The Big Sky Conference and national cross country preseason coaches’ polls were released Tuesday, with the Lumberjack men and women picked to finish first in the conference while the men also earned a second-place ranking in the nation.
The men garnered 142 points and 10 first-place votes, and the women received 141 points and nine first-place votes to clinch No. 1 spots in the Big Sky poll.
Colorado edged out the NAU men in the national poll, released by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Association. The Buffaloes, who received all 12 first-place votes, beat NAU at the national championships after falling to the Jacks at the regional championships. Colorado will be returning all seven athletes from its championship team of last season. The Lumberjacks return five of seven national championship competitors.
The NAU women edged out Weber State in the conference rankings. Weber State, which will not return 2013 champion Summer Harper, received 130 points and two first-place votes. Last season, the Lumberjack women finished second at the Big Sky Championships, led by all-conference runner Rolonda Jumbo.
Louisville transfer Tyler Byrne joins the men this season, and Big Sky champion Matt McElroy returns to the group. Futsum Zienasellassia, who sat out last year’s Big Sky Championships, and Nathan Weitz will also return to compete in NAU blue and gold.
Oregon followed NAU in the nation and will return a reigning national champion in Edward Cheserek.
The NAU cross country season starts Sept. 6, when NAU will host the George Kyte Classic at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff. The Big Sky Championships, hosted by North Dakota this year, are set to take place Nov. 1.