Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cross country preview: WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY's cross country series previewing this state's top college and university cross country teams continues, as we stay east of the Cascade Mountains.

Today's cross country preview features the Washington State Cougars, coached by Jason Drake.

In what arguably was one of the country's toughest conferences, the Cougar women's team finished fifth in the Pac-10 meet, behind four teams that placed in the top ten at the NCAA meet--national champ Stanford, runner-up Oregon, fourth place Arizona State, and eighth place Washington.

The Cougs, like all the other D-1 teams on the east side of the Cascades, opened up at the Clash of the Great Northwest meet in Spokane last Saturday, with the women winning decisively, and the men finishing second by six points behind Eastern Washington.

Washington State will appear a week from Saturday at the Sundodger Invitational at Seattle's Lincoln Park.

The Cougar women’s squad returns Swedish junior Sara TranĂ©, as the Pac-10 steeplechase champ was a consistent top finisher, including the first Cougar woman to cross the line at the Griak Invite, Pre-Nationals, and NCAA West Regionals.

Also returning for the women are Amanda Andrews, Lisa Egami, Marisa Sandoval, Chelsea VanDeBrake, Ashlee Wall, all of whom ran at the Pac-10 Championships, where they finished fifth, just behind the Huskies.

Joining the Cougars this fall are Mietra Smollack from Oak Harbor, who won the state 4A meet at 1600 meters (4:56.44), and finished second in the 800 meters, and Michelly Foley, from Crook County HS in Prineville, Oregon, who was the 5A state champ in the 3000 (10:04.97), and finished second in the 1500m (4:43.72). Emily Farrar from Bainbridge High, who was sixth in the state 3A 1600 adds depth to the Cougs.

Cougar cross country coach Jason Drake’s top returning runner from the squad that finished seventh in the Pac-10 Championships is senior Drew Polley, who finished 25th at the NCAA West Regional Championship, earning All-West-Region honors.

Washington State returns Sam Ahlbeck, Daniel Geib, David Hickerson, Luke Lemenager, and Dominic Smargiassi, all of whom competed at the Pac-10 Championships. Drake felt that the younger runners gained experience and posted finishes that show promise for the 2008 cross country squads.

The Cougars add to their roster Jono Lafler from Tahoma High in Maple Valley, who finished second in the state 4A 3200 meters (9:18.61), along with Justin Englund from Decatur HS, who finished behind Lafler (9:19.83).

On the men’s side, Drake feels that leadership will be a key to how the 2008 Cougars fare this fall. He feels that the Cougars have the talent and the experience to succeed this fall, if one of their veterans can help rein the group together.

“The women’s team lost four of the top five runners from last year,” said Drake. “So it’s a rebuilding year for the women.” With a league as tough as the Pacific 10 Conference, it is going to take depth in order for the Cougars to continue their improvement from the 2007 season.

NOTE: The sports information office at Washington State University assisted with this report.

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