Northern Arizona men's cross country team ran tight on Saturday at the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals, with five of its runners placing in the top 15 on the way to a dominant first-place result.
Led by Tyler Day's second-place overall finish in 23:48.8 in the 8K Cardinal race, the Lumberjacks accumulated just 41 points after burning up the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course in Madison, Wisconsin. Runner-up Stanford on the men's side scored 84 points, and Colorado had 110 points for the bronze.
The Northern Arizona women's squad finished ninth with 293, with Arkansas taking first on 51 points and Oregon third at 71 points. Freshman Bryn Morley, competing in her first race on the national collegiate level, was the first of the Northern Arizona women to cross the finish line of the 6K course for a 39th-place result in 21:00.4.
Matthew Baxter came through just one second behind teammate Day for a time of 23:49.4, and a third Lumberjacks senior in Peter Lomong rounded out the team's top 10 performances with a seventh-place finish in 23:57.2.
Another group of three Lumberjacks helped show why Northern Arizona is at No. 1 in the nation and flirting with a third consecutive NCAA title, and this pack was the younger of the two. Geordie Beamish, a junior, and Luis Grijalva filled in the 14th and 15th spots respectively, with the former ending his race at 24:10.9 and the latter completing his run in 24:12.4. Northern Arizona sophomore Blaise Ferro recorded a 24:15.0 for 18th place.
"Both of our teams killed it today," Day said of the Lumberjacks' day at the course that is also the site of the 2018 NCAA National Championships. "It was super exciting to see everyone go out and do their thing. The race felt great for me and we are all really looking forward to the conference meet."
From the start, it was clear that the Lumberjack men would again light up the field with its seven runners all taking a top 25 spot by the 2K mark. Northern Arizona's Ryan Raff just missed a top 20 spot, finishing 21st overall in 24:22.3.
The friendly rivalry between the men's leaders on the day has sparked a drive for both athletes. Day would take silver just milliseconds behind behind Stanford senior Grant Fisher's 23:48.73.
Raff was one of the top recruits coming into the 2018 season. At Nuttycombe, which is on the same course as Pre-Nationals, a couple weeks ago he came in 52nd place, making Pre-Nationals a sign of Raff's incredible and speedy progress into collegiate running.
"I was pleased to see our men's team compete as they did today," said Michael Smith, Lumberjacks director of cross country and track and field. "This was our final outing at this course before NCAA Nationals and we executed well for where we are right now. I am looking for particular aspects of the racing that the results did not necessarily show. The decision making, movement inside the race and accountability to each other. We looked good in all those aspects today."
Sophomore Delaney Rasmussen was right behind Morley on the women's side and placed 51st overall. Her time of 21:13.1 was only milliseconds ahead of Indiana runner Haley Harris (21:13.7), in what was one of the closest finishes throughout the race.
The bulk of Lumberjack women ended the race between the 51st and 60th places. Sophomore Pipi Eitel (21:16.0) and senior Shannon Molvin (21:18.3) would come in 53rd and 60th place, respectively. The final runner to cross the finish line was another freshman, Jesselyn Bries. Bries's time of 21:40.0 gained a 90th-place finish and greatly assisted in obtaining a top-10 finish for the women.
The Big Sky Conference Championships hosted by Sacramento State in Sacramento on Saturday, Oct. 27, is next up for the Northern Arizona cross country squads, hoping to repeat 2017's sweep of the event.
After six wins in four days, all that separates Northern Arizona junior Chiara Tomasetti from the individual ITA Mountain Regional singles title is unseeded Arisha Ladhani of Denver.
Fourth-seeded Tomasetti picked up two victories Saturday, including her second of the fall over No. 49 Aiwen Zhu, to advance to Sunday’s regional championship match.
Meanwhile, Ladhani’s run to the tournament finale included an upset of Idaho’s Marianna Petrei, the overall top seed and No. 20 player nationally, in Saturday’s quarterfinal round.
Tomasetti’s day started with a dominant victory over Utah State’s Alexandra Pisareva, 6-0, 6-1. That set up a showdown in the semifinal between Tomasetti and Zhu, who were battling for the second time this fall. Like she did in the final at the UNLV Fall Invitational, Tomasetti got the best of her nationally-ranked opponent in three sets, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
Although Tomasetti was the only Northern Arizona women’s tennis player remaining in the main draw, several other Lumberjacks notched singles wins in extra matches.
Senior Eirene Granville defeated New Mexico’s Danielle Quevedo, 7-6, 6-3, as one of four additional Lumberjacks victories. Sophomores Madi Moore and Cora-Lynn von Dungern also picked up straight set victories over foes from UTEP and Utah State respectively. Moore defeated Rine Nozaki, 6-1, 6-4, while von Dungern posted a 6-3, 6-1 win over Alexandra Taylor.
Freshman Adrianna Sosnowska prevailed in three sets over Taylah Beckham of BYU, 7-5, 4-6, 10-3.
The Lumberjacks came up empty in their only two doubles matches of the fourth day of Mountain Regional competition. Sophomore Ellie Millard and von Dungern lost to a BYU pair, while Moore and Granville lost to a Denver duo.
After four tight sets, the fifth set got away from the Lumberjacks in a 25-18, 22-25, 27-29, 25-23, 15-6 road loss to rival Northern Colorado Saturday evening. With the loss, Northern Arizona's three-match win streak came to an end while falling to 13-8 overall and 5-3 in the Big Sky Conference.
The defeat was just Northern Arizona’s second this season in nine matches when leading 2-1 in the match.
Kaylie Jorgenson had 17 kills, 22 digs and a career-high seven aces for the Lumberjacks. The seven aces were not only more than double her previous high of three, it was also tied for the second-highest single-match total in program history. She joined Rebecca Wooden (2002) and Angel Leath (1992) as players with seven aces in a match, and the trio trails only Kelly Verboom’s eight in a 2007 match versus Montana on the school’s record list.
The Bears jumped ahead 12-1 to open the final stanza. After Abby Akin evened the final game at 1-1 with a solo block, Northern Colorado went on its run.
An uncharacteristic one kill against five errors in the final set dropped Northern Arizona's match hitting percentage to .195. Conversely, Northern Colorado hit .241.
Despite four service aces during a 9-1 run that gave NAU an 11-7 lead in the first set, the Lumberjacks would lose the opening set. The Bears controlled the first game, hitting .316 and holding the Lumberjacks down to just a .050 clip, and methodically pulled away after kills by Jorgenson and Ryann Davis briefly tied the score at 15-15.
Jorgenson helped the Lumberjacks knot the match up at 1-1 with seven of NAU’s 18 kills in the second set.
After tying the score at 23-23, the Jacks faced set point at 24-23, 25-24 and 27-26 in the third. However, Northern Arizona had the answer each time, receiving kills by Jorgenson, Davis and Heaven Harris.
Harris’ kill tied the score one final time at 27-27, and Jorgenson followed with an ace. On their second set point, the Lumberjacks clinched the game on a Bear attack error and moved within one set of the match victory.
Northern Colorado overcame a 9-4 deficit to start the fourth set. Northern Arizona still led 16-12 after the first of three solo blocks by Jorgenson in the fourth set, but Northern Colorado shifted the tide with a 5-0 run.
Backing Jorgenson’s offensive efforts were Akin and Harris, who finished with 14 and 11 kills respectively. Akin hit .414 and also added three blocks. Abby Stomp led Northern Arizona with 26 assists.
The Lumberjacks will be back on the road next week for two more matches on the tail end of a stretch of four consecutive matches away from Flagstaff. The team will start the week on Thursday at Weber State before playing at Idaho State next Saturday.