National Championship

Yacine Guermali (left) and Wil Smith (right) compete at the NCAA Championship in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The No. 15 Gonzaga University men’s cross country team placed a program best 13th at the National Championship meet in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The Zags were led to a 399 point team total by Yacine Guermali’s 41st place finish (29:36.3) as he narrowly missed out on being an All-American.

In the first kilometer, GU was running in 29th as a team but intentionally executed a conservative race strategy unlike the two prior trips to the National Championship meet.

“We ran a conservative race unlike a year ago and last March, where we ran an aggressive race and paid the price,” said men’s head coach Pat Tyson. “So if you look at the results and you look at every individual in their progression over every K, we were in the green. I’m really proud of these guys for enduring , particularly these three seniors that are going to graduate. They fought, and collectively, these Washington high schools grads came together and pulled off the greatest cross country race team wise in Gonzaga history.”

Guermali was joined by Wil Smith in 59th (29:50.4), James Mwaura in 87th (30:12.4), Cullen McEachern in 107th (30:26.7) and Kyle Radosevich in 112th (30:27.8) to round out GU’s scoring five. Riley Moore finished 203rd (31:05.5) and Bryce Cerkowniak finished 220th (31:26.3).

“When you hear 13th, it’s honestly amazing,” Guermali said. “For us, our plan was just to run super composed and finish strong and there was a lot of moving up in the results. That’s obviously my last race as a Zag. When I came in, a lot of times we were 10th in the region. So 13th in the country is not too bad.”

In the program’s third straight trip to the National Championship, Tyson’s squad improved upon its 26th place finish last season. The Zags top five point-scorers averaged 30:06.7 over 10K and were separated by a mere 51.6 second spread, both program bests for the National Championship meet.

“You look at the results and you see who we beat and who is ranked way better than us,” Tyson said. “So I’m really, really proud. I think we maximized our team performance today.”

The Zags beat three teams ranked ahead of them in the most recent USTFCCA in No. 11 Villanova, No. 13 Notre Dame and No. 14 Tennessee.

BYU was the only other West Coast Conference (WCC) program in the race, finishing third overall thanks to a 7th place finish from Casey Clinger.

Northern Arizona won the men’s team championship for the third straight year, their second three-peat of the last decade. The only other program to win six titles in seven years was UTEP from 1975 to 1981. Stanford’s Charles Hicks won the men’s 10K, finishing in 28:43.6.

Tommy Conmy is a sports editor. Follow him on Twitter: @tommyconmy.

Sports Editor

Tommy Conmy is a senior from Fargo, North Dakota and is in his first semester as sports editor after being a staff writer the past three semesters.