber State. Freshmen Caleb Hoover (25:54.24;14th) and Chris Ganem (27:54.56; 45th) were the final Lumberjack runners to finish. The fact that Ganem was able to compete was positive, considering he had been battling flu-like symptoms for a week leading up to the race.

The NAU women ran one of its best races of the season as well, finishing in third place as a team and placing two individuals on the All-Big Sky team. Junior Kortnee Burton (17:46.95) led the team with a third-place finish, with Rochelle Kanuho (18:23.35) close behind in 10th place overall.

"The women got out in front early on, and I thought we put ourselves in a position at the beginning of the race to finish within 5-10 spots of where we ended up," said Heins. "That should carry over to the regional meet in two weeks in terms of how we start the race."

Senior Haley Lawrence (18:44.28) posted her highest team finish of the year, coming in 18th, and freshman Lauren Justus (19:19.88) broke the team top-five for the first time since NAU's home meet on Sept. 3 with a 25th-place mark.

"Lauren's race was big for her, because this is the first time she has gotten herself back up to where I believe she is capable of being," said Heins. "Getting onto a faster course will benefit her, and I'm hoping she came away from today with some confidence from this race."

The final three runners for the Lumberjacks were close behind Justus. Fellow freshmen Caroline Hogardh (19:21.04) and Kylee Kieser (19:26.94) finished in 26th and 28th, respectively, and junior Agnes Laurent (19:34.30) closed out her race in 31st.

The Lumberjacks are off this week, but are in action at the NCAA Mountain Regional Championships in Provo, Utah on Nov. 12.

TEAM STANDINGS - MEN

1. Northern Arizona

2. Weber State

3. Montana State

4. Montana

5. Sacramento State

6. Idaho State

7. Eastern Washington

8. Northern Colorado

9. Portland State

 

TEAM STANDINGS - WOMEN

1. Weber State

2. Idaho State

3. Northern Arizona

4. Montana State

5. Montana

6. Sacramento State

7. Eastern Washington

8. Northern Colorado

9. Portland State

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