Eastern Men Ninth, Women 11th at Big Sky Championships

Eagle men defeat Northern Colorado and Portland State in inaugural 11-team Big Sky Championships

The Eastern Washington University men’s cross country team placed ninth while the women placed 11th at the Big Sky Championships Saturday (Oct. 27) in highly-elevated Flagstaff, Ariz. The men scored 286 points, edging out  Northern Colorado by a  single point.  The women accumulated 262 points, finishing just 15 points behind Montana.

“I think everybody ran really well,” head coach Chris Zeller said. “Being at 7,000 feet, you’re never sure what to expect and a lot of our runners ran personal-bests despite the conditions. Seeing our guys beat a couple teams was exciting and the girls weren’t too far off of beating a couple teams as well.”

Redshirt freshman Berenice Penaloza was once again the top finisher for the Eagles on the women’s side, completing the 5,000-meter course in 18:39.2 and finishing 29th overall. Following Penaloza was Danie Moon (57th, 19:46.8), Acacia Smith (59th, 19:55.9), Monica Jaenicke (65th, 20:07.4), Jessi Johnson (70th, 20:19.6), Lauren Brewington (78th, 21:45.3) and Brittney Swanson (79th, 23:51.3). It was the last career cross country race in the red and white for Johnson, the lone senior on the roster.

“Berenice had another solid race,” Zeller said. “She’s been consistent and aggressive all year and it’s been really nice to see that out of her.”

Zeller believed Jaenicke had her best race of the season. “Since coming back from a year and a half-long injury, Monica has been continuing to get better week by week and she ended the season on a great note,” Zeller said.

Also receiving praise from Zeller was the lone senior on the roster Johnson, who competed in her last career cross country race for Eastern. “It was emotional for her,” Zeller said. “Jessi has been very close with the other girls and she’s been a great addition to this team.”

Freshman David Thor continued his impressive season with a 25th-place finish, hitting a time of 26:35.5 on the 8,000-meter course. He was the top finisher for the Eastern men for the fifth-straight meet and also fourth among all freshman runners at the meet. Coming in after Thor was Nathan Fall (62nd, 28:24.2), Quin Olivas (67th, 29:00.3), Isaac Seward (74th, 29:50.3), Jordan Curnutt (77th, 31:23.5) and Brandon Nobach (78th, 31:57.1).

“David put in a performance that is very similar in comparison with some of our better former runners as freshman,” Zeller said. “He had a great race and he definitely has a bright future ahead of him.”

Other than Thor, Zeller felt Fall was the standout for the men. “Nathan looked engaged the whole time and he never appeared checked-out,” Zeller said. “After battling health issues throughout the season, it was great to see him put that behind him and have his best race of the year.”

The Northern Arizona men, who had the top-three individual finishers, took the men’s title with a total score of 24 points. The Weber State women also had the top-three finishers, giving them a total of 29 points for the team title.

The Big Sky Championship meet was the last meet for most of the team, but  Zeller will send freshmen runners Thor and Penaloza to the NCAA West Regionals held Nov. 9 in Seattle, Wash.

“The mentality we took into this meet was to leave it all on the course and I can safely say we accomplished that,” Zeller said.

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