T-Birds sweep A.I.I. individual titles; women claim team banner

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CLINTON, Iowa – Maria Bernard and Jack Williams took home individual titles on Saturday morning at the Association of Independent Institutions cross country championship in Clinton, Iowa. The pair of fourth-year standouts led UBC to the team title on the women’s side, and a second-place finish on the men’s side as Ashford University’s golf course served its alternative function in hosting the 2014 championships.
 
“Despite the wind and frigid conditions, the women persevered and would not let the conditions slow them down,” said UBC head coach Marek Jedrezjek following the race. “It’s a great step towards the national championships in two weeks time.”
 
Women
The No. 1-ranked women’s team gave backing to being the pre-race favourite as the squad placed seven athletes in the top 10, finishing with a near-perfect score of 18 points. UBC prevailed in its battle against rival No. 3 Cal State San Marcos, which finished second.
 
Bernard took her home second consecutive A.I.I. individual title, completing the six-kilometre course in a time of 17 minutes, 2.9 seconds. UBC has now taken the individual title for three straight years. Natalia Hawthorn was second in 17:26.5 while Amelie de Fenoyl (17:34.6) was third, completing the UBC podium trifecta. Rounding out the team’s top-five were 2012 A.I.I. champ Jackie Regan (17:57.1) and Tamara Harris (18:12.9). They finished fifth and seventh overall, respectively.
 
The women have now won three consecutive A.I.I. Championships after giving way to CSUSM the previous three years in the battle between the two NAIA powerhouses.
 
Men
The No. 7 UBC men were outdueled by No. 10-ranked Cal State San Marcos, which with the win on Saturday earned its seven straight A.I.I. championship.

The T-Birds finished with 33 points in second, placing four athletes in the top-10 and seven in the top-15. With the No. 7 ranking entering the race, the men should be all-but-guaranteed to join the women at NAIA Championships in Lawrence, Kan., with an at-large berth.
 
Williams won his first A.I.I. Championship of his career completing the 8-km course in a time of 25:20.3, while Evan Elder was fourth 25:34.2. Ben Thorne and Bilal Shamsi finished eighth, and ninth, respectively, earning All-Conference honours as did Devin Rajala who placed 11th, wrapping up team scoring. Williams’ victory was also the first time a UBC Thunderbird has accomplished the feat of winning an individual men’s A.I.I. title.
 
“Our men’s team, as a whole, had some difficulty getting into a rhythm on Saturday with a few injuries and some mid-race issues,” explained Jedrezjek. “If we can solve get fully healthy, we’ll be ready for our biggest race at the NAIA Championships.”
 
Though the Cougars had the edge over the T-Birds today, UBC finished ahead of CSUSM at last year’s national meet, a trend they look to continue once again this season. The Cougars have finished in the top 20 at every NAIA Cross Country Championships since the program was introduced in 1999.
 
Ashford University hosted the A.I.I. Cross Country Championships for the first time in school history, and the first time the competition has not been held in Washington or California.
 
Up Next
The season culminates at the 2014 NAIA Cross Country Championships on November 22 at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan. The women look to become just the fourth institution in NAIA history to win three consecutive national titles, the last of which was accomplished by Cal State San Marcos.

 

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