VANCOUVER, Wash. — The 2017 NAIA Cross Country Championships took place on Saturday at the Fort Vancouver Historic Site, in Vancouver with Julio Martinez making a return appearance.

Martinez, a senior from Phoenix, finished 226th out of 326 in a time of 27:15, which betters his time from last year by 46 seconds. Martinez was the first BC male runner to ever qualify for nationals.

Mark Shaw of Oklahoma City University won the race in 24:09, followed by Geoffrey Kipchumba of William Carey in 24:19 and Kieran Lumb of the University of British Columbia in third in 24:27.

With over 300 competitors, the starting line boasts a wide area for everyone to be equals, and from there begins to funnel runners into closer proximity. The course was laid out to be completed in four laps, with each lap being 2,000 meters long. It featured a straightaway with a gradual hill, and after runners eclipsed the top, they trekked back down with a right-hand sweep. Martinez found himself around the 300th place at the beginning.

"We lost sight of him with all the runners being piled up at the start, but saw him make his move closer to the second and third laps," BC coach Jeff Hoskisson said. "Julio worked his way up during the race, and finished substantially better from last year, close to a minute faster. It was a great way to close out his career."

Martinez finished 291st out of 331 competitors last season, when the national championships were held in Elsah, Illinois.

"Despite some of the challenges I faced which included hitting a side-stitch with roughly 2,000 meters to go in the race I feel very proud to have set the way for future Threshers in the coming years," Martinez said.

Martinez will now focus on his final seasons of indoor and outdoor track. Martinez was the individual champion in the 800-meter run at the KCAC Outdoor Championships last spring, and will look to not only repeat, but qualify for nationals this year.

Bethel opens the indoor track season Jan. 13 at the Scott Nisely Classic in Crete, Neb.