FT. COLLINS, Colo. – For the sixth time in school history, No. 18 Northern Arizona came away with a team victory at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships. Thanks to top-10 finishes by Futsum Zienasellassie, Brian Shrader, and Matt McElroy, the Lumberjacks posted a team score of 56 points, clinching the win by 13 points on Friday at Collindale Golf Course.
No. 7 BYU finished second with 68 points and No. 2 Colorado finished third with 69 points. No. 16 New Mexico and Weber State rounded out the top five.
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The Lumberjack men secured an automatic bid into next weekend’s NCAA Cross Country Championship at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky.
“It was perfect,” Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins said. “We went out really slow, so it allowed our top guys to pack up and not really press too hard. Our guys strung it out then finished hard in order to secure a national bid, but didn’t go so much that they wore themselves out, which is exactly what you want to do at a regional championship meet.”
Zienasellassie came in fourth overall in a time of 30:06.8, followed by Shrader in fifth at 20:09.5. McElroy notched 10th place with a finish of 30:20.0. It was the same trio that crossed the finish line simultaneously at the Big Sky Cross Country Championships two weeks ago in Flagstaff, helping win NAU’s record sixth consecutive conference team title.
The last time the Lumberjack men won the Mountain Region Championship was 2002, when All-American Seth Watkins and three other All-Region honorees claimed the title with 71 points. Its other wins came in 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1976.
Sophomore Caleb Hoover, the only returner from NAU’s 2011 regional team, finished in 13th place with a time of 30:25.8, an improvement of 25 spots and 1:13 from last year. Freshman Nathan Weitz rounded out the scoring for the Lumberjacks with a 24th-place finish (30:50.9).