FRESNO, Calif. –- The NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Azusa Pacific men’s cross country team ran its best 8K of the season. All 7 Cougars registered their best times of the season as Azusa Pacific averaged a fine 26:03 per man. Problem was … No. 4 Concordia was near perfect, blowing away the field, Azusa Pacific included, to win the 2005 NAIA Region II Cross Country championships. Azusa Pacific finished a distant second.
Just 2 weeks ago, in La Mirada, Calif., the Eagles narrowly edged Azusa Pacific by 6 points to capture its first-ever GSAC championship. Today, Concordia obliterated the field, beating the Cougars by a hefty 55 points, 26 to 81. Cal State San Marcos was third with 108 points.
“Nobody was going to touch Concordia today,” said Cougar coach Preston Gray. “They were out of this world. We didn’t have our legs. Hopefully we got our bad meet out of the way and won’t be this flat at nationals.”
Only 28 seconds separated Azusa Pacific’s first runner and the fifth. However, by the time lead Cougar Caleb Lynch crossed the line with a 25:49, his best 8K in 3 such races on the Woodward course, 6 Concordia runners had already finished. Lynch was 12th and was closely followed by senior Danny Reid, who clipped off a 25:51 to finish 13th. Fellow senior Tim Ramirez, who continues to get stronger was 15th with a 26:00.
Despite 6 runners recording season 5K bests, the No. 12-ranked Cougar women could manage no better than a fifth-place showing among an extremely competitive field. Westmont, which Azusa Pacific defeated 2 weeks earlier on this same course at the GSAC Championships, turned the tables this time and edged the Cougars by 4 points to steal fourth place. The difference came down to Westmont’s fifth runner Kellie Parkinson, who was 13 seconds faster than Azusa Pacific’s Joy Wilk, who nonetheless clocked a PR of 19:57.
“It was really a tight race,” said Grey, “and 5 different teams were fighting for second place.”
Junior Whitney Jacobsmeyer (18:20) and freshman Jaime Canterbury (18:50) paced the Cougar women once again, finishing seventh and 13th overall. Sophomore Olivia Richert, who has struggled throughout the season to regain the form of her 2004 freshman campaign, bolstered the Cougars’ hopes for a strong showing at the upcoming NAIA championships by running a 19:13, more than a minute better than her previous best 5K this season.
“Olivia finally had the breakout race that we have been waiting for all year,” said Gray. “She really ran well, which is encouraging heading toward nationals.”
Both Cougar teams are likely to receive at-large berths into the NAIA Championship Meet, which will be held Saturday, Nov. 19, in Louisville, Ky. The NAIA national office announces the championship meet field on Monday.