Friday, October 31, 2008

Dawgs win Pac-10 cross country title...

SPRINGFIELD, Oregon--In a most scintillating fashion, the University of Washington women’s cross country team made history in garnering the first perfect score of 15 points in Pacific-10 Conference history, and winning the first conference championship since 1989 at the Springfield Country Club.

On a cool but cloudy day perfect for distance running, Kendra Schaaf (left/photo by Paul Merca), the heralded Canadian freshman, led the Husky charge, taking command of the race from the gun, winning in a course record time of 19:25 over 6000 meters, obliterating Teresa McWalters’ winning mark from the 2007 NCAA West Regional championship time of 19:58.

Sophomore Mel Lawrence was in a pack of fellow Huskies in the chase group and worked her way to a second place finish, crossing the line in 19:53.

Olympic Trials qualifier Christine Babcock, who set the national high school record in the 1600 meter run this spring, placed third after leading the chase pack for most of the race, in a time of 19:54.

Senior Anita Campbell, who was the team leader for the Huskies through most of the 2007 season, finished fourth in a time of 19:58.

Junior Katie Follett finished in fifth, running 20:05, and senior Amanda Miller, who did not run two weeks ago when the Huskies dominated the Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, finished sixth in 20:11.


The top six finishers in the Pac-10 Championships from left, Kendra Schaaf, Mel Lawrence, Christine Babcock, Anita Campbell, Katie Follett & Amanda Miller/photo by Paul Merca


Following Miller was sophomore Lauren Saylor in 12th in 20:32, while sophomore Kenna Patrick placed 23rd in 20:52, while senior Michelle Turner rounded out the Husky harriers in 26th in 21:01.

Former Eastern Washington standout Mattie Bridgemon, a graduate student at the University of Oregon was 15th in 20:41.

For the Cougars of Washington State, Sara Trane, the two-time Pac-10 steeplechase champ, was the top finisher in 20:44. Lisa Egami was 31st in 21:09, followed by Michelly Foley in 42nd at 21:26. Amanda Andrews in 59th (21:51), and Chelsea VanDeBrake was 60th in 21:52 to round out their scorers.

Former Ballard High School standout Kailey Campbell failed to finish, as the Husky experienced breathing problems during the second lap of the race.

After the Huskies, the #2 ranked Oregon Ducks finished second with 55 points, followed by Stanford with 99. Washington State finished fifth with 188 points.

“I didn’t have too much of a plan, I was going by feel, then seeing what happened” said the victorious Schaaf.

In describing the team’s strategy of running together, Schaaf said, “We’re stronger when we’re running together,”

“I’m not really surprised that we ran as well as we did; however, I am surprised that we put up 15 points on the field.”

When asked what can the Huskies do to top the perfect performance, Schaaf said, “We’re happy with what we did. Now we have to keep training and stay focused.”

Describing the perfect accomplishment by the women’s team at this meet, Washington head coach Greg Metcalf said, “This was unprecedented. All year long, we’ve run well—the Sundodger meet, the Auburn meet, and the Pre-Nationals. Today was just another example of what they’ve done every day at practice.”

When asked what’s been the secret behind Washington’s rapid ascension to the top, Metcalf heaped praise upon assistant coach Kelly Strong, who was responsible for recruiting the core of this team, not only in getting the right athlete, but one who blends in with the personality of the team.

“I’ve used the word ‘synergy’ to describe this team all year long. It started a year ago, when we finished eighth at the NCAA meet, running an average race. Last summer, we had girls running at the Olympic Trials here, and our entire team gained momentum from that experience.”

Asked about the number one ranking, Metcalf said, “It really doesn’t mean anything. The cool part about our sport is that in November, 31 teams line up and it’s decided then,
Our goal is to get better every week. We’re better than we were two weeks ago.”

In the men’s race, US Olympian Galen Rupp from Oregon was never challenged, as Rupp also broke the course record over 8000 meters, running 22:56. Freshman Luke Puskedra of the Ducks was a distant second in 23:33, while freshman Chris Derrick was third in 23:39.

