VCSU's men run Friday at the Jimmie Invite. (Mark Potts/VCSU)
VCSU's men run Friday at the Jimmie Invite. (Mark Potts/VCSU)
Men's Cross Country - Fri, Oct. 6, 2017

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – The Viking men's cross country team sent the message loud and clear Friday; they are conference championship contenders.

For the second straight race, the Vikings defeated NSAA pre-season favorite and defending conference champion Dickinson State University as the teams competed at the Jimmie Invitational on Friday at Parkhurst Cross County Course.

VCSU finished third out of 10 teams at the meet, edging the Blue Hawks by just four team points.

Viking senior Dennis Gonzalez led the way with a sixth-place finish in a blistering time of 25:27. His time was just two seconds off a Top 10 mark in school history, all of which were set by VCSU's dominant teams during the 1980's. It was the fastest 8K time at VCSU since 1987 and the fastest time ever in the history of the North Star Athletic Association.

With Gonzalez's strong finish leading the way, VCSU's depth took care of the rest to make them the top NAIA team at the meet, finishing behind only NCAA Division II schools University of Mary and MSU-Moorhead. The Vikings defeated Division II schools Northern State and Minot State.

Dylan Olson came in strong with a time of 26:25 as VCSU's second finisher, placing 17th overall and recording a score of 16 for the team. Orin Rambow placed 28th (27), Louis Leon was 30th (28) and Joe Celis rounded out the Viking score by placing 34th overall and 31st in the points race. The Vikings showed off their depth as well with Martin Mena (37th) and Zach Nelson (39th) in the Top 40, and Aaron Springer (48th) and Smith Tuya (49th) in the Top 50.

VCSU's team score of 108 was good enough to narrowly edge Dickinson State, which scored 112. The Blue Hawks had their top five finishers in the Top 32 of the race.

Friday's race could be an early preview of how competitive the NSAA championships will be, which are also being held at the Parkhurst Course on Nov. 3.

"Today we were blessed with great weather, a fast course, and the kids responded in kind," said VCSU coach Chris Johnson. "I couldn't be prouder of the way they ran after a week of hard training. The strong competition on both sides brought out the best in us, and I'm excited to see our continued progression in the coming weeks. This will especially be the case when we return to Jamestown next month for the NSAA conference meet."

Up next: Valley City State is off until the Mount Marty Invite on Oct. 21 in Yankton, S.D.