---Zach Koehler

By Chad Hensley, NKU Sports Information

INDIANAPOLIS - When the Northern Kentucky University men’s cross country team began the season with a perfect score of 15 in the College Division of the Dayton Flyer 5K, it was a precursor for the rest of 2007.

Known for running in closely knit packs, NKU has successfully competed against some of the nation’s best. It was another total team performance that led to 66 points and a second-place finish on Saturday in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championships - 25 points behind Southern Indiana, which has won the last four GLVC crowns and captured 15 titles in school history.

Zach Koehler, a junior from Union, Ky., once again paced the Norse with a fifth-place finish out of a total of 112 competitors. The Ryle High School graduate finished the eight-kilometer course in a time of 25:27.1, which was 38.2 seconds behind race winner Paul Jellema of USI. With his performance, Jellema was named GLVC Runner of the Year.

“Zach has come on this season. He really pushes himself and is a big race runner who really thrives on the competition. He went after the leader and it was good to see him put it on the line for the team today,” NKU head coach Steve Kruse said.

Ryne Smith, who finished in a time of 25:36.0, was NKU’s second finisher on the day. Smith’s time was good enough for ninth place overall.

---Ryne Smith

For their performances, Koehler and Smith each were named All-GLVC, which is a big accomplishment for the program as it only previously had a total of four earn that honor. Smith missed Freshman of the Year honors by just 7.9 seconds. The Freshman of the Year was awarded to Drury’s Jaime Villa Zapatero, who finished sixth overall.

Kruse spoke of Smith’s accomplishment as being “the first NKU freshman to ever earn All-GLVC honors.”

Matthew Shoulta (13), Drew Harris (16), and Keith Knapp (23) rounded out the pack of Norse runners who scored points.

“Today was all in all a team effort. We knew what we had to do and we did it. A lot of times you get in a big race and things don’t go the way you want them to, but you’ve got to adapt to what’s dealt and the guys did what they had to do,” Kruse said of his team’s performance.

For the NKU women, it was once again Julianne Hoekzema who led the way for her Norse teammates, despite the increase in race length to six-kilometers. Hoekzema, a senior from Fairfield, Ohio, placed third out of 91 runners with a time of 21:54.25.

“On average, it is going to increase the race time by about or just over four minutes. You can’t change anything that you as a runner. You have to hold on to your 5K pace. It isn’t an easy thing to do, however it is what we train for,” Kruse said about the increase of distance.

---Julianne Hoekzema

Hoekzema’s finish was 16 seconds off the time that was set by race winner and GLVC Runner of the Year, Jessica Lamp of Wisconsin-Parkside – who finished in a time of 21:38.09. Parkside’s Naomi Fulton took second place by finishing 10 seconds behind Lamp.

Jenna Siemer, a junior from Villa Hills, Ky., finished the course at Butler University in a time of 22:43.83 – good enough for a seventh-place finish and a spot on the All-GLVC Team with Hoekzema.

“Jenna ran a really tough race today. She went out near the front of the pack and stayed there,” Kruse said.

Janice Laker (31), Alisha Hansman (38), and Kira Cooper (51) were the other runners to score points for the Norse. As a team, NKU finished in fourth place out of 10 squads with a total 120 points.

Behind the performance of Lamp and Fulton, Parkside took first-place honors with 46 points followed by Southern Indiana and Bellarmine, which scored 75 and 95 points, respectively. The win was the fourth consecutive GLVC title for the Rangers and eighth in program history.

“We had some good individual efforts today, but as a team we’re going to have to do better at regionals because only four teams advance to nationals, and you can’t perform the way we did today and expect to advance,” Kruse said.

“For the women’s team, it is an uphill battle. We definitely have to do better. We need solid efforts from our top seven to do well in two weeks.”

---Jenna Siemer

Both teams will be back in action on Nov. 3 when they travel to Edwardsville, Ill., to take part in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional beginning at 11 a.m.

The men are looking to prove that last year’s fourth place finish wasn’t a fluke. In preparation for the race that it has looked toward all season, NKU will continue to keep its eye on the prize by working hard.

“We’re going to continue to work hard as we have all season long. It has been a goal of ours to finish in the top four at regionals and earn a berth to the nationals, and we’re on pace to do that,” said Kruse, who is in his 14th year at the helm of the Norse.

“There are any number of teams that can place in the top four including ourselves, Missouri-Rolla, Ashland, Southern Indiana, Wayne State, and Grand Valley State – which won the GLIAC title today. The meet will be bumped up to a 10-kilometer race and we’re looking forward to that because that is exactly what we have been training for since last fall.”