Nic Maszk said it felt weird having a major meet as the season opener for the Eastern Oregon cross country team, explaining the team usually has a smaller meet to help it get back into racing mode.

Because of that — and due to an intense training routine that he said is geared more for success at the end of the season — he wasn’t at all disappointed with the No. 5 Mountaineers taking third at the Cascade Collegiate Conference Preview Saturday at Lane Farms east of La Grande.

“I think we had a good front end,” Maszk said. “We just need some of those guys who are (team placers) five through eight to develop a little bit more throughout the season. I’m not really worried….I think we have a solid five. It’s just early.”

Maszk led EOU with a seventh-place finish, completing the 8K course in 26 minutes, 7.50 seconds. As a team, EOU finished with 79 points behind meet champion Lewis-Clark State (62) and College of Idaho (66), who are ranked seventh and 10th in the nation, respectively.

“I was really happy with (the men),” head coach Ben Welch said. “The plan was to get out conservative. They maybe got out a little too conservative, but they were making up massive quantities of ground at the end. I’m not disappointed with that. It’s early. It’s our first race.”

Thomas Morrell III followed Maszk by taking 12th for the Mountaineers in 26:25.20. Lane Inwards (26:35.10) followed in 14th, Alex Navarro (26:39.80) came in 17th and Dustin Zimmerly (27:42.00) placed 38th.

The EOU women, led by an eighth-place finish by senior Rachel Roelle, took seventh with 151 points. College of Idaho, the No. 4 team in the country, coasted to victory with 39 points and landed five runners in the top 12.

“It felt like an opener, for sure, trying to get the rust off,” Roelle said.

Roelle finished the 5K course in 19:27.40.

“We’re so used to having a low-key meet to get that rust off and figure out where everyone is on the team,” she added. “With this, it felt like a big meet for the first meet. Almost everyone in the conference is here. A lot of competition. It was fun.”

Freshman Megan Boals followed by taking 22nd in a time of 20:17.50, and Lisa Megargee, in her first collegiate race, placed 35th (21:04.20). Stormy Bullard (21:36.70) came in 46th, and Alexa Jones (21:48.00) finished 48th.

“I thought they raced pretty well for where we’re at,” Welch said of the women. “We have a couple younger gals that have work to do as far as race fitness. We’re pointing for November. We got a lot of work to do but they’re willing to do the work.”

Eastern next travels to the Willamette Invitational Sept. 30.

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