Wed, Feb. 19

NAU picked to sweep men’s and women’s Big Sky cross country

Photo illustration courtesy NAU

Photo illustration courtesy NAU

FARMINGTON, Utah – The Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks cross country teams were picked to sweep the Big Sky Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships.

Head coaches were allowed to vote for their teams.

The NAU men were a unanimous selection to repeat as champions after collecting their third straight NCAA championship trophy. Returning for the Lumberjacks in 2019 are Geordie Beamish, Blaise Ferro, Luis Grijalva, and Ryan Raff. All four runners competed at the national championship in 2018 with Grijalva placing in the top 25. In 2018 six of the seven NAU runners earned All-American honors for finishing in the top-40. Mix in the newcomers with the veterans and the Lumberjacks have a packed roster in 2019. Runners like Brodey Hasty, Theo Quax and Mitchell Small will get the chance to showcase the depth of the ‘Jacks 2019 roster.

Southern Utah edged out Weber State for second place with 99 points, while the Wildcats received 98 points. The Thunderbirds’ top three runners that placed in the top 10 at last year’s championship return this season. The Wildcats return a wealth of sophomores that load the roster in 2019 to make Weber State competitive across the board.

Montana State (84 pts) and Idaho (73 pts) complete the top five men’s preseason teams.

On the women’s side, Northern Arizona received nine first-place votes to hold the top spot in the preseason poll. The Lumberjacks finished second at last year’s championship with three runners in the top 15 and six runners in the top 20. Jesselyn Bries was the highest finisher for the Lumberjacks at the 2018 championships with a seventh-place finish, earning the Female Freshman of the Year award in the process. She returns for her sophomore campaign along with Mikayla Malaspina and Miranda Myers, who both redshirted last season and finished third and sixth respectively in 2017.

A stacked junior class consisting of Hannah Behunin, Pipi Eitel, Jessa Hanson and Jenna McCaffrey are among the highlighted returners for 2019. Villanova transfer Taryn O’Neill is anticipated to make a huge impact on the ‘Jacks 2019 lineup.

Southern Utah received two first-place votes after claiming the crown a year ago and competing at the national championships. The Thunderbirds took 1-4-5-6 on the individual leaderboard last season. With the loss of seniors Angie Nickerson, the 2018 Big Sky Individual Champion and Sharlie Dimick, the Thunderbirds will look to fill two spots in their lineup this upcoming season.

Weber State (91 pts), Montana State (83 pts) and Idaho (78 pts) round out the top five vote-getters in the women’s preseason poll.

The Big Sky Cross Country Championships will be held on November 2 in Greeley, Colo. The Lumberjacks open up the 2019 campaign in Flagstaff with the programs only home meet of the season at the George Kyte Classic on Sept. 7 at Buffalo Park.

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