The Ducks retained their Pac-10 title with a score of 28 points, followed by Stanford at 47, then a tie for third between Washington and California, with 104 points. Washington State was sixth with 169 points.

Washington’s Jeremy Mineau was the top Husky finisher in tenth, as the senior ran 23:48.

Kelly Spady was 15th in 23:58, followed by Jake Schmitt in 16th at 24:05. Jordan Swartout was 33rd in 24:45, and Colton Tully-Doyle rounded out the Husky scorers in 24:46.

For Washington State, the Cougs were led by Drew Polley in 18th (24:15), followed by Mark Moeller in 26th (24:32). Sam Ahlbeck was 39th in 24:53, followed by Dominic Smargiassi in 41st at 24:56. Justin Englund rounded out the scorers in 57th (25:25).

Among significant runners with Washington ties, former Eastern Washington runner Curtis Suver finished 12th for Oregon in 23:49.

NOTE: Courtesy of runnerspace.com, here's the highlight video of the women's race.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Eastern Washington heads to Portland for Big Sky Conference meet; Gonzaga to WCC meet...

Almost lost in the shuffle of Friday's titanic Pac-10 meet in Springfield is the Big Sky Conference championships in Portland on Saturday, where the Eastern Washington Eagles will travel.

The women will begin at 10 a.m. Pacific time on a 5,000-meter course while the men will start its 8,000-meter race at 11 a.m. The top 10 individual finishers in both races will earn All-Big Sky Conference Honors. Last year, the women finished a best-ever fourth place while the men finished seventh.

However, Eastern’s men are hoping for its best-ever finish, having placed fourth in 2005. Led by the one-two punch of senior Paul Limpf (left/courtesy EWU sports information) and sophomore Alex Smyth, head cross country coach Chris Zeller thinks this is the best Eastern men’s team since the Eagles joined the Big Sky Conference in 1987.

"If we all run what we're capable of, this should be the best team finish since EWU joined NCAA Division I," said Zeller. "We're excited to test ourselves against our Conference competition."

The men are currently ranked ninth in the west in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Regional Rankings. Washington State and Washington are ranked seventh and eighth, respectively. In the mountain region, Big Sky member Northern Arizona University is currently first, with Montana and Montana State ranked 13th and 14th, respectively.

"Our women's team is really young, but there are definitely some teams we expect to be competitive with," said Zeller. " It will also be a great experience for our freshmen for down the road. This is Amber Nickelson's last championship in cross country, so she'll be looking to go out on top with all-conference honors.

"The race is at Blue Lake Park, which is flat and mostly all grass," added Zeller. "The forecast is for rain on Friday and Saturday. If it's dry it will be a real fast course. A wet course will slow it down considerably and make it more of a strength course."

Here's a link to a story on Paul Limpf, courtesy of the Eastern Washington athletic web site...

To read EWU's weekly press release on the Big Sky meet, click here...

Meanwhile, the Gonzaga Bulldogs will travel to Crystal Springs, California to compete in the West Coast Conference championship meet, led by senior Colby Litzenberger and junior Brett Withers on the men's side, and soph Laura Volcheff on the women's side.

PAC-10 CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW: Team preview releases...

Here are some links to team releases for Friday’s Pacific-10 Conference cross country championships at the Springfield Country Club in Springfield, Oregon, hosted by the University of Oregon.

The meet will be shown starting at 3 pm on Comcast Sports Net Northwest (channel 179 in Seattle; you may need to upgrade your cable service), and will be streamed online on both the Pac-10 and University of Oregon sites.

In the true spirit of Halloween, anyone dressed in costume will be admitted to the Springfield Country Club to watch the meet absolutely free, according to Walker!

Arizona

Arizona State

California

Oregon

Oregon State


Southern California

Stanford

UCLA


Washington


Washington State


Since the host University of Oregon and its track/cross country SID Greg Walker is hyping the meet with the theme "This is Thriller" (referring to the potential epic battle on the women's side between the #1 ranked Huskies and the #2 ranked Ducks, not to mention the #1 ranked Ducks and #2 ranked Cardinal on the men's side), we'll even throw in as a special Halloween treat for you (and no, it's not a bag of rocks)...

