Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cross country preview: WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

paulmerca.blogspot.com's cross country series previewing this state's top college and university cross country teams continues, as we head north to Bellingham.

Today's cross country preview features the Western Washington Vikings, coached by Kelvin "Pee Wee" Halsell.


Coach Pee Wee Halsell’s Viking men's cross country team enters the 2008 cross country season ranked 12th in the USTFCCCA NCAA Division II pre-season polls.

After an impressive showing last Saturday at Central Washington University, the Vikings have moved into the #10 spot in the most recent USTFCCCA polls.

Halsell led the Vikings to their third Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship in five years and was named the conference's men's cross country coach of the year, and Western took second in the NCAA Division II West Regional meet.

The Vikings return five of their top seven runners from last year's team that placed 11th at nationals last fall.

Leading the returnees for Halsell, beginning his 22nd season as Western's head coach, is sophomore Bennett Grimes who earned All-America honors as he placed 43rd at nationals.

Also back are sophomore Daniel Phillips, sophomore Blake Medhaug, senior Jon Skelton, and sophomore Jordan Welling.

Sarah Porter is the top returning runner for the Vikings, as she finished 45th at nationals and earned all-star honors by finishing 13th at regionals and ninth at GNAC. Porter was the GNAC freshman of the 2007 season.

The Vikings also return juniors Valerie Matthews, Courtney Olsen and Danielle Slaughter, sophomore Maeve Sayres, and senior Shellane Jensen from their team that finished seventh in the GNAC meet.

"On the women's side, Sarah Porter's going to be out in front, it appears," Halsell said. "We're going to have a gap there behind the lead runner - that's not really a bad thing - but we're closing that gap, and beyond that I think we're going to be a real close group.

"It's pretty exciting. I think we're going to be better teams than we were last year."

They’ll also compete at the Sundodger Invitational Saturday at Lincoln Park.

NOTE: The sports information office at Western Washington University contributed to this report.

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