Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pixler repeats as NCAA D-II West Regional champ; WWU survives rerun to advance...

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Jessica Pixler will get to take a run at her second national cross country title. And the Seattle Pacific women will get to take another run at their first.

Not quite a full month after she obliterated the UC San Diego course record, Pixler did it again Saturday morning. The Falcons junior (Sammamish, Wash., Eastlake HS) covered 6,000 meters in 20 minutes. 57.1 seconds, leading SPU to a national-qualifying second-place team finish in the NCAA West Regional championships.

Seattle Pacific, ranked 12th nationally in Division II and third in the West coming into the meet, finished with 92 points. Chico State, No. 3 in the country and top-ranked in the West, won with 60.

Next stop for the Falcons is Slippery Rock, Pa., on Nov. 22 for the D-II nationals. With Pixler winning the championship, Seattle Pacific was second behind Adams State in last year’s national meet.

“I’m happy and satisfied going into it,” SPU coach Erika Daligcon said. “We’re looking forward to doing some good things there.

Junior Jane Larson (Fall City, Wash., Cedar Park Christian HS) joined Pixler in the top 10, taking eighth place in 22:15.6. Natty Plunkett (Bellevue, Wash., Newport HS), who earned Great Northwest Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year honors two weeks ago, came through with a 15th-place finish in 22:42.5, thus joining Pixler and Larson on the All-Region team.

For the second time in a month, Pixler left the UCSD course record way behind her, along with the rest of her competition. In the Triton Cross Country Classic on Oct. 11, Pixler won going away in 21 minutes, 12.3 seconds. That easily beat the old standard of 21:50, which was set in 2007, and gave Pixler a 17-second margin of victory.

On Saturday, Pixler was even faster -- and even farther in front. She became the first woman to break the 21-minute mark and crossed the line almost 37 seconds in front of runner-up and former University of Washington standout Tori Tyler, now competing for Chico State. Tyler clocked in at 21:33.9.

Following Larson and Plunkett across the line came freshman Mary Williams (Lake Jackson, Texas), who was 30th overall in 23:37.0. Junior Kate Harline (Orem, Utah) completed SPU’s five-runner scoring group, placing 38th in 23:50. One spot behind her was junior Lisa Anderberg (Edmonds, Wash., Kamiak HS) in 23:51, and senior Katie Hart (Pasadena, Calif.) was 43rd in 23:59.

“We knew we were going to get in the top five, but we weren’t sure how the points were going to go,” Daligcon said. “I thought they ran really well. Our gaps (in the pack) weren’t quite as evident as in the past, and people were really trying to move up.”


Everything was going so well for Brian Cronrath. The Seattle Pacific men’s cross country star was running with the lead pack in Saturday morning’s NCAA West Regional championships, well within sight of a high finish and a trip to the Division II nationals.

But the most unexpected of circumstances ultimately derailed that dream. And by the end of the day, in a race that ultimately had to be rerun, Cronrath wound up one place shy of earning a ticket to Pennsylvania for nationals.

“He was racing hard and going for it,” Falcons coach Erika Daligcon said of Cronrath, who wound up running about 10 miles on Saturday -- four miles in the first race that was halted, and the full 6.2-mile (10,000-meter) distance in the rerun. “He gave it everything he had.”

Cronrath, a senior (Battle Ground, Wash., Battle Ground HS) and junior teammate Chad Meis (Renton, Wash., Seattle Christian HS) were competing as individuals. The Falcons did not send their full team to regionals following a fifth-place finish in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships on Oct. 25 in Naches, Wash.

That meant it would take a top-five overall finish, or being one of the top two runners who were not a member of the three qualifying teams to gain a spot in the national meet.

Cronrath was well within one of those spots in the initial race.

But on the UC San Diego course which crisscrosses in several places, the bicyclist who rides ahead of the lead pack to show the way inadvertently took a wrong turn near the four-mile mark. The front-running group, which included Cronrath, followed.

By the time it was realized that they had gone astray, some of the runners behind them, including Meis, already had figured out what happened. They stayed on course, and now were the lead runners themselves. The first group eventually worked its way back onto the right route and was moving toward the front again.

“By the time I saw Brian, things were getting relatively back into order,” Daligcon said.

But by that point, meet officials had decided to step in and halt the race, scheduling a rerun for 11 a.m., after the conclusion of the women’s race. That left less than two hours of recovery time for a field that already had gone more than half the distance of the race. However, officials felt they couldn’t start any later because of airline flight schedules for teams that were traveling.

