FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – It was a nice homecoming for Brian Shrader and a stellar start to the 2012 cross country season for the Northern Arizona University men's team, as both scorched the field at the 32nd annual George Kyte Classic Saturday from Buffalo Park.
"All these guys looked really good and under control, and they ran well as a team," said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins after the meet. "Everyone executed the race strategy perfectly, and it was awesome to watch Brian not only win the race but win it handily. It was an impressive race how he was under control with the group and then was able to finish strong like he did."
After taking five of the first seven finishing spots for 20 points and the team win, the Lumberjack men claimed their fifth title at the meet in six years, and its most decisive victory since the 2004 NAU squad swept the top five places (15 points).
Shrader, a 2010 graduate of Sinagua High School that recently transferred to NAU from Oregon, was the wire-to-wire leader in the 8,000-meter race, and finished 20 seconds ahead of Southern Utah's Nate Jewkes to take the crown. His individual win was the first for NAU since Diego Estrada won the meet in 2009.
"I went out at the beginning with Tim [Freriks} and Matt [McElroy] and we set a good tempo at first, then I just let loose a little bit more at the end," said Shrader, who ran the race's last mile in a blistering 4:26. "To have all my family and friends out here today was really uplifting, and no matter how I was feeling I thought I would race well just from all the support."
Finishing behind Shrader was redshirt freshman Alejandro Montano in third (25:29.6), junior Matt McElroy in fourth (25:33.6), sophomore Caleb Hoover in fifth (25:34.2), and sophomore Chris Ganem in seventh (25:40.9).
In the women's 5K race, NAU placed fourth, led by sophomores Kylee Kieser (18:03.4) and Lauren Justus (18:23.0) in 15th and 17th, respectively. Junior Sarah Raber (23rd-18:45.8) and sophomores Sarah Baker (21st-18:39.8) and Kerri Lenihan (26th-18:56.9) gave the squad a team score of 94 points. Redshirt freshman Kayla Freeman came in 31st at 19:18.0, while true freshman Emma Schraner finished seventh on the team in 34th overall with a time of 19:19.8.
"We didn't have a lot of our top girls running in uniform this weekend, so it was an opportunity for our 5-6-7 girls to step up and be the number one runner for this meet," Heins said, referring to returners Rochelle Kanuho, Caroline Hogardh, and Agnes Laurent, whose 2012 debut will be Sept. 21 at the UCLA Invitational. "This was a great test for those girls who led the team today, and that experience should benefit them in the future."
The Lumberjacks have three weeks until their next contest. The UCLA Invitational will be held at the Robinson Ranch Golf Course in Santa Clarita, Calif. on Sept. 21.