The wet, dreary weather made for tough racing conditions at the 2019 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana.
And yet, the Lumberjacks persevered.
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams participated in the championship Nov. 23 at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. With 163 team points, the Lumberjack men made podium for the fourth straight season as they took second place, outrun only by first-place finishers Brigham Young University with a score of 103. NAU’s women’s team placed No. 14 in the squad’s first nationals appearance since 2008.
Since winning the school’s first NCAA Division I national championship in 2016, the three-peat men’s Lumberjack champions have been the team to beat. On Saturday morning, the lineup saw some of the nation’s best—No. 2 Colorado and No. 3 BYU were considered to be NAU’s biggest threats.
BYU, off to a strong start, took a 57-point lead at the 3K mark, leaving NAU and Colorado to battle throughout the race for runner-up honors. The ‘Jacks topped the Buffaloes by just one point to take home silver, with Colorado scoring 164 points.
“Our men’s team had a rough race,” said Michael Smith, director of cross country and track & field. “A tough race for this group resulting in a second-place finish in this field says a lot about them. Our guys may feel like they have let people down, but it is important to understand that this is part of their journey. We look forward to using this race to write the next chapter of where this team goes from here. We have to equally accept our defeats in the same way we accept our victories.”
And for the first time in more than a decade, the NAU women’s cross country squad joined the men in Terre Haute, competing against the best female distance runners in the country.
“Our women’s team raced the way they have all season,” Smith said. “Fourteenth place is exceptional. I’m happy with the way our team stuck with it. Today is a day to celebrate them. They have come so far.”
Senior Miranda Myers, who was the second NAU runner to finish the race, said competing in nationals was an eye-opening experience.
“We know how to have balance now,” she said. “We know how to put in hard work and be serious, but we also know when to be loose and have fun. We have a young team, full of girls who are committed that I think will take the program far in the future.”
After returning to Flagstaff last Monday, both teams are already back to training.
“One thing is certain,” Smith said. “The journey is far from over.”
To read more about the Lumberjacks time in Terre Haute, visit the NAU Athletics page.