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National Championship Hopes for No. 1 NAU Cross Country

NCAA Webcast - Live webcast of this weekend's meet.

Live Results - Live results of this weekend's meet.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Northern Arizona University's men's cross country team as well as Rolonda Jumbo of the women's cross country team will travel to Terre Haute, Ind., to compete at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Saturday Nov. 23rd. The men's 10K will begin at noon followed by the women's 6K beginning at 1:15 p.m. ET.

The Lumberjack men will go into the meet ranked No. 1 in the country after defeating No. 3 Colorado at the Mountain Regional Championships last weekend. Led by sophomore Futsum Zienasellassie's third place finish, the team won the regional championship for the second consecutive season and will be looking to ride that momentum into the national meet. Zienasellassie returns to his home state of Indiana where he won three high school state titles at the Terre Haute course.

 "It's very exciting," said Zienasellassie. "I can't wait to see what we can do as a team when clicking on all cylinders."

NAU returns everyone from last year's team which shocked the cross country world with a fourth place finish at the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Circumstances are much different this season as the team has been ranked within the top-three for the entire season. With arguably the best trio in the nation in 2012 All-Americans Zienasellassie and Brian Shrader as well as 2013 Big Sky Champion Matt McElroy, the Lumberjacks will be looking to make history winning the first national championship in school history.

"We've talked about this all year long," said director of track & field and cross country Eric Heins. "We're definitely in consideration of being one of the top teams so now it's just a matter of getting there and feeling good on Nov. 23rd."

The Lumberjacks will also need strong performances from the likes of sophomore Nathan Weitz, freshman Andy Trouard, senior Josh Hardin, junior Caleb Hoover and sophomore Korey Krotzer this weekend. With cross country being a sport in which team success is predicated on each athlete's performance individually it makes every member that much more important. NAU possesses five athletes in Weitz, Trouard, Hardin, Hoover and Krotzer that are very capable runners, any of which can fall into those important four and five slots.

"The mindset is to try to run as well as we did last week," said Heins. "We want to give ourselves a chance to be in the mix and if we can get our number five runner closer to our fourth runner that would be great."

A national championship for the NAU men would not only be the first in school history but also the first non-football national championship in Big Sky history.

Representing the women's cross country team is Jumbo who will be making her NCAA championship debut this weekend. The sophomore was selected to compete at the national meet after an All-Region performance at the Mountain Regional championships last week. Jumbo finished 11th in the women's 6K in Ogden, Utah with a time of 20:51.2. 

"I'm really excited for Rolonda," said assistant coach Leah Rosenfeld. "We just want her to enjoy this opportunity she has allowed for herself.  Bringing this experience back to the team will show them that this is possible for everyone next season."

Jumbo has had a strong season as she has also garnered All-Big Sky honors in addition to a fourth place finish at the George Kyte Classic to open the season.

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