Zag Men's Cross Country Climbs to No. 20 Nationally

SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga men's cross country continued its ascent in the USTFCCA Coaches' Poll Tuesday, moving up to No. 20 from No. 25 to become the week's biggest mover after a strong second-place finish at the Bill Dellinger Invitational in Springfield, Ore. last Thursday.

At Dellinger, the Zags placed three runners in the top five to finish only six points behind Oregon, which clocked in at No. 9 this week. This is only the third time in program history that the Bulldogs have been ranked in the Top 20, and the first since 2015.

Yacine Guermali, James Mwaura and Wil Smith finished 3-4-5 behind Oregon's Cooper Teare and Aaron Bienenfeld for the bulk of GU's scoring, with Guermali putting down a 23:11.3 time for the third-fastest 8K in program history behind his and Mwaura's spring 2021 WCC Championships races. In his first race of the 2021 fall season, Mwaura finished just under five seconds behind Guermali at 23:16.1, and Smith recorded a personal record 23:25.8 for fifth.

In the process, the Bulldogs knocked off then-No. 19 Portland, from whom they usurped the No. 4 spot in the USTFCCA's West Region Rankings released on Monday.

"It was a great effort," said GU head coach Pat Tyson after the race. "I mean, any time you're knocking at the door of a perennial long distance running program and pushing them, that's exciting."

The Zags will have another opportunity to test their mettle against elite national competition at the Nuttycombe Invitational in Madison, Wisc. on Oct. 15. Hosted by Nol 14 Wisconsin, Nuttycombe will feature 10 teams ranked among the Top 25 nationally this week by the USTFCCA, giving GU another shot to top Oregon as well as West Region rivals No. 13 Washington and No. 3 Stanford.

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