FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona University men's cross country team will travel to Terre Haute, Ind. this weekend for the NCAA National Cross Country Championships, to be held Monday, Nov. 21. The squad is looking for its fifth-consecutive top-10 finish at the meet.
"There's not much to do now in terms of preparation," said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins. "It's a delicate balance of having them do workouts to maintain their fitness, but at the same time not back them off so much to where they feel sluggish. It's the same type of workouts we've done for five years now heading into this meet."
The Lumberjacks received an at-large bid into the national meet by coupling a third-place finish at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships Saturday in Provo, Utah with a consistent Top-15 national ranking throughout the season.
NAU returns four runners to the national stage in 2011. Seniors Diego Estrada and Andrew Belus are competing for the third time in Terre Haute, while senior Jordan Chipangama and junior Tim Freriks make their second appearance. These four, along with senior Matt Coloe, earned All-Region honors in Provo.
Estrada (2010-16th) and Chipangama (2009-5th) both have earned All-American honors previously at the national meet, so their one-two punch and experience up front in the biggest race of the season will be essential to NAU's success.
Estrada has placed in the top five in all four of his meets this season, including two individual titles. He earned medalist honors at the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree on Oct. 1 against then-No. 1 Oklahoma State, then took the crown at the Big Sky Championships on Oct. 29, shattering the course record and finishing 23 seconds better than the rest of the field.
Chipangama returned this season after missing all of last year due to injury. He has been the Lumberjacks' surefire No. 2 runner all season, and his top-five finish at the national meet in 2009 will be extremely beneficial to the team's effort.
Belus and Freriks bring a steady, veteran presence to the NAU team that will only help the cause in Terre Haute. Since 2009, both runners have steadily improved on their finishes at postseason meets, and this season should be no different. At the regional meet in particular, Belus improved 13 places over two year, and Freriks has improved an incredible 68 spots in that span.
Three Lumberjack runners, seniors Coloe and John Yatsko and freshman Caleb Hoover, will be getting their first taste of the NCAA competition on Monday. Coloe competed in the regional meet in 2010, his first season with NAU, and has seen success so far this season. Yatsko, traditionally a middle distance runner for NAU track and field, and Hoover, a Joplin, Mo. native, are both in their first seasons in Lumberjack cross country uniforms.
NAU has recorded eight top-10 finishes at the NCAA Cross Country Championships since 2000, including two fourth-place podium visits in their last four championship efforts.
Indiana State hosts the championship race at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course located at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute. The men's race will begin at approximately 10:08 a.m. Arizona time, followed by the women's race at approximately 10:58.
A live webcast of the championships will be broadcast from 10 a.m to 11:30 Arizona time, Monday, Nov. 21, on NCAA.com.
In addition, highlights from the championships will be included as part of the CBS NCAA Fall Seasonal Show scheduled to air on Sunday, Dec. 25, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 Arizona time on CBS HD.