NAU men dominate Pac-12 Preview race
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – The new-look Northern Arizona men’s cross country team was out in full force Friday night at the Robinson Ranch Golf Course for the Pac-12 Preview meet, as Brian Shrader and true freshman Futsum Zienasellassie finished first and second, respectively, to lead the 18th-ranked Lumberjacks to their second team win of 2012.
“I was a little concerned at first because of the heat, plus the competition was a bit tougher than our meet a couple weeks ago, but our guys executed their race plan beautifully tonight,” said coach Eric Heins. “We were actually getting beat at the halfway point of the race, and UCLA looked like they had the win, but I was really impressed with how we finished that race through the last 3,000 meters to win it.”
Shrader, a junior who notched his second individual win Friday after winning at the George Kyte Classic two weeks ago in Flagstaff, and Zienasellassie, the 2011 Gatorade National Runner of the Year, both crossed the finish line of the 8K course in 24:30, though Shrader earned the win. Junior Matt McElroy, who transferred to NAU this year from Oklahoma State, was fourth overall in 24:38, giving NAU three runners in the top five for the second straight race.
Sophomore Caleb Hoover and redshirt freshman Alejandro Montano rounded out the top five for NAU, finishing seventh (24:55) and ninth (24:57). The strength of NAU’s top five was notable as well, as just 27 seconds separated the first and fifth runners for the Lumberjacks.
The NAU women fared well in the 5K Invite race, finishing tied for second with UC-Davis behind returning leaders Rochelle Kanuho (seventh in 17:51), Caroline Hogardh (ninth in 17:58), and Agnes Laurent (13th in 18:02). Newcomer Melanie Townsend took fourth on the team with an 18th-place finish (18:23), while sophomore Lauren Justus completed the top 25 in 18:35.
“We really improved immensely from George Kyte,” said Heins. “Almost all of our runners moved up during the second half of the race, and they put us in where we at least had a shot to win the race. Tying a team like UC-Davis is always a good boost of confidence.”
Finishing behind the men’s team (23 points) was host No. 27 UCLA in second place (58), in-state rival Arizona State in third (66) and Cal Poly in fourth (87).
In the women’s race, No. 27-ranked Texas took the team crown with 56 points.
Also running for the NAU men were Nathan Weitz (11th in 24:58), Cody Reed (27th in 25:36), Roman Acosta (30th in 25:44), Will Aenchbacher (53rd in 26:55) and Chris Ganem (56th in 27:20).
Other finishers for the women were Sarah Baker (36th in 19:07), Sarah Raber (45th in 19:25), Kayla Freeman (46th in 19:27), Kerri Lenihan (55th in 19:46), and Olivia Ornelas (63rd in 20:55).