FRESNO, Calif. – The NAIA’s No. 6-ranked Azusa Pacific women’s cross country team locked down its ninth straight berth into the NAIA Championship Meet by winning the NAIA regional championship, Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.
In a near repeat showing of the Golden State Athletic Conference Championships staged 2 weeks ago also at Woodward Park, the Cougars again held off rival Concordia by the narrowest of margins, beating the Eagles, 47 to 48. Again, Brianna Carstensen and Christine Krause finished 1-2 to lead Azusa Pacific to its second straight regional title. The sophomore Carstensen edged Krause by .03 seconds to win her first-ever regional title. The 2 Cougars were credited with a time of 18:09.
The team title, though, was secured by senior Laurie Ramirez, who used an impressive kick over the final 200 meters of the race to overcome 2 Concordia runners and finish tenth with a 19:00, just 1 second ahead of Concordia’s Berenice Carbajal and 3 seconds ahead of Valerie Castelazo.
“I was yelling at Laurie that she had to get ahead of the Concordia runners,” said Cougar coach Bill Reeves, who was named the region’s Coach of the Year on the women’s side, “she responded with a tremendous effort.”
Perhaps just as significant though was the effort of sophomore Marissa Reeber, who kept Azusa Pacific’s grip on the title by holding off Concordia’s Stefanie Long to finish 14th out of 96 runners with a 19:07.
“We’re running very well right now,” said Reeves, “and our 3 through 7 runners are interchangeable as to who will step up and score from meet to meet. Our goal would be to finish in the top 4 at the national meet, and I think that’s quite realistic.”
The Cougar men, who are currently ranked No. 12 in the NAIA, finished second in the regional meet, trailing over the No. 4 Cal State San Marcos, which knocked off the Cougars, 47-74.
All-American Brian Wardell ran a 25:28 on the 8K course to finish second to Westmont’s Jason Finch (25:03). Sophomore Tim Gachago was eighth (25:50) followed by Tim Ramirez (26:07).
With their showings at the regional meet, both the men’s and women’s teams qualify for the NAIA Championship meet in Kenosha, Wis., Saturday, Nov. 23. For the Cougar men this will be their first NAIA Championship appearance since 1996, also the last year that Azusa Pacific sent both teams to the national meet.