Running away with honors

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The running accomplishments of two Moffat County High School graduates continue to increase.

Kelly Christensen, a 2000 graduate of MCHS, finished third at the NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championships in Evansville, Ind., last Saturday.

Emily Mortensen, a 2001 graduate, finished 11th.

Both runners were instrumental in their teams winning the national titles, Christensen with the Western State College men and Mortensen with the Adams State College women.

Christensen was one of the favorites to win the men's race. He was undefeated during the cross country season, and he won several races that included top NCAA Division I competition.

"I think one of my best races was when I won the CU meet," he said. "I ran the third fastest time ever on that course behind Jorge Torres and Adam Goucher."

Torres and Goucher are the only two male cross-country national champions in CU history.

"My top priority was to help our team win, and a national championship for myself would have just been a cherry on top," he said.

Christensen said that Abilene Christian's Nicodemus Naimadu and Harding College's Peter Kosgei set a fast early pace and that he led the second pack several seconds behind.

"It was a hilly, challenging course, so when those guys went out so fast I knew I should wait a bit," he said.

Kosgei faded while Christensen and teammate Oliver Bodor made up the gap on Naimadu.

"I did all of the work in the second pack," the junior said. "When I caught up to the front, I didn't have enough to stay."

Bodor and Naimadu pulled away from the other runners and finished one-tenth of a second apart with the Abilene Christian runner winning.

"I was a little disappointed that I didn't win, but I had the target on my back going in because I hadn't lost," Christensen said. "Overall though, I'm totally pleased, because I had no idea that I was going to have such a great season."

The All-America honor is Christensen's fourth. He is a junior in cross country because he redshirted his freshman year and received a medical redshirt last year. Last spring, he won the 3,000-meter steeplechase in outdoor track. Christensen will defend that title this year in his last track season.

"I want to get another national title before I'm through," he said.

After having a streak of five-consecutive national titles broken last year, the Mountaineers returned to dominance on the men's side.

They beat state rival Adams State with 39 points compared to 76.

"It was good to get the title back, and we hope to start another streak," he said.

"We're already talking about next year."

Mortensen's team started a streak of its own with its second national title in a row.

The junior's 11th-place finish is her sixth All-America honor. The Grizzlies won the team title by the largest margin, 70 points, in seven years at the Division II championships.

The women Grizzlies had five All-Americans on the way to the championship.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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