Click here to watch Michael Jackson's "Thriller"...

paulmerca.blogspot.com will be in Springfield to cover the Pac-10 meet! Look for our coverage Friday!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

PAC-10 CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW: Curtis Suver of Oregon...

Here's a link to an article written by the Eugene Register-Guard's Curtis Anderson on former Tahoma High School and Eastern Washington grad Curtis Suver (left/photo courtesy Eastern Washington University sports information), now running as a fifth year grad student at the University of Oregon, following girlfriend Mattie Bridgemon.

"Suver, the school record-holder in the indoor 3,000 and 5,000 meters, still had one season of cross country and track eligibility remaining, and after receiving clearance to speak with coaches from other schools, he targeted Arizona State, Portland and Oregon.

However, when it came time to make a final decision — Suver ultimately chose the Ducks — he discovered the Eastern Washington athletic department would not support his waiver to sign with another school."

To read the rest of the article, click here...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Raul Sheen officially named sprint coach at UW...

The University of Washington officially confirmed today what paulmerca.blogspot.com posted on Saturday buried underneath a post on Brad Walker and Aretha Thurmond--Raul Sheen (left/photo courtesy Long Beach State sports information) from Long Beach State was named as the sprints/hurdles coach at Huskyville.

Sheen joins the Husky staff following a one-year stint at Long Beach State where he was named the 2008 West Region Assistant Coach of the Year.

"It became increasingly clear to me every time I spoke with Raul that he was a great fit for Washington," said head coach Greg Metcalf. "I had the opportunity to watch the Long Beach State sprinters last year and was impressed without knowing who Raul was. I made an inquiry to the head coach at Long Beach State, Andy Sythe, and he had only great things to say about the work Raul had done there."

Sheen's sprinters had a remarkable amount of success during his one year with the program. Brent Gray earned All-America honors in the 200-meter dash with a 5th-place finish at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships, and won the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the West Regional meet. Gray was named the 2008 Big West Track Athlete of the Year, and also won the MPSF 200m Championship at Washington's own Dempsey Indoor in a facility record time of 20.93 seconds.

"I am extremely excited to be in Seattle joining the Husky family," said Sheen. "Being originally from the Pacific Northwest, it is a bit of a homecoming for me, and I am very excited to join a program that is truly on the rise. Coach Metcalf and his excellent staff have done a great job with the track and field teams, and I am confident this is a team that will be a national power for years to come."

"Raul will continue to build on the momentum our men's sprint/hurdle crew has right now, while at the same time rebuilding our women's group," says Metcalf. "I know that we have a very talented collection of sprinters, both upperclassmen and freshmen, that are hungry to get to work with Coach Sheen and we are excited about what he will add to our program."

To read the full release from the University of Washington, click here...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Start getting pumped for the Pac-10 cross country championships...

The Pacific-10 Conference announced that the Pac-10 cross country championships from Springfield, Oregon will be shown live on Comcast Sports Net Northwest (Comcast channel 179 in Seattle; you may have to upgrade depending on the cable package) Friday October 31st at 3 pm.

The telecast will start with a delayed airing of the women’s race, then proceed into a live showing of the men’s race. In addition, video streaming of the Pac-10 Championships will be available on the Pac-10 website (www.pac-10.org).

Here's the full Pac-10 release:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jessica Pixler leads SPU to fourth straight GNAC team title...


For Jessica Pixler, it wasn't even close. For the winning Seattle Pacific Falcons (above/photo courtesy SPU Sports Information), it was a little closer than expected during Saturday morning's Great Northwest Athletic Conference women's cross country championship race.

Pixler (Sammamish, Wash., Eastlake HS) went to the front almost immediately and stayed there the rest of the way on the 6,000-meter layout at Apple Ridge Run just outside of Yakima. By the time she hit the finish line, Pixler was 39 seconds in front of runner-up Sarah Porter of Western Washington.

Porter, who was undefeated in her four regular-season meets, completed the 6-kilometer course in 21:51.