In the rerun, Cronrath crossed the line 15th in 33 minutes, 45.5 seconds. Jake LeVieux of UC San Diego finished 14th in 33:41.1, taking the second individual qualifying spot. John Riak of Saint Martin’s was third overall in 32:35.1 to earn the top individual qualifying spot.

SPU’s Meis finished 17th in 34:03.8.

“I told the guys that there were certain things we can’t control, and this is one of them,” Daligcon said. “The only thing we can control is our attitude. … But at the end of the day, it was tough to swallow.”


For the first time since joining the NCAA in 1998, Western Washington University is sending both its men's and women's cross country teams to nationals in the same season.

The Viking men placed third and the women finished fifth at the NCAA II West Regional on Saturday to qualify for the national championships on Nov. 22 at Slippery Rock, Penn. Both entered the meet ranked among the top 25 nationally in the latest United State Cross Country Coaches Association/NCAA II Top 25 with the men No.11 and the women No.25.

It will be the first NCAA national appearance for the Western women and the third for the men, who will be making their second straight trip. The last national appearance for the women was as an NAIA member in 1996 and the last time both squads went to nationals in the same year was in 1994.

"I'm very, very happy," said Western coach Pee Wee Halsell (22nd year). "This is an amazing accomplishment, and even more so considering the circumstances."

Chico State, the pre-meet favorite, won its seventh straight men's title with 28 points, followed by Alaska Anchorage (67) and Western (103) in the 18-team field.

"They looked about as haggard as I've ever seen them," said Halsell of his squad following the second run. "It was their training that got them through it, and the fact that they stayed positive and got after it. Making it even more amazing was that they did it in 80-degree heat."

Jordan Welling (So., Burlington/Burlington-Edison) placed eighth to lead the Vikings, completing the 10-kilometer course in 33:19.2. Bennett Grimes (So., Pocatello, ID/Century) was 11th (33:30.5), Yonas Berhe (Fr., Seattle/Roosevelt) 21st (34:22.9), Tahoma Khalsa (Jr., Shoreline/Shorecrest) 34th (34:53.3), Blake Medhaug (So., Bothell) 35th (34:56.0) and Sam Bedell (Jr., Reno, NV) 36th (35:003.6). Eric Brill (Fr., Kent/Kentwood) did not compete in the second race because of illness.

Chico State's Scott Bauhs took the individual title in 32:15.8, nine seconds ahead of Mark Cheseto (32:24.6) from Alaska Anchorage, with Saint Martin's John Riak third (32:35.1).

Chico State also won the women's run, dominating a field of 24 teams with 60 points. The Wildcats were followed by defending champion Seattle Pacific (92), Alaska Anchorage (104), Cal State L.A. (141) and Western (141).

The Vikings, who placed 10th last year, were ranked sixth coming into the meet behind host UC San Diego. But they finished 62 points ahead of the Tritons, who were sixth.

"They ran an awesome race," Halsell said. "They (UC San Diego) didn't get us in one match-up."

"What a turnaround from last year. They decided that they wanted to do it and went out and did the training this summer. They caught what the men have been doing for the last five years and they just went for it."

Sarah Porter (So., Hockinson) led Western as she placed third, being clocked in 21:38.1 over the 6-kilometer distance. Seattle Pacific's Jessica Pixler took top honors in 20:57.1 with Chico State's Tori Tyler second in 21:33.9.

Western's Courtney Olsen (Jr., Bellingham/Squalicum) was 26th (23:25.6), Lauren Briehof (Fr., Vancouver/Mountain View) 28th (23:33.7), Danielle Slaughter (Jr., Spokane/Shadle Park) 31st (23:41.7), Rachael Johnson (So., Yakima/West Valley) 53rd (24:10.4), Phoebe Hartnett (Fr., San Diego, CA/Patrick Henry) 54th (24:15.5), and McKinley Williams (So., Federal Way/Todd Beamer) 57th (24:20.3).

The Western men, who were second at regionals last year, placed 11th at nationals last fall and 13th in 2003.

Bennett, Porter and Welling all received regional all-star honors which went to the top 15 finishers in both races. Porter competed at nationals last year as an individual.

NOTE: The sports information offices of Seattle Pacific and Western Washington University contributed to this report.

No comments:

Blog Archive