The Northern Arizona men's cross country team won the Mountain Regional Championships for the second consecutive season Friday at the Reeder Cross Country Course, punching their ticket to defend for a second straight year as well their title at the NCAA National Championships on Nov. 18.
On the men's side for the No. 1-ranked Lumberjacks, Tyler Day led the way, placing third with a time of 30:16.5 for the 10K course. Matt Baxter was right behind in fifth with a 30:18.3 performance. Peter Lomong came in 11th (30:38.6), Geordie Beamish (30:40.8) came in 12th and Andrew Trouard came in 18th (30:45.9).
"It's a unique couple weeks in the scheduling and format in NCAA cross country," said Michael Smith, director of cross country at Northern Arizona. "This meet is always about trying to advance unscathed; however, we have to always treat it like a race. It's an opportunity for us to go through our process, and we talked about the pieces that were important for us in this meet that will translate well to the national meet -- accountability to each other, managing emotions through chaos and competing -- and I think we did those things really well. We think we're the best team in the country, so we went to the front of today's race and ran like that."
Cory Glines and Harvey Nelson also competed, with Glines coming in 23rd (30:54.6) and Nelson finishing in 82nd (32:38.1).
The Northern Arizona women's squad climbed from the back of the pack to come in eighth for its highest finish since 2015.
As a unit, the men had six runners finish before any other team had four cross the line. The men placed all six runners on the All-Region team, with Day, Baxter, Lomong, Beamish, Trouard and Lomong earning the honor.
The team won the event with 49 points, beating the No. 2 team in the nation, BYU, by 30 points. Colorado (80 points), Colorado State (103) and Air Force made up the top five.
On the women's side, Paige Gilchrist ran another strong race in what has been an outstanding senior season, finishing in eighth with a 20:21.8 showing for the 6K course.
"We've asked this group to come a long way in a short period of time," Smith said. "A lot of the teams that make the national meet are teams that are there year after year, and we're coming from a long way back trying to be one of those teams, and we got really, really close."
Mikayla Malaspina came in 18th (20:38.4) while Miranda Myers finished in 39th (21:08.9). Delaney Rasmussen crossed the line in 78th (21:46.9), Emily Roughan finished 88th (21:53.9), Kylie Goo came in 96th (22:03.2) and Pipi Eitel rounded things out in 115th (22:36.7).
The women also placed two runners on the All-Region team in Gilchrist and Malaspina.
While the women will not get a chance to compete at NCAAs as a team, Gilchrist secured a berth and Malaspina might be joining her in Louisville as individuals. Malaspina will have to wait until the NCAA Selection Show on Saturday at 1 p.m. to learn her fate.
"Competing at the NCAA meet is a huge honor and I'm really happy for both of them," Smith said. "Paige had to go through a lot of adversity in her years at NAU with injuries. I talked with her after the race about where she was from a year ago, and she's in a completely different place. She's a great example for all of us on how you don't give up on a dream, even if it looks not very likely or possible. She's going to run really well at the NCAA meet; she's ready to go."
The Northern Arizona men, Gilchrist and possibly Malaspina will next be in action at the NCAA National Champions on Saturday, Nov. 18. in Louisville, Kentucky.