SPU junior Jane Larson and freshman Natty Plunkett joined her in the top 10, and then it was some crucial pack running behind that trio that helped the Falcons claim their fourth straight team crown.

Seattle Pacific, which won by 75 points last season, got all it could handle from Alaska Anchorage this time. But when the numbers were tallied, the Falcons had the edge on the Seawolves, 48-52, thus making official what already was an all-but-guaranteed trip to Nov. 8 West Regionals in San Diego.

"The girls on the team really stepped up for this race," said Pixler (Sammamish, Wash., Eastlake HS), a junior who is the defending NCAA Division II national champion. "Natty (who was seventh overall) had a great race, and Jane (third overall) had a fantastic race. She proved what a competitor she is. It was a team effort, for sure."

Pixler set the pace for that effort, stopping the watch in 21 minutes, 12 seconds on a day when runners were dealing not only with a hilly course, but with windy conditions, as well. Larson (Fall City, Wash., Cedar Park Christian HS), as she has all season, stayed within a minute of Pixler, crossing the line in 22:06, and fending off a late surge from Alaska Anchorage's combination of Laura Carr and Elizabeth Chepkosgei.

Plunkett (Bellevue, Wash., Newport HS) made it three Falcons in the top 10 when she came through in seventh place in 22:44.

That gave SPU, ranked third in the West Region and 17th nationally, a solid start in the scoring. But it was the group of maroon-clad runners behind them who finished the job.

Junior Kate Harline (Orem, Utah, Orem HS) was 16th in 23:21 as the No. 4 Falcon across the line with another strong run. Then came three in a row: junior Lisa Anderberg (Edmonds, Wash., Kamiak HS) in 21st (23:39), senior Katie Hart (Pasadena, Calif., L.A. Baptist HS) in 22nd (23:47), and freshman Mary Williams (Lake Jackson, Texas, Brazoswood HS) in 23rd (23:49). And while Anchorage had four runners in the top 10, that particular threesome all finished ahead of the Seawolves' fifth and final scorer, which ultimately sealed the title-winning deal.

"Everyone pulled so hard today. It was so exciting to feel that team vibe," said Larson, adding that the Falcons were able to maintain visual contact with their teammates, one of the key elements to team racing. "I could see Jessica (throughout the race), and Natty could see me."

Larson knew the two Alaska Anchorage front runners could see her quite clearly, too, and in fact, they appeared to be closing some ground as they headed up the last hill and into the final 800 meters. But Larson, who finished behind both of them at the Triton Cross Country Classic in San Diego on Oct. 11, pulled away, and actually had her sights set elsewhere.

"I wasn't focusing on (the Anchorage runners) – I was more focused on racing Sarah Porter," Larson said of the Western Washington standout who finished 15 seconds ahead of her in 21:51. "I was very happy with my race. I didn't get my goal of getting Porter. But now, I know what to do at regionals."

Pixler, who like Larson, already has run on the regional course at UC San Diego (she smashed the course record in winning the Triton Cross Country Classic on Oct. 11) also was pleased with her own performance on Saturday.

"I loved it – it was a lot of fun," Pixler said of the Apple Ridge course, which was carved out of (and is still surrounded by) apple orchards. "I started out slower than I usually do. But I wanted to work the middle of the race to prepare for nationals. I have to be strong in the middle. I'm just thankful to God that I was able to run pain-free and give it my best effort."

Added Falcon coach Erika Daligcon, "I was really pleased that Jessica was able to come back and just demonstrate that she can race even if there isn't a lot of competition around. And Jane really impressed me that she was able to get in front of those Anchorage girls."

Plunkett was the first freshman across the line in the race, and thus earned Freshman of the Year honors. Pixler was named Athlete of the Year by virtue of her victory.

The team dedicated the race to senior teammate Suzie Strickler (Richland, Wash., Richland HS), who hasn't been able to run this season because of a foot injury sustained while some some missionary work in Guatemala earlier this year.

"It's wonderful to know that they're giving their all in honor of someone else," Daligcon said.

