All season long, the Northwest men’s cross country team has been making history.
The 2019 tenure earned the highest ranking in program history. Junior Jhordan Ccope took the Northwest records for fastest times in both the 8,000 and 10,000-meter races, while junior Augostine Lisoreng earned the second and fourth fastest times in the 10,000-meter. The Bearcats also became the highest-ranked team that started the season unranked on the USTFCCCA NCAA Division II Cross Country pre-season coaches poll.
But the team wasn’t done yet. On Nov. 23, Northwest chased the NCAA Division II Championships in Sacramento, California. The Bearcats earned a fifth-place finish, the best finish in program history.
Senior Karim Achengli led Northwest with a sixth-place individual finish and a personal record time of 29 minutes, 52 seconds and 5 milliseconds Achengli became the second Bearcat in program history to run a 10,000-meter race in under thirty minutes. The other is his teammate, Ccope, who ran 10,000 meters in 29:38.1 in the Central Region Championships on Nov. 9 in Joplin, Missouri.
Ccope took home a 9th place finish in Sacramento with a time of 30:04.1. Both Achengli and Ccope earned All-American honors with their top ten finishes.
Lisoreng was one spot away from an All-American honor with a 41st place finish and a time of 30:44.1.
Junior Mike Lagat and sophomore Jake Norris rounded out the team score for Northwest. Lagat earned 67th with a time of 31.12.1 and Norris finished 124th with a time of 31.48.4.
“My goal all year has been to push-push because these guys are talented men,” Norris said. “I want to get them what they deserve.”
The Bearcats earned a team score of 206. They finished behind Colorado Mines (57), Adams State (136), Chico State (143), and Grand Valley State (177). Northwest finished ahead of Augustana (225) who earned third in the central region behind the Bearcats.
Missouri Southern stumbled to a 14th place finish. The Bearcats finished second place behind the Lions in three races throughout the season, including the MIAA Championships on Oct. 26, and the Central Region Championships, both hosted in Joplin, Missouri.
“Having a competitor helped us,” Lagat said. “They gave us a challenge and pushed us during the season.”
The Bearcats celebrated with In-N-Out Burger and Topgolf after the race before crashing in the hotel.
The team is already looking forward to next season when they return four of their five top runners with Achengli graduating in May.
Coach Nick Gibson said despite its successes, the team yearns for the top prizes next season.
“For us doing what we did this year is a big step and I think this just makes them a little hungrier to want trophies next year,” Gibson said.
While fifth in the nation may not have been the ultimate goal, the Bearcats have moved in the right direction and will to build on that in the seasons to come.
“We’ve taken tremendous strides towards where we’re wanting to go as a program,” Gibson said. “It’s a good starting block for us. We feel like we have a good foundation for what’s to come.”