By Travis Rae, Communications and Sports Information Intern
November 17, 2012
Photo Courtesy of CJ Images Northwest Event Photography
VANCOUVER, Wash. – St. Francis (Ill.) captured its first-ever team title and The Master’s (Calif.) John Gilbertson won the Mustangs first individual championship at the 2012 NAIA Men’s Cross Country National Championships held Saturday at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
The Fighting Saints had three runners place among the top 30 to tally 138 team points, led by Phil Rizzo. The senior posted an 8K time of 24:44 to finish second. Rizzo was followed by Mike Blaszczyk in 17th (25:10), Brandon Carson at 18th (25:11).
“It was very humbling to win the National Championship,” said St. Francis head coach Jeffery Barker. “I have to give credit to Drew Laketa as he recruited all these guys. Our guys ran homes and it is amazing and we stuck to our game plan and pulled it off.”
Southern Oregon finished as the runner-up with 153 points and a duo of All-Americans. Coming in at third was Cal State San Marcos with 165 points and a pair of All-Americans, while Oklahoma Baptist finished fourth with 179 points and a trio of All-Americans. Rounding out the top-five teams was Aquinas (Mich.) with 191 points.
Gilbertson captured his first national title at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Gilbertson finished the 8K course in 23:56 and winning The Master’s first individual title in school history.
“It was five in the lead pack and I felt confident that I could win,” said Gilbertson. “The lord gave me the strength in my legs to give me the surges when I needed them. I knew the runners around me and I felt confident that I could edge them at the line again.”
Ten teams were represented among the top-10 place winners.
It was the fourth-consecutive year that the NAIA Men’s Cross Country National Championships were held at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. It was hosted by the Cascade Collegiate Conference and Concordia University-Portland (Ore.).