Nuggets, Rush run into record books at GCAC meet

Nuggets, Rush run into record books at GCAC meet
October 20, 2012

Results:  Men    Women           Facebook photos:  Men    Women

     CLINTON, Miss. — Xavier University of Louisiana's Zahri Jackson and Matt Pieri won individual titles Saturday, and the Gold Nuggets and Gold Rush extended their dominance of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships.
     Jackson, a sophomore, repeated as women's individual champion in a school-record 18 minutes, 54.69 seconds for 5,000 meters. Sophomore teammate Catherine Fakler was next in 18:55.20 — nearly 40 seconds faster than her previous best — and she and Jackson recorded the second- and third-fastest 5K times at this meet since 1998.
     Pieri, a senior, ran 8,000 meters in 26:54.21 — the fastest at this meet since 2003 — to win the men's individual title for the second time in three years. He joined Spring Hill's Patrick Aucoin (2007-08) and Mobile's Keith Melanson (1993-94) as men's multiple champions. Pieri's victory gave the Gold Rush a fourth consecutive men's individual title. Kwame Jackson, Zahri's brother and the 2011 champion, was third in 28:20.91. Freshman David Holobowicz ran second in a career-best 27:38.62.
     Both the Gold Rush and Gold Nuggets won team championships for the seventh consecutive year. Both recorded perfect scores with 15 points. Xavier had the first six women's finishers. The Nuggets won by 63 points, the Rush by 39.
     Both XU teams earned automatic bids to the NAIA National Championships on Nov. 17 at Vancouver, Wash. The Rush and Nuggets qualified for the second consecutive year and the fourth time in five seasons.
     The Nuggets tied a GCAC women's record for consecutive team championships. The Rush are the first GCAC team to win seven consecutive men's titles since Mobile won 10 in a row from 1990-99.
     Jackson, who set XU's previous 5K mark of 19:15.18 in her second collegiate meet, outsprinted Fakler in the final 200 yards to become the first GCAC female repeat champion since XU's Katrina Davis in 2002-03 and the league's fifth multiple women's champion.
     "My performances have fluctuated this season," said Jackson, beaten twice by Fakler in 6,000-meter races. "My lower right calf and Achilles have been bothering me all season. I rested a lot this week and felt good today. I wanted to go under 19 minutes. The reason I did was because Catherine was there to push me."
     Said Fakler, "It was a great race. It was nice to run with Zahri the whole race. Zahri has speed and a really good kick, so if you're going to beat her, you have to do it early."
     XU's Joseph Moses was voted GCAC Coach of the Year for the seventh consecutive year in the men's division and the fourth consecutive year and the sixth time in seven years in the women's division.
     Xavier's perfect team scores were the first at the GCAC meet since Mobile's men and women did it in 1996.
     Pieri became the fifth Gold Rush runner to be named All-GCAC four times. He never finished lower than fourth in a conference meet.
     "This was a complete 180 from last season," Pieri said. "Last year I was dealing with a couple of nagging injuries and finished third. This season I just tried to perfect my stride to completely eliminate those small injuries. It took a couple of months to do it, but it was worth it.
     "This season has just been fun. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to run with. They sent me out in style, and I owe all my accomplishments to them and Coach Moses."
     The top 10 male and female finishers were designated All-GCAC. Six from each XU team earned that honor. Zahri Jackson, Fakler, Briana Simms (third place, 19:38.78), Hali Yarmush (fourth, 20:01.20), Hannah Finnegan (fifth, 20:02.61) and Donyé Coleman (sixth, 20:42.52) were the Nuggets' All-GCAC runners. The Gold Rush all-conference runners were Pieri, Holobowicz, Kwame Jackson, Aaron Yarmush (fourth in a personal-best 28:34.74), Javon Mead (fifth, 29:05.38) and Emmanuel Detiege (eighth, 30:14.98). Coleman and Mead were all-conference for the third consecutive year.
     The times of Simms, Hali Yarmush and Finnegan rank among the 16 fastest in the program's history. Coleman's time was her fastest at Xavier, and Paige Rochelle (13th, 23:02.77) ran a personal best.