POCATELLO, Idaho — No. 13 Northern Arizona ended the 2011 Big Sky championship in historic fashion as the Lumberjacks won their record-setting fifth consecutive conference title. The Big Sky individual crown has now gone to an NAU runner seven years in a row as well, as senior Diego Estrada shattered the course record and took medalist honors on Saturday morning at the Centennial Course.
|Conference||Team Champion||Individual Champion|
|ACC||NC State||Ryan Hill (NC State)|
|Big 12||Oklahoma State||German Fernandez (Oklahoma State)|
|West Coast||BYU||Miles Batty (BYU)|
|Pac-12||Colorado||Lawi Lalang (Arizona)|
|Ivy League||Princeton||Ethan Shaw (Dartmouth)|
|• More Conference Championships|
“That was the best-executed race plan I’ve seen in a long time from this group,” Lumberjacks head coach Eric Heins said. “It was a hard enough course that other teams could’ve come back to us, so we just had to be patient and not panic. Our guys did that almost perfectly.”
Estrada won the race in decisive fashion while shattering the course record, set in 2002 by Montana State’s Casey Jermyn, by nearly 40 seconds. The victory is his second of the year. The first came during his season debut at the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree on Oct. 1.
“Diego didn’t take over the lead until the final 2,000 meters,” Heins said. “He could have been panicking and thinking he didn’t have a shot to win, but he was sitting back in the pack to try and bring along the rest of the teammates.”
Estrada’s time of 24:15.43 was 23 seconds ahead of teammate Jordan Chipangama, who finished in second place. Two other members of the NAU squad also earned all-conference honors, with junior Tim Freriks finishing fifth (24:57.77) and senior Matt Coloe placing seventh (25:03.66).
“Matt’s performance, for a middle-distance runner on a challenging course like this, really got us fired up going into Mountain Regionals in two weeks,” Heins said.
Senior Andrew Belus (25:18.67) finished just outside of the top 10, but his 11th-place finish was good enough for fifth on the team. His 11 points, along with the four top finishers, gave the Lumberjacks a team score of 26 points, one better than last year and 16 points lower than second-place finisher Weber State. Freshmen Caleb Hoover (25:54.24;14th) and Chris Ganem (27:54.56; 45th) were the final Lumberjack runners to finish. The fact that Ganem was able to compete was positive, considering he had been battling flu-like symptoms for a week leading up to the race.