Thursday, November 8, 2007

NCAA West Regional cross country championships are Saturday in Springfield, Oregon...

Galen Rupp (l) and reigning Pac-10 harrier champ Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott lead #1 ranked Oregon into Saturday's NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championships in Springfield, Oregon. /photo by Paul Merca

The cross country season reaches a head for the Washington, Washington State, Eastern Washington & Gonzaga men’s and women’s teams this weekend as they compete at NCAA West Regionals in Springfield, Ore. Regional finishes will determine which teams advance to the NCAA Championships on Nov. 19 in Terre Haute, Ind.

Eugene-Springfield is one of nine host sites across the nation that automatically advance the top two team finishers and top four individuals from non-qualifying teams to the NCAA Championships, scheduled for Monday, November 19 at Indiana State University’s LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind.

Another 13 at-large teams and two at-large individuals will be added from across the nation to the 31-team, 255-runner M&W NCAA fields on the evening of Sun., Nov. 11. At-large team selection criteria is based on teams’ head-to-head records against other actual and potential NCAA qualifiers.

The Husky women’s team will be looking to secure its first NCAA bid since 2004, and will be among the top contenders in the loaded regional field. The men will be aiming for their fourth appearance in the past five years. Oregon, which boasts the No. 1-ranked men and No. 2 women, hosts the event at the Springfield Country Club.

Stanford’s Nef Araia is the returning men’s regional champion and the top NCAA returnee from last year after he took second in the collegiate finale. Oregon’s Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwoot is the reigning Pac-10 champion and teammate Galen Rupp is the American collegiate record-holder at 10,000-meters on the track, the same distance as the regionals.

Seniors Andrew Jones and Alex Grant lead the WSU men. Junior Drew Polley, sophomore Daniel Geib and redshirt sophomore Sam Ahlbeck are projected scorers for WSU, and rounding out the squad are redshirt sophomore Dominic Smargiassi and redshirt freshman Luke Lemenager

For the Huskies, coach Greg Metcalf projects running redshirt freshman Riley Booker, juniors Jon Harding and Caleb Knox; freshman Max O’Donoghue-McDonald; seniors Carl Moe & Adam Shimer; and sophomores Kelly Spady & Colton Tully-Doyle (one from this group is traveling as an alternate).

There is little room to argue at the moment that the women’s West Region is anything but the best in the country. One need look no further than the current rankings, which show four West teams in the top-seven while no other region has more than one. Top-ranked Stanford is followed by No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Arizona State, and No. 7 Washington. Also competing are No. 22 Northern Arizona, No. 27 UC Santa Barbara, the Big West champions, and West Coast Conference champions Portland.

The Husky women set a record by placing three runners on the All-Pac-10 team, led by first teamer Anita Campbell, who placed sixth in 20:10. Katie Follett earned second team honors with her ninth place finish, and Mel Lawrence joined Follett on the second team by virtue of her 13th-place run in her first Pac-10’s. Follett made the biggest leap from the previous year, going 79th to 9th. Amanda Miller also had a big day, finishing 15th, just one spot out of the conference honors.

Also projected to run for the Dawgs in Springfield are senior Trisha Rasmussen, freshman Lauren Saylor , and junior Dani Schuster

The Cougars are led by senior Isley Gonzalez, sophomore Sara Trané, and junior Meghan Leonard, who all placed in the top-25 at the 2007 Pacific-10 Championships. Senior Collier Lawrence looks to improve on recent performances, while freshman Ashlee Wall and sophomores Lisa Egami and Chelsea VanDeBrake complete the women's line-up.

Stanford claimed its eighth-straight regional title last year then followed up with an NCAA Championship victory. Also advancing out of the region was UCSB (9th at NCAA’s) and Arizona State (13th at NCAA’s). Stanford boasts the two prohibitive individual favorites in two-time defending Pac-10 and Regional Champion Arianna Lambie, and Teresa McWalters, runner-up at Pac-10’s.

Eastern has three athletes with a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Paul Limpf, Mattie Bridgmon and Samantha Modderman all earned All-Big Sky Conference honors by finishing in the top 10 at the BSC Championships on Oct. 27.

Limpf is a junior from Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Wash. and graduated in 2005. Bridgmon is a junior from Laramie, Wyo., who graduated from Laramie HS in 2005, while Modderman is a senior from Walker, Minn., who graduated from Kenowa Hills HS '04 and transferred from Cedarville Univ.

"Paul Limpf, Mattie Bridgmon, and Samantha Modderman hope to be one of the top four individuals and qualify for the National Championships," said EWU cross country coach Chris Zeller. "More teams will qualify in the men's race, which will help Paul's chances a bit. All three are incredibly fit and feeling good right now."

The Bulldogs of Gonzaga will be led by Colby Litzenberger (20th), and Molly Funk(30th), who were the top finishers in the West Coast Conference meet two weeks ago.

For the first posting of results, please visit www.ncaasports.com.

NOTE: The sports information offices of the University of Washington, Washington State University, Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University, the University of Oregon & the NCAA all contributed to this report.

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