BOZEMAN, Mont. - Northern Arizona University's cross country program competed at the Big Sky Cross Country Championships on Saturday, November 2nd. The Lumberjack men finished first and the women finished second.
For the NAU men, the win marks the seventh consecutive Big Sky title dating back to 2007. Junior Matt McElroy led the way for NAU in the men's 8K on the way to an individual Big Sky championship. McElroy is the ninth consecutive individual winner to come from NAU.
"Through the first mile we ran together and after that Brian and I took off to take control of the field," said McElroy. "It was awesome to come away with a win today; I didn't really expect it. Brian and I pretty much tied but I guess my chest crossed the line before his."
The Lumberjack men's win came in convincing fashion; reminiscent of last year's conference meet NAU swept the one, two and three spots. Matt McElroy took first place, 2012 Big Sky Champion Brian Shrader finished second and Nathan Weitz finished third. Newcomer Josh Hardin also finished in the top-10 with a seventh place finish garnering an All-Big Sky classification.
The NAU men also received strong contributions from the remainder of the team. Rounding out the pack for NAU was Caleb Hoover (12th), Korey Krotzer (15th) Cody Reed (36th) and Ryan Wesson (37th). Hoover and Krotzer made the victory that much more impressive as their finishes placed five of NAU's eight runners in the top-15 of the field. The Lumberjack men were able to come away with the first place finish without the likes of Futsum Zienasellassie and Andy Trouard.
"It's always hard to repeat a championship so to be able to do it seven years in a row is definitely an accomplishment," said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins. "I'm proud that my guys were able to take the pressure and step up and get it done."
The Lumberjack women finished second as they were edged out by defending champion Weber State. The second place finish is an improvement for the ladies as they finished third at last year's conference championships. Sophomore Rolonda Jumbo led the way for the NAU women as she finished ninth garnering an All-Big Sky classification for the second consecutive year.
"I feel good about my race individually and as a team we are getting better every time we compete," said Jumbo. "With our team being so young I think our team can be one of the best in the nation in the coming years."
NAU packed it up and ran together as it had five runners finish within two spots of one another. Following Jumbo was freshman Carolyn Bethel (11th), freshman Paige Gilchrist (13th), junior Jamie Shrader (15th) and junior Kelly Fruth (16th). Rounding out the race for NAU was junior Shayla Freeman, junior Kylee Kieser and freshman Vanessa Estrada who finished 24th, 33rd and 54th respectively.
"The ladies got out well and positioned themselves very well through the first few miles and we ran more of a packed race," said Assistant Coach Leah Rosenfeld. "Losing Melanie (Townsend) and Paige (Gilchrist) being a bit under the weather hurt us but we definitely showed we are very competitive."
NAU will compete next at the Mountain Regional Championships in Ogden, Utah on November 15th. The Lumberjack men are currently ranked second in the Mountain Region and the women sit in fourth.