AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific cross country head coach Preston Grey was named the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) and Pacific West Conference Women’s Coach of the Year after guiding the Cougars to the school’s second national title in women’s cross country, as well as the school’s first-ever PacWest championship in any sport.
“It’s a testament to the team and what they accomplished this year,” said Grey, who was also a national coach of the year in 2008 after leading Azusa Pacific to the NAIA national title that year. “This is about the hard work of the team, and this award recognizes them more than anything else.”
The Cougars were represented by six different athletes for NCCAA All-American and All-Pacific West Conference honors. Five award winners came from the women’s team, while the men’s team had one athlete selected to the all-conference team.
Junior Sarah Higgens and sophomore Kristie Sikma both placed in the top-15 at last week’s NCCAA National Championships, earning NCCAA All-American status for their performance, and both were among five All-PacWest performers two weeks prior. Higgens was Azusa Pacific’s lone all-conference first team recipient, placing sixth at the PacWest Championships which were held in Kahuku, Hawai‘i.
Azusa Pacific’s men’s cross country team was led to a fourth-place conference finish by sophomore Peter Buscheck, who earned All-PacWest second team honors.
“Peter will always be our school’s first All-PacWest athlete,” said Grey. “He’s really bought into the training, and he brings a lot of energy and passion to practice. It’s always nice to see someone who’s bought in and worked hard get rewarded for it.”
Sikma and freshman Sarah MacIntosh both appeared on the All-PacWest second team, and junior Diandra Carstensen and freshman Natalie Koskela both earned third team honors for their performance in the conference championship meet.
“We knew we needed five All-PacWest performances at the very least to win the conference championship, so I don’t think being All-PacWest was emphasized individually,” Grey said. “Our emphasis was running a race that could win, so being All-PacWest just came along with that.”