Nic Maszk said it was a surprise when he won the men’s Cascade Collegiate Conference championship race a year ago, and knew it would take a major effort to duplicate the result this fall.

No problem for the Eastern Oregon senior.

Maszk pulled away in the final mile to claim his second straight title and lead the
No. 8 EOU men’s cross country team to a third-place finish at the CCC Championships Saturday at Lane Farms east of La Grande.

“This year I knew I’d have to do a lot to even be up in the top five again,” he said. “To win it again, I was telling everyone the second time is so much sweeter. The teams are just better. Everyone wants it. There’s several guys in this conference who could win this race.”

Maszk, according to EOU head coach Ben Welch, executed the gameplan perfectly. Maszk hung in with a large group of runners bunched up at the early stages of the race, and he said at about the 5K mark the pack began to break up.

That’s when he made his move.

“Around 5K, 6K, it (was) time to go,” Maszk said. “I felt like there wasn’t a person out here who had it over me (Saturday). It was just a matter of putting in the work.”

He ended up with a nearly nine-second victory, posting a time of 25 minutes, 23.80 seconds.

“I was surprised he had that big of a gap and was just stretching it out with no real problems,” Welch said of Maszk. “The plan was to hang out with those guys about four miles and then start putting the hurt on them.”

Maszk’s effort paced EOU to 80 points, just eight behind second-place College of Idaho. Southern Oregon ran away with 42 points.

EOU had a shot at second place before Thomas Morrell III, who was running in the top 10 most of the race, came up lame with a hamstring cramp with a little more than a mile to go.

Welch credited the rest of the EOU runners for stepping up in the wake of Morrell going down.

“That bodes well for us going into nationals that we’ve got guys willing to step up,” he said.

The rest of EOU’s top five included 13th-place Lane Inwards (26:08.40), 15th-place Alex Navarro (26:14.90), Dustin Zimmerly in 20th (26:27.40) and Nick Duffy in 33rd (26:53.00).

“The rest of the guys ran really well,” Welch said. “Our team time was 2:16 faster than it was at the conference (preview in September).”

On the women’s side, Rachel Roelle earned her second consecutive bid to nationals by taking sixth in a time of 18:43.40.

Her effort led EOU to a sixth-place finish as a team in the loaded women’s race with 130 points.

“We were only 10 points out of fifth, and that’s to a team (Northwest) that is just outside of the top 25,” Welch said. “That’s a massive improvement over the beginning of the year.”

Oregon Tech put three runners in the top 10 to take the team title with 53 points. College of Idaho (68) came in second, just ahead of SOU (69).

Along with Roelle, Lisa Megargee cracked the top 20 for Eastern in 18th place (19:19.60). Stormy Bullard (20:25.60) came in 32nd, Megan Boals (20:28.90) was 35th and Brylee Moyle (20:48.60) came in 40th.

The NAIA National Championships take place Nov. 18 in Vancouver, Washington.