Added Pixler, making reference to the fact that Strickler has remained with the team throughout the season, "Her attitude has been phenomenal."

GNAC MEN’S RECAP

The Western Washington men, ranked No.13 in the latest United States Cross Country Coaches Association/NCAA Division II Top 25, had its seven counting runners finish within 1:08 of one another. Leading the Vikings was Jordan Welling (So., Burlington/Burlington-Edison), who placed fifth, touring the 8-kilometer course in 25:15. Bennett Grimes (So., Pocatello, ID/Century) was ninth in 25:36 and Blake Medhaug (So., Bothell) 10th in 25:45.

The Alaska Anchorage men snapped a two-year winning streak by Western, finishing with a low score of 34 points in the nine-team race. That was 19 points fewer than Western, with Western Oregon third at 78. It was the third GNAC title for the Seawolves.

Taking the men's individual title was UAA's Marko Cheseto in 24:30. The Seawolves had a 1-2-3 finish with Jacob Parisien second (25:07) and Alfred Kangogo third (25:09).

"We had great performances from both teams," said Western coach Pee Wee Halsell. "It was a very tight grouping of our top seven men and that will help us at regionals."

"Welling ran a superb race. He didn't go out too hard and ran really strong."

Western's Lauren Briehof (Fr., Vancouver/Mountain View) was 12th in 23:14, Rachael Johnson (So., Yakima/West Valley) 15th in 23:20, and Courtney Olsen (Jr., Bellingham/Squalicum) 17th in 23:34.

On the men's side Yonas Berhe (Fr., Seattle/Roosevelt) was 13th in 26:02, Tahoma Khalsa (Jr., Shoreline/Shorecrest) 16th in 26:13, Eric Brill (Fr., Kent/Kentwood) 17th in 26:18 and Sam Bedell (Jr., Reno, NV) 19th in 26:23.

For Seattle Pacific, Brian Cronrath will get another chance. His fourth-place finished guaranteed him a trip to San Diego for the West Regional meet on Nov. 8. It'll be on the same UC San Diego course that Cronrath and teammate Chad Meis ran on Oct. 11 in the Triton Cross Country Classic, a race in which Cronrath took 10th in a personal-best 32:55 for 10,000 meters.

But this time, he'll be the lone SPU runner on the starting line. The Falcons needed a top-four team finish on Saturday to take the whole crew to San Diego, and they fell short by one spot. The Falcons totaled 119 points for fifth place.

NCAA Cross Country
GNAC Championships
Apple Ridge Run, Naches, Wash.

WOMEN'S RESULTS
6,000 meters

Team scores – 1, Seattle Pacific 48; 2, Alaska Anchorage 52; 3, Western Washington 75; 4, Western Oregon 111; 5, Northwest Nazarene 123; 6, Alaska Fairbanks 158; 7, Saint Martin's 179; 8, Central Washington 218; 9, Montana State Billings 253.

Top 10 – 1, Jessica Pixler (SPU) 21:12; 2, Sarah Porter (WWU) 21:51; 3, Jane Larson (SPU) 22:06; 4, Laura Carr (UAA) 22:10; 5, Elizabeth Chepkosgei (UAA) 22:19; 6, Ashley Puga (NWN) 22:37; 7, Natty Plunkett (SPU) 22:44; 8, Hallidie Wilt (UAA) 22:56.24; 9, Jaclyn Puga (NWN) 22:56.86; 10, Ruth Jeptoo Keino (UAA) 23:02.


MEN'S RESULTS
8000 meters

Team scores – 1, Alaska Anchorage 34; 2, Western Washington 53; 3, Western Oregon 78; 4, Saint Martin's 98; 5, Seattle Pacific 119; 6, Alaska Fairbanks 183; 7, Northwest Nazarene 183 (UAF gets higher spot on basis of sixth-runner tiebreaker); 8, Central Washington 213; 9, Montana State Billings 276.

Top 10 – 1, Marko Cheseto (UAA) 24:30; 2, Jacob Parisien (UAA) 25:07; 3, Alfred Kangogo (UAA) 25:09; 4, Brian Cronrath (SPU) 25:10; 5, Jordan Welling (WWU) 25:15; 6, David Kiplagat (UAA) 25:20; 7, Zeke VanPatten (WOU) 25:33; 8, John Riak (St.M) 25:33; 9, Bennett Grimes (WWU) 25:36; 10, Blake Medhaug (WWU) 25:45.


NOTE: The sports information office of Seattle Pacific, Western Washington, and St. Martin's College all contributed to this report.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Brad Walker and Aretha Thurmond honored at halftime of Notre Dame/Washington football game...

While working for ESPN on Saturday night’s Notre Dame/Washington football game and watching yet another brutal performance by the Montlake 11, the University of Washington honored the school’s Summer Olympians, including pole vaulter Brad Walker and discus thrower Aretha Thurmond at halftime.

The Husky Band played several Olympic-themed songs, including “Bugler’s Dream”, and “Olympic Fanfare”, the theme songs used by NBC on its Olympic television coverage, as they introduced Thurmond, Walker, soccer gold medal winning goalie Hope Solo, and several rowers, including Anna Mickelson.

Quite honestly, seeing the Husky Olympians honored during halftime of yet another Husky loss was my highlight. It’s great that Brad and Aretha were honored by the school which helped develop them.

SHEEN TO BE NAMED SPRINT COACH AT WASHINGTON...

Paulmerca.blogspot.com has learned that Raul Sheen, the sprint coach at Long Beach State, is expected to be named the new sprint and hurdles coach at the University of Washington, replacing LaMonte Vaughn, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

It is anticipated that the University will make the official announcement sometime in the next few days.

Sheen was the sprint coach for the 49ers during the 2007-08 season.

Sheen was honored by the United States Track and Field & Cross Country Coaches Association, as the sprint coach was named the West Region Assistant Coach of the Year. Sheen had four athletes run at the NCAA National Championships.

Capped by Brent Gray's wins in the 100m and 200m, the Long Beach State sprinters' success at the Big West Championship played a big part in the men winning the Big West Title. Under Sheen's tutelage, Gray earned a second Big West Track Athlete of the Year honor, and the 49ers won both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays at the Big West Championships.

Additionally, the 49ers grabbed a sprint medley win earlier in the year, winning the race at the prestigious Drake Relays. Gray qualified for both the 100m and 200m dashes at the National Championships, as did the men's 4x100 relay team.

Gray finished fifth at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines in the 200m, running 20.88.

"I'm excited for Raul, and happy to see the coaches recognize our staff for the tremendous job they've done," said LBSU head coach Andy Sythe in June after Sheen was honored by USTFCCCA

Previously, he was at Idaho State University after coaching at the University of New Mexico for a year. Sheen was a member of the ISU track squad for four years and also a coach for one year before his tenure at UNM.

At UNM, he worked as an assistant coach in charge of sprints and in the marketing department for athletics.

During Sheen’s time at ISU, the sprinters accomplished 23 All-Conference performances. They had 8 Conference Champions, broke 7 school records, and qualified 3 individuals and 2 relays to the NCAA West Regional Championships.

Sheen is a native of Rupert, Idaho, where he attended Minico High School. He earned his Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education at ISU in 2002, and his Master's Degree in Athletic Administration from Idaho State University.

Western Washington & Seattle Pacific look to repeat as GNAC champions...

Western Washington will be seeking its third straight men's team title and Seattle Pacific will go after its fourth consecutive women's title in the eighth annual Great Northwest Athletic Conference cross country championships on Saturday October 25th at the Apple Ridge Run Cross Country Facility in Yakima. Central Washington is the host.

The men’s 8k get underway at 10 am, with the women’s 6k following at 11 am.

The Vikings won the men's title each of the past two seasons with identical team scores of 35, just three points off the GNAC record of 32 set by Northwest Nazarene in the inaugural meet in 2001.

WWU, which also won the 2003 championship, returns three athletes that placed in the Top 10 a year ago to earn all-conference honors, but they won't go into the meet as the favorites. That honor will go to