The Paw Print
Saving the best for last. That is exactly what senior Brandon Birdsong from Lubbock, Texas did on Saturday at the Men’s National Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.
Birdsong was the Grizzlies top runner placing fourth overall to earn his first All American honor.
He completed the 10,000 meter course in a time of 31:01 to edge out Isaac Chavez from Chico State and fellow teammate Ryan McNiff of Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Each was awarded the exact finish time, with Chavez placing fifth and McNiff sixth in the overall results. Coach Damon Martin said of Birdsong,
“I am extremely proud of Brandon and his effort today. Most of the year he has been sixth or seventh runner on the team, but today he put it all on the line and along with Ryan McNiff leading the team to a national championship. This is the kind of program we have at Adams. On any given day, one of the team members can be first, but most importantly they share the belief in team running.”
Martin went on to comment, “All of the seniors this year, Birdsong, McNiff and Luke Cragg from Leeds, England, provided tremendous leadership. Each of them did their jobs on the course, and in their training each day.
The difference between a good team and a great team is leadership – and these young men delivered big time. “
With his sixth place finish at the championships, McNiff earned his fourth cross country All-American award.
This honor places him in a very elite group of Adams State runners, with only eight other cross country runners having this distinction.
Martin praised McNiff, “Ryan is an outstanding person, it has been a tremendous pleasure to coach him over the past few years. Being a four-time cross country All-American is incredibly hard to accomplish, I am very happy for him.”
Luke Cragg placed eleventh overall in the race with a time of 31:11. This was Cragg third All-American honor in three outings as a Grizzly cross country runner. Martin said of Cragg, “Luke is a tough runner, both mentally and physically. He will perform at his best when the team needs him the most – and he did that again today.”
Following one second behind Cragg was sophomore Craig Huffer of Newry, Victoria, Australia who finished 14th overall with a time of 31:11.9. This event was Huffer’s first cross country championship team event.
Huffer remarked, “It was my first race in the snow, and hopefully my only one.”
Martin commented, “Who would believe you could train in Alamosa, Colorado and only run in snow this season when you arrive in Kentucky.
But even with the weather today, he ran great. Huffer is truly a middle distance runner, I am very proud of how he performed this season over 8k and 10K courses.”
Rounding out the scorers for the team was Keegan Calmes, a sophomore from Wind Lake, Wisconsin. Calmes completed the course in a time of 31:27 for 24th place.
This is Calmes first All-American honor in cross country and his first cross country team championship.
“Keegan continues to improve, since the indoor season last year he has continued to improve. He will surely be a part of our future success, showing consistency at a very high level,” said Martin.
Edwin Cruz, a sophomore, South Fork, Colorado and junior Nathan Sellers, La Cresenta, California completed the team championships by finishing 33rd and 35th respectfully with times of 31:35 and 31:36.
This was Cruz’s first All-American honor and the second for Sellers.
In addition to that, Martin was honored as Division II Men’s Coach of the Year.