Travis Running 2020

Eastern Oregon University's Travis Running rounds a corner during a cross-country race in the 2020 season. Running, a senior, was Eastern's top finisher at 13th overall in the NAIA Men's Cross-Country Championships on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — It was a solid showing from the Eastern Oregon University cross-country program, which made some noise at the national championships.

The men’s team, led by a 13th-place finish from senior Travis Running, took 20th place overall out of 36 teams at the NAIA National Championships in Vancouver, Washington, on Friday, Nov. 19. The Mountaineers scored 498 points to finish fifth out of the Cascade Collegiate Conference schools in attendance.

“We were disappointed to finish 20th because we wanted to place in the top 15, but it wasn’t a disappointing performance because everyone competed well,” head coach Ben Welch said. “I was really happy with how we competed.”

Running clocked a 25:25.7 in the 8K to break into the top-15 and finish with the fourth best time from a CCC runner. The senior has one more year of eligibility and will return as Eastern’s front runner next season.

“I was very pleased with Travis,” Welch said. “He ran tactically well and put himself in good positions.”

The next finisher was freshman Justin Ash at 121st overall. The former Powder Valley High School standout ran a time of 26:56.5 at his first career NAIA National Championships. Another true freshman, former La Grande High School runner Cristian Mendoza, was the next finisher for Eastern at 27:07.5. Mendoza finished 145th overall, averaging a time of 5:28 per mile.

“They work hard and compete every race,” Welch said of the freshmen duo. “This experience will go a long way for them.”

Sophomore Jonathan Wind (27:11.3) and senior Benjen Lilly (27:26.5) were the next two finishers for the Mountaineers at 153rd and 181st.

Junior Hunter Nichols placed 187th with a time of 27:30 after finishing as Eastern’s second faster runner at the conference championships. Nichols lost a shoe early on in the race and had to work his way up from near the back of the pack.

“To end up as high as he did was really good,” Welch said.

Sophomore Bennett Welch rounded out Eastern’s men’s runners with a time of 28:00.1 to place 242nd overall.

The College of Idaho’s Logan Hunt placed third overall with a time of 24:58.9 and was the top runner from the CCC. Milligan University (Tennessee) won the men’s team championship with 115 points. Oklahoma City’s Zouhair Talbi, the reigning champion, won the individual men’s title with a time of 24:43.1.

In the women’s 5K race, Eastern senior Michelle Herbes placed 157th out of 339 runners with a time of 20:02.5. Herbes dealt with injuries throughout the season and missed races early in this year.

“It was a quality effort,” Welch said. “Obviously she isn’t satisfied with her finish, but I thought she did some things better at this meet than in the past.”

Herbes came in at 93rd at the one-kilometer mark and 99th at the two-kilometer checkpoint. Herbes was in 171st at the four-kilometer mark and turned on the jets to close out the final kilometer. Herbes wrapped up her season after a 14th-place finish at the Cascade Collegiate Conference Championships. Herbes will also have another year of eligibility to return to Eastern next season.

Milligan won the women’s team title with 120 points, sweeping both races at the NAIA National Championships.

The College of Idaho’s Ellyse Tingelstad was the top CCC finisher, taking eighth place overall with a time of 18:35. The Yotes were the top-placing team in the conference at fifth overall.

At the conclusion of the cross-country season, the Mountaineers will begin transitioning into track & field competition. Eastern’s indoor track season starts on Jan. 14 at the Washington State University Cougar Classic in Spokane, Washington.

“Effort-wise, I’m really pleased with everyone today,” Welch said.

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