The Northern Arizona men’s cross country team punched its ticket to NCAA Nationals in Madison, Wisconsin, after winning its third straight Mountain Region team title in Provo, Utah.
The men scored 42 points as a squad to take the top spot. The next closest team was BYU, scoring 56 points overall. Colorado followed with a third-place finish on 71 points.
This was the longest race the Lumberjacks have participated in this season with the event having been a 10k, the same as next week's title race.
“Our men’s team executed the mission today,” said director of cross country and track and field Michael Smith. “They advanced and left unscathed. The race was as expected and I liked how they looked. They also managed their emotions really well.”
The women’s squad placed sixth overall with 214 points.
Freshman runner Jesselyn Bries, the 2018 Big Sky Female Freshman Athlete of the Year, ran 20:38 flat in the 6k to earn a 22nd-place finish. She ended the day as the only Lumberjack to receive All-Region honors on the women’s side.
Senior All-American Tyler Day was the first runner to cross the finish line for the Lumberjacks in the men's race, coming in second in a field that featured some of the top athletes in the country. Day’s time of 29:18.8 was just behind top finisher Joe Klecker of Colorado (29:16.6).
Because of the layout of the course, the last mile or so was not at a position in which the runners could directly see the finish line, making the final 400 meters a showcase.
“The last 400 meters was tough but I remained calm,” Day said. “I knew that everyone was doing their part on our team and we were in a good position to qualify for nationals, so there was not much pressure towards the end.”
Fellow senior All-American Matt Baxter was milliseconds behind Day, coming in at 29:19.0.
Colorado State senior runners Eric Hamer and Carson Hume led the race between the 4.5k and 7k marks, but Northern Arizona's men were able to hit the gas on the last lap to secure two of the top three spots. Hamer finished fifth in 29:24.1 with Hume coming in 13th in 29:32.3, behind Northern Arizona's next finisher in senior Peter Lomong.
Lomong’s time of 29:25 earned him a seventh-place spot and was a major part of locking up the region three-peat.
Northern Arizona’s fourth runner to put points on the board was sophomore Blaise Ferro, who came in 14th place. Lumberjacks sophomore Luis Grijalva placed 16th.
Freshman Jack Shea ran for 41st place, with senior runner Kyle Havriliak coming in as Northern Arizona's last runner in 74th.
NAU had five runners place in the top 20, earning All-Region honors for each runner.
Sophomore Hannah Behunin, who won the individual title in the women’s race at the George Kyte Classic this season, was the second Northern Arizona runner on the women's side to cross the finish line. Her time of 20:56.0 netted a 32nd-place finish, and 48th place went to fellow sophomore Jessa Hanson. Pipi Eitel paced teammate Hanson for 49th.
Northern Arizona's final women’s runner to earn points was senior Shannon Molvin in 62nd. The last two Lumberjacks to end the 6k were freshman Cassi Land in 81st and sophomore Delaney Rasmussen in 92nd.
While the men advanced to next week’s title chase in Madison, the women will have to wait until the official NCAA Selection Show on Saturday to know whether they will be taking the trip with their counterparts.
The men's race is set for 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17.
Khiarica Rasheed shouldered the load early and Kaleigh Paplow took over late and the pair pushed the Lumberjacks to a 65-58 victory on the road at Seattle on Friday.
Northern Arizona's victory over the defending WAC champions earned the Lumberjacks their first 2-0 start to a season since the 2007-08 campaign.
Unlike their season opener three days ago, the Jacks struggled to score at times, shooting 36.5 percent for the game and just 4 of 23 from 3-point range after knocking down a school record 15 3s against Fresno State on Tuesday.
Rasheed and Paplow helped the team overcome scoring issues.
"Khiarica had a game -- she was rebounding, scoring and had an all-around great game," said Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne. "KP really put the team on her back in the last five minutes and stepped up as a senior leader."
Rasheed was an unstoppable force down low, netting a career-high 24 points on 11-for-12 shooting. She was perfect from the floor in the first half, converting on all seven of her field goal attempts for 14 points. Paplow took over late with eight of her 13 points in the final five minutes to help Northern Arizona overcome a fourth-quarter deficit.
Seattle reclaimed the lead with the initial points of the fourth quarter and led 54-51 with 5:38 remaining. After two empty possessions, Paplow drew two fouls and converted four free throws on consecutive trips down the court to put her team back in front, 55-54. The Redhawks answered with a basket but Paplow's layup with 2:59 left gave the Jacks the lead for good, 57-56.
Rasheed followed with two layups and Paplow put the game on ice with her fifth and sixth free throws of the period to make it a five-point game with 20 seconds on the clock.
As strong as NAU finished, Seattle started fast leading 14-8 six minutes into the game. Northern Arizona's Lauren Orndoff tied the score at 16-16 with five points on consecutive possessions, but the Jacks went into the second quarter down 20-19. But the Lumberjacks would take an eight-point lead into the locker room behind a suffocating defensive effort.
NAU outscored Seattle 14-5 before halftime with Rasheed doing the bulk of her first-half damage in the second period. Rasheed scored 10 of the Lumberjacks' 14 points while NAU's defense notched five of its eight steals. Redshirt sophomore Caitlin Malvar recorded two of those five thefts as the Jacks went into the half ahead 33-25.
Redshirt sophomore Jacey Bailey gave the Jacks a 38-28 lead less than a minute into the second half with a corner 3.
The Lumberjacks decreased their turnovers from 23 on Tuesday to just 10 on Friday. That helped the visitors to a critical 18-4 advantage in points off turnovers as the Jacks were plus-six in the turnover column.
Friday marked Paplow's most made free throws in game without a miss in her career as she went 7 for 7.
Rasheed and freshman Regan Schenck each posted a team-high six rebounds, while Paplow tallied a team-leading four assists. Off the bench, Malvar totaled three steals.
NAU will remain in Seattle and will face Washington on Sunday at 3 p.m. The Huskies are 1-0 after defeating Cal State Fullerton, 83-74, on Thursday.
The Lumberjacks tennis fall season officially concluded on Friday with junior Chiara Tomasetti's run at the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships reaching its end. Tomasetti went 1-2 in singles at the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex over the last three days.
Tomasetti, the ITA Mountain Regional champion, had both of her defeats come at the hands of nationally-ranked opponents.
After Tomasetti fell to Virginia's Meghan Kelley, the No. 90-ranked player in the country, in the opening round on Wednesday, 6-2, 6-1, the third-year Lumberjack showed incredible grit to notch a win in her next match.
Down match point in the second set, Tomasetti forced a third set against Penn's Iuliia Bryzgalova. Tomasetti then fought off two more match points in the third-set tiebreaker to hand the ITA Northeast Regional finalist a 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(7) defeat to advance to the second round of the consolation draw.
On Friday, Tomasetti squared up with South Carolina's Ingrid Gamarra Martins, ranked No. 45 in the ITA rankings and runner-up in the ITA Carolina region. Tomasetti put up a fight, but ultimately fell short, 7-5, 6-4.
Tomasetti finished the fall season with a 16-4 singles record, including three wins against nationally-ranked opponents. In addition to becoming the first player in program history to win a regional singles title, Tomasetti's fall season also included tournament wins at the UNLV Fall Invitational and a 1-1 showing at the ITA All-American Championships.