MADISON, Wis. - Northern Arizona University's men's cross country team traveled to the Adidas Wisconsin Invitational on Saturday October 19th. The NAU men garnered a first place finish against a very strong field of competition.
The Lumberjack men were able to put together a very strong showing that allowed them to see such great success. Led by a sixth place finish by sophomore Futsum Zienasellassie, the team was able to run away with a first place finish against a field that featured the likes of No. 5 BYU and No. 6 Arkansas. Junior Matt McElroy finished 16th and senior Brian Shrader finished 17th.
"Futsum, Brian and Matt worked well together," said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins. "Futsum ran well and was able to push pass some guys at the end."
NAU was able to find success as a result of the team's depth as they ran against the field of 288. In addition to Zienasellassie, Shrader and McElroy the team received great contributions from the remainder of the team. Nathan Weitz (39th), Andy Trouard (43rd) and Josh Hardin (49th) finished in the top-50 while Caleb Hoover (109th) finished in the top half of the field.
"Josh Hardin was able to help some of the younger guys," said Heins. "He slowed down to help get those guys through the final stretch."
This year's first place finish proved that the men learned from last year's Adidas Wisconsin Invitational. NAU finished a season-worst 13th as a team as a result of getting off to slow start against the large field. The Lumberjacks were able to make the necessary adjustments this year which allowed for them to dictate their own destiny.
"We talked about how we had to run this differently than last year to be successful," said Heins. "The guys got out hard so they wouldn't get stuck in the back."
The Lumberjacks will look to ride this momentum as they will next compete at the Big Sky Conference Championships in Bozeman, Mont. on November 2nd. The team was picked unanimously to repeat as Big Sky Conference champions in the preseason polls released in August.
"Our goal is always to win the Big Sky Championship so we will make sure we are ready for that," said Heins.