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NAU ROUNDUP: Men's cross country wins national championship

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NAU Cross Country

The Northern Arizona men's cross country team celebrates winning the NCAA championship Saturday in Tallahassee.

In a star-studded performance, the Northern Arizona men's cross country team achieved their fifth NCAA National Championship team title in the last six years Saturday after all five scoring runners earned All-American honors. The Lumberjacks women placed 23rd overall in Tallahassee, Florida.

"We are supported by the entire university, we train in best place on earth, we've got the community and our campus behind us, we recruit focused athletes, and we have a tremendous coaching and support staff," Director of NAU Cross Country and Track & Field Michael Smith said, "there's no secret, those are the pieces, and the results speak for themselves."

NAU is the first team in NCAA history to win two national championships in the same year, as their last victory came in March due a season postponed by COVID-19.

Each of the scorers for the men had competed in the race before, giving them a unique and advanced perspective.

"There's no race that rewards experience more than the NCAA Cross Country Championships,'' Smith said, "their experience was one of the greatest factors that influenced the team title win today."

The Lumberjacks men applied pressure to the field from the start of the race, and securing positions to ultimately obtain control by the 4K mark of the race.

The seasoned men's team saw each man finish as All-Americans and three athletes earned their second All-American honor.

"For a team title in the ballpark of 100 points, it was going to require athletes competing up in the front of the race," Smith said, "our depth was massive for us today."

Two-time All-American redshirt sophomore Abdihamid Nur led the Lumberjacks, placing seventh with a time of 28:52.9, with two-time All-American freshman Nico Young (28:57.5) finishing 11th.

Two-time All-American Drew Bosley (29:13.8) came right behind in 13th, and the final two scorers All-American senior George Kushe (29:29.5) and All-American redshirt junior Brodey Hasty (29.30.3) wrapped up in 37th and 39th to finalize the team score at 92 points.

"At our first practice together, I asked George why he wanted to join our team and why he transferred here (NAU) and he said he wanted to win," two-time All-American Abdihamid Nur said, "today he became a champion."

Northern Arizona shared the podium with Iowa State (137 points), Oklahoma State (186 points), Arkansas (195 points) and Stanford (236 points).

Meanwhile the women finished 23rd overall after a great team effort.

"We've changed the game for the women's team at NAu from just trying to make the meet to feeling like we can actually compete here," Smith explained, "as a group that's continuing to find their place, I thought we had a solid showing and I know they'll use this to continue to form the next steps for the program."

Led by All-American junior Taryn O'Neill (19:58.2) in 42nd, the women maintained composure throughout the race.

Senior Pipi Eitel (20:20.1) finished 75th and redshirt junior Jesselyn Bries (20:44.6) came in 136th.

Soon after, redshirt freshman Elise Stearns (21.10.0) and senior Delaney Rasmussen (21:12.5) respectively placed 196th and 200th to round out the team score of 532 points.

"The past has heavily influenced the outcome of today and today will heavily influence outcomes for the future," Smith said, "we're going to continue to prepare athletes for future championships."

Swimming and diving

The Lumberjacks impressed the Flagstaff crowd with another dominant day at the Lumberjack Diving Invite in 1m and platforms on Saturday.

NAU, Idaho, and UC Davis all competed in 1m dives at Wall Aquatic Center. To start off the day with prelims, UC Davis' Sydney Wren placed first with a score of 279.55, coming in just 5 points off from Wren's score, Victoria Knapp took second for the Lumberjacks at 274.90.

Rounding out the 1m prelims, Maegan Jensen placed third with a score of 262.45, followed by Emily Luberto in 5th at 258.85, Makenna Sammons in 6th at 255.15, and Alyssa Jones in 8th at 247.45, all qualifying for the finals. Freshman Kendall Marquez went on to the consolation round, where she placed first with 258.35.

Heading into the finals, Knapp looked for revenge from her second-place finish in prelims, and she took first in the 1m finals with a score of 303.30. Idaho's Emily Mack placed second with 296.95, followed by UC Davis' Taylor Hornberger at 289.90. Sammons placed fifth for NAU with a score of 286.40, followed by Jensen in fifth at 286.10.

"Everyone in consols dove better than prelims and everyone in finals dove way better, so that was nice to see. Victoria was back to her normal self, her, Maegan, Makenna, and Aly all got qualifying scores on 1-meter so that was awesome. Emily missed her qualifying score by less than a point which is disappointing but she still did a great job for us, and overall they were all consisting,"hHead diving coach Nikki Kelsey said.

In the afternoon session, the Lumberjacks dove one platform session. Placing in fourth, Luberto finished the platform dives with a score of 224.65, followed by teammates, Sammons in fifth at 214.00, Victoria Knapp in sixth at 213.20, Maegan Jensen in seventh at 202.65 and Kendall Marquez in eighth at 186.55.

"We did do a lot of good things, there was times when we weren't great but I really thought today the more we dove, the better we got. I think we're just going to get better and better and I look forward to seeing what happens," Kelsey said.

The Lumberjacks will be back to competition on Dec. 11 to face Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.


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