SALT LAKE CITY – The Lewis-Clark State College men’s and women’s cross country teams emphatically punched their tickets to the NAIA National Meet by winning the Frontier Conference meets for the third consecutive year on Friday at Sugar House Park.
Both squads won the meet in team times more than five minutes faster than their nearest competitor to remain as the only teams to win conference titles in the sport. The FC’s first conference meet was in 2007.
By winning the team titles, both Warriors teams earned automatic berth to the national meet on Nov. 21 in Vancouver, Wash. This is the ninth straight year the Warrior women have qualified as a team, while the fourth straight year for the men, who have sent either a team or an individual runner to nationals for seven straight years.
The Warrior men again were dominant as for only the second time in veteran Warrior coach Mike Collins’ tenure, LCSC swept the top five spots in the meet. The first time it happened was during last year’s conference meet.
This time, however, the sweep was unexpected. LCSC’s top runner this season, freshman Dave Marks, was held out Friday with a sore Achilles’ tendon.
“I’m actually quite surprised that we swept the men’s race without Dave,” Collins said. “But we had runners who really stepped it up today and boy they sure churned it out. For quite a while, I thought we might finish one through sixth, but it didn’t quite happen.”
The top 10 finishers in the meet earn all-conference honors and the top finisher earns the conference’s Runner of the Year honor. For the third straight year, the LCSC men had the individual winner as Sean Huey, a junior from Boise, took top honors in 27 minutes and 8.3 seconds over the 8-kilometer course, which Collins described as a slow course because in part of windy conditions. Teammate Eric Tuwei, a senior, was second in 27:28, followed by junior Jake Miller, sophomore Grant Eldridge and junior Chris McConnell in the top five.
It’s the second straight year that four of those runners have finished in the top five. Last year, Tuwei won the meet, while Huey was third, McConnell was fourth and Eldridge was fifth.
“We were able to run really well despite the conditions,” Collins said.
Warrior freshman Josh Shrewsbury finished less than two seconds out of sixth place and also earned all-conference honors with his seventh-place finish. In all, LCSC had nine of the top 16 finishers in the men’s race. The sweep gave LCSC 15 points in the team standings, while Rocky Mountain was second at 60. Great Falls was third at 67.
Like the men, the women’s team time was more than five minutes faster than runner-up Great Falls. The Warrior women had 33 points, followed by Great Falls with 69 and Carroll at 78.
The Warriors’ top finisher on the women’s side was senior Kyli Astle, who was third in 20:12.5 over the 5-kilometer course. The Warriors also had the Nos. 6-11 finishers in the race to help the team finish with six runners in the top 10 who earned all-conference honors.
After each team had one finisher in the top five, LCSC sophomore Kelsey Klettke led the second five and was sixth overall in 20:39.9. She was followed by senior Lindsay Szybura, sophomore Madison Randall, freshman Allie Ford, and sophomore Stephanie Shuel. In all, only 47 seconds separated the top six finishers for the Warriors.
Astle, Szybura, Randall, and Shuel all repeated as all-conference runners from last year. Shuel won the meet a year ago but has been hampered by injuries this season, while Szybura, Astle, and Randall, were the Nos. 5-7 finishers at last year’s meet.
“It’s very exciting on both sides with the titles,” Collins said. “Hopefully we will be revved up for nationals.”
Unlike the conference meet, where everyone is eligible to run, LCSC can only have seven runners compete at nationals on each squad. Collins said he will have some tough decisions as to who will compose the Warrior squads for the meet.
Team scores – 1, Lewis-Clark State 15. 2, Rocky Mountain 60. 3, Great Falls 67. 4, Carroll 101. 5, Westminster 145.
Top 10 finishers – 1, Sean Huey, LCSC, 27:08.3. 2, Eric Tuwei, LCSC, 27:28.5. 3, Jake Miller, LCSC, 27:30.6. 4, Grant Eldridge, LCSC, 27:83.3. 5, Chris McConnell, LCSC, 27:43.6. 6, Cesar Mireles, Rocky, 27:46.4. 7, Josh Shrewsbury, LCSC, 27:47.5. 8, Eayoall Atsbeha, Rocky, 27:55. 9, Cullen Cantwell, UGF, 28:07.7. 10, Shane Donaldson, Great Falls, 28:15.7.
Other LCSC finishers – 13, Tanner Smedley 27:35.7. 14, Tommy Bollinger 28:48.2. 16, Nick Pierson 28:54.4. 24, Frank Lagrimanta 29:48.9. 28, Conor Thompson 30:09.8. 36, Andy Keim 30:58.2. 41, Sean Hagan 31:32.6. 43, Scott Sweet 32:20.3. 47, Alex Weber 33:30.5.
Team scores – 1, Lewis-Clark State College 33. 2, Great Falls 69. 3, Carroll 78. 4, Rocky Mountain 85. 5, Westminster 108.
Top 10 finishers – 1, Amber Watson, Rocky, 19:11.7. 2, Amanda Theobald, West, 20:08.4. 3, Kyli Astle, LCSC, 20:12.5. 4, Tiffany Gibson, UGF, 20:16.6. 5, Jamie Greene, Carroll, 20:27.4. 6, Kelsey Klettke, LCSC, 20:39.9. 7, Lindsay Szybura, LCSC, 20:33.6. 8, Madison Randall, LCSC, 20:51.7. 9, Allie Ford, LCSC, 20:53.2. 10, Stephanie Shuel, LCSC, 20:59.1.
Other LCSC finishers – 11, Amy Watkins 21:15.1. 15, Chelsey Leighton 21:38.0. 17, Tayler Harrington 21:46.3. 19, Sheree Barbour 21:55.0. 21, Whitlee Young 22:09. 22, Jessie Gulsvig 22:14.8. 24, Francis Rojas 22:22.4. 28, Casey Hampton 22:36.3. 44, Tammy Parker 24:57.3.