Nov. 19, 2009

 

By John Schwarb
Special to NCAA.com


For Adams State, the race of the year so far might not have been the Division II Central Regional earlier this month at Wayne, Neb.—which, by the way, it won.

A more intensive battle within the Grizzlies team was waged before that, when the team held a time trial to determine the seven runners who would represent the team at Saturday’s Division II Men’s Cross Country Championships at the University of Southern Indiana.

At the regional, Adams State (Alamosa, Colo.) finished 1-2-3 with all seven men in the top 13. Yet only four of those will run this weekend, as three others were stronger in the team’s time trial.

“It’s just very competitive, our depth is like that,” coach Damon Martin said. “It’s exciting, that kind of intensity. You have to be on it every particular race this year.”

Adams State has been “on it”, staying at the top of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association rankings all year while winning the Central Regional and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships. Some of its top competition isn’t far away with in-state rivals Western State (No. 2 in the rankings) and Colorado School of Mines (No. 5), but the Grizzlies have remained untouchable.

A group of seniors have been the key. Brian Medigovich, Aaron Braun and Reuben Mwei were the top three at the regional, crossing the 10K finish line in tandem with a time of 30 minutes, 57 seconds. Luke Cragg has also been a dependable senior, a year after he helped the Grizzlies secure the national title by stepping in for Mwei, who was injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident the week before the meet.

“You hear coaches say all the time when they have a successful season, ‘It’s some of the greatest kids I’ve ever worked with,’ that kind of thing, but I think that cliché is probably really true with these guys,” Martin said. “I have some seniors that have shown great leadership, done a great job in their careers.”

Multiple members of that senior class could contest the battle for the top individual spot Saturday. Mwei, a Kenyan, has been the No. 1 runner for much of the year, while Colorado native and fifth-year senior Braun has been the runner-up at the national championship for two consecutive years.

“Aaron certainly wants to move up, but at the same time, it’s about getting the job done first as a team,” Martin said. “He’s been a great leader. I’m sure at the end of the race, he’ll be with the other guys and have some great motivation to see where he finishes.”

Western State (Gunnison, Colo.), runners-up a year ago and ranked second nationally, will try to better their rivals behind upperclassmen Tyler Pennel (Jr.), Iain Donnan (Sr.) and Loren Ahonen (Jr.), all top-8 finishers in the Central Regional  

Grand Valley State (Allendale, Mich.) is third in the national rankings after winning an eighth consecutive Midwest Regional title. Sophomore Tyler Emmorey was the individual medalist in a time of 32:22. NCAA Championship host Southern Indiana placed third in the regional.

From the West Coast, Chico State (Chico, Calif.) will arrive in Evansville, Ind., on the heels of an eighth consecutive West Regional title. The team was paced by fourth-finishing Brent Handa, a junior transfer from Cal State Fullerton who ran for the Wildcats for only the second time. He was going to be red shirted but was called into action just before the postseason.

“Brent’s perspective has really helped,” coach Gary Towne said. “He sees this as a special opportunity. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the finish line of a long and grueling season instead of looking at these races as a chance to do something special.”

Alaska-Anchorage junior Mark Cheseto was the top finisher at the West Regional. The Kenyan, runner-up last season to eventual national champion Scott Bauhs of Chico State, was the first runner in school history to win a regional title.

Another Kenyan, sophomore Daniel Kirwa of Harding (Searcy, Ark.), won his second consecutive South Region title, in 31:10, to help the Bison to a second straight team title. He was the first runner since 2003 to repeat as champion at the Gulf South Conference meet.

Amos Sang of Abilene Christian (Texas) turned in one of the most dominant regional performances at the South Central Regional, as the junior’s time of 29:53 was more than a minute clear of the field. He will race this weekend as an individual qualifier.