LCSC men take 4th at nationals; women are 11th
VANCOUVER, Wash. – The Lewis-Clark State College men’s cross country program enjoyed its best finish ever at the NAIA Cross Country National Championship by placing fourth, while the women’s team also had one of its strongest meets of the season and placed 11th at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site on Saturday.
The Warrior men, making their 10th straight trip to nationals, have never finished in the top 10 at the meet until Saturday’s performance.
LCSC’s finish, however, wasn’t that surprising because the team was ranked seventh in the final NAIA regular-season poll. What was surprising is the way the Warriors did it on Saturday.
Junior Jimmy Oribo, who was LCSC’s top finisher in every race this season and won the Frontier Conference race and Runner of the Year honors, suffered cramps throughout the race and had his All-American hopes of finishing in the top 20 runners dashed when he finished 69th overall (51st among team-scoring runners). Oribo managed to fight through the pain and finished in 25:28.
His teammates had no problem in picking up the slack. Freshman Sam Atkin was LCSC’s top finisher in 37th overall in 25:02, while Dave Marks, who missed nearly two-thirds of the season while recovering from an injury, was next at 53rd in 25:17. Freshman Cody Glad was 58th in 25:22.
“In the men’s race, it had been raining all week so the course was in good shape and fast,” LCSC coach Mike Collins said. “Dave probably ran 20 seconds faster this year than last year (when he earned All-American status) and he was 53rd.
“But the guys really races as a team and ran really well. Jimmy did not have his best day but that also shows how much this team accomplished today. We didn’t have a single All-American and we finished fourth overall. The next team to do that finished eighth overall. Our guys ran in a group and really did a great job.”
Collins said he was worried because the team didn’t stick to the pre-race game plan. The course narrows after the first half mile and has a number of curves. With this, Collins said it’s hard to pass other runners.
“We wanted to get out early and be in the top 50 or 60 runners when we got to the first corner,” Collins said. “That didn’t happen. Probably in the first 800 feet, our guys were in 60-80th place. I was a little concerned.”
Collins said when the runners made it about a fourth of the way through the course, LCSC began to attack.
“We started to move up and pass a guy here and there,” Collins said. “We just ran strong as a group and that is a great testament to their common goal
“We thought we might have a shot if we ran well, and we did run well, but other teams ran well too,” Collins said. “I’m very happy for this team.”
Oklahoma Christian won the title with 92 points, while Cal St. San Marcos was second at 188. Southern Oregon was third at 206, followed by LCSC at 228.
The LCSC women nearly tied their best finish in program history at the race. LCSC’s 2004 squad place ninth at the meet, which until Saturday was the best finish by either Warrior squad at nationals.
Junior Chelsey Leighton of Lapwai was LCSC’s top finisher in 48th place overall (38th among scoring runners) in 18:53 over the 5-kilometer course, while freshman Sophie Bush was 59th in 18:59. The pair has been the team’s top two runners all season. Amanda Palmer (19:32), Madison Randall (19:38) and Francis Rojas (19:50) rounded out the scoring finishers for the Warriors.
“We went into the meet ranked 14th and I thought if we finished there it would be an extremely good outcome,” Collins said. “To finish 11th, I was very surprised. I know we’re all very excited,”
LCSC finished with 353 points, 23 behind 10th place The Master’s, which finished at 320. For the second straight season, however, LCSC finished ahead of Frontier Conference rival Carroll at the meet after finishing second to the Saints at the conference meet. Carroll finished 13th with 406 points.
“Yes, one of our goals was to beat Carroll again,” Collins said. “It’s a good rivalry and the girls are excited.”
Collins said the women’s race was much slower because it was held after the men’s race, so the course was torn up and muddy. Still, he wanted the team to follow the same race strategy and get out strong early.
“We didn’t even come close to that,” Collins said. “We were probably at 90 to 110 a half-mile into the race, which left a lot of catching up to do. But tough conditions are kind of our team personality. The girls were able to work their way up and ran well. We beat some good teams today. I was more than a little surprised.”
Collins said there’s a lot to be excited about with the two teams. The men’s team did not have a senior among its seven runners at nationals, but did have two sophomore and three freshmen. The women’s team did have three seniors, but returns a strong nucleus next year as well.
The Warriors also finished third in the combined team category, which combines the two team scores for an overall score. Cal State San Marcos was first in the combined team, following by University of British Columbia. Friends was third at 571, while LCSC was fourth at 581.
“This is my 15th year as coach and this probably was the most exciting national meet for me, not just because of the results, but what these teams accomplished and how they accomplished it,” he said. “They really worked hard as a team and did it as a team. I’m really excited for them.”
Team scores – 1, Oklahoma Christian 93. 2, Cal St. San Marcos 188. 3, Southern Oregon 206. 4, Lewis-Clark State 228. 5, Wayland Baptist 254. 6, British Columbia 257. 7, Oklahoma Baptist 279. 8, Shorter 282. 9, Shawnee State 297, 10. The Master’s 300.
Overall winner – Kennedy Kithuka, Wayland Baptist, 23:15.
LCSC results – 28, Sam Atkin 25:02. 38, Dave Marks 25:17. 42, Cody Glad 25:22. 51, Jimmy Oribo 25:28. 69, Cody Larson 25:44. 86, Hayden Randall 25:58. 110, Nic Pierson 26:16.
Team scores – 1, Cal St. San Marcos 82. 2, Azusa Pacific 91. 3, British Columbia 171. 4, Northwest Christian 172. 5, Friends 192. 6, Olivet Nazarene 206. 7, College of Idaho 216. 8, Concordia 232. 9, Roberts Wesleyan 311. 10, The Master’s 320. 11, Lewis-Clark State 353.
Overall winner – Osbie Burru, Grang View, 17:15.
LCSC – 23, Chelsey Leighton 18:53. 44, Sophie Bush 18:59. 77, Amanda Palmer 19:32. 97, Madison Randall 19:38. 107, Francis Rojas 19:50. 124, Whitlee Young 19:54. 138, Stephanie Shuel 20:08.