FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's and women's cross country teams finished second and third, respectively, at the 31st Annual George Kyte Classic held Saturday at Buffalo Park.
Though the team finishes weren't as high as many had hoped, a handful of Lumberjack runners from both sides showed their teeth in their first competition of the season with strong individual performances. Leading the men was junior Tim Freriks, a native of Cottonwood, Ariz., whose second-place overall finish was three spots better than his finish last year at the same meet.
"I wanted to remain under control and finish strong, and I think I accomplished that," said Freriks. "The win would've been great, but the race went well overall."
The women were led by Flagstaff native Rochelle Kanuho, a senior whose first Buffalo Park competition ended with a sixth-place finish. Close behind Kanuho for the Lumberjack women was true freshman Lauren Justus in tenth place and senior Haley Lawrence in 19th place.
"The last two miles were really good, and for the most part I'm happy with my finish," said Kanuho, a graduate of Coconino High School. "Being from Flagstaff, I like racing up here."
Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins was pleased with those individual performances, despite the teams' finishes overall, although he will come to expect more from his squads in the coming weeks.
"With some of our top runners not competing today, our teams performed pretty well under the circumstances," said Heins. "We've been training really well as a team, and as the season goes on, we will continue to expect more and more out of these teams."
Heins was particularly pleased by the performance of another true freshman. Caleb Hoover, a native of Joplin, Mo., finished his first race in Lumberjack gold in seventh place, good enough for fourth on the team. Hoover ran with the lead group the entire race, using veterans Freriks, Bahlbi Gebreyohanns, and Matt Coloe as pacers to keep him motivated.
"Having those four all place in the top ten was a great sign for our men's team," said Heins. "Especially Caleb, coming in as a true freshman and performing like he did really makes us look forward to plugging Diego [Estrada], Jordan [Chipangama], and Andrew [Belus] back in when we run this year, especially in our post-season meets.
Estrada, who did not compete Saturday, still contributed during the race by supporting Hoover from the sidelines.
"I stayed behind the lead pack until I saw Diego on the side telling me to catch up with them," said Hoover, who holds a Missouri state record in the 5K. "I tried to go out and run even split times, and then kick it in towards the end. Our coaches have prepared us pretty well, and I'm excited to see what we can do once our other guys come back."
Other men's finishes for the Lumberjacks were Gebreyohanns and Coloe, who finished fourth and sixth, respectively. Redshirt freshman Cody Reed came in 12th, junior Myles Kloer took 20th, and sophomore Dan Filipcik placed 25th.
Following Kanuho, Justus, and Lawrence for the Lumberjack women was senior Lisette Michaels in 24th place, one of two runners from the team who competed in last year's meet. After one more runner crossed the finish line, the Lumberjacks saw five of its own finish in a row. Freshman Kerri Lenihan (26th), junior Lauren Hill (27th), sophomores Carissa Gwerder (28th) and Sarah Raber (29th), and freshman Sarah Baker (29th) preceded freshman Shayla Freeman (33rd) in closing out the race for the NAU women.
The Lumberjacks have a two week hiatus before they see action again. They compete at the Dave Murray Invitational in Tucson, Ariz. on Sept. 16.