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Aidrus first to qualify for cross country nationals

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On Nov. 4, Bashir Aidrus became the first-ever SMSU runner to advance to the NCAA Cross Country Championships, placing second at the NCAA Central Region Championships.

Both the men’s and women’s teams traveled to Kearney, Nebraska for the meet. It was hosted by the University of Nebraska Kearney at the Kearny Country Club. The weather was cool and the course was hilly.

Aidrus covered the 10,000-meter course in a time of 31:38. Aidrus’s performance was exceptional given his improvement from last year’s race. In the 2016 Regional Championships, he placed 106th with a time of 33:38.

“There are many things that helped [my improvement],” Aidrus said. “My conference performance must have played a significant role. It boosted my confidence. Before Regionals I looked at the conference results from the other conferences in our region and I saw ours was the toughest. I had a plan of sticking to the front pack from the beginning and how long I would keep up with them. It worked out well.”

Aidrus achieved all-conference honors two weeks ago with a sixth-place finish at the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference meet. This was also huge leap for him, going from 59th at the with a time of 26:36 at the 2016 Championships.

When Aidrus went up to accept his medal for the regional competition, other teams were blown away. You could actually hear people from other teams saying “who is this guy?” and “he came out of nowhere!”

“Bashir turned heads at the NCAA Central Region Championships, by finishing second,” SMSU Head Cross Country Coach Dan Allen said. “He showed the whole Midwest that he’s going to be a force for the rest of his college career.

“[Aidrus] gets his chance to show the whole US how great of a runner he is. The national stage brings out the best in your veterans, but can bring shock and awe to newcomers. Bashir has the mentality to push through the jitters, and be successful”

SMSU’s Clayton Hartle finished in 136th place with a time of 35:21, with teammate Logan Knutson placing 146th crossing the line at 35:40. Joe Bustrak finished 151st with a time of 36:04, Evan Bonneson was 159th with a time of 36:28, while Ben Broze recorded a 167th finish at 37:18.

Mason Phillips from the University of Sioux Falls won the 181-runner race with a time of 31:12. As a team, SMSU was 22nd out of 27 teams with a total of 586 points. Augustana won the team title for the sixth straight season with 43 points, well ahead of second place Missouri Southern.

The SMSU women’s team finished 25 out of 32 teams with a total of 752 points. University of Mary won the team title for the second time in a row finishing with 61 points, 41 ahead of second place Pittsburg State. U-Mary’s Alexis Zeis won her second consecutive individual title running the 6,000-meter course with a time of 20:53.

SMSU was led by Kayla Jansky, who finished 106th out of 217 runners, with a time of 23:55. Teammate Emily Daniels placed 134th with a time of 24:35, Abby Schotter finished with a time of 25:11 to place 164th, Emily Gillingham crossed the line at 25:22 to place 169th, Kristen Weber finished 188th with a time of 26:22, Meghan Sullivan was 191st with a time of 26:09, while Avery Lester was 211th at 27:57.

Aidrus will compete at the NCAA Championships will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18, in Evansville, Indiana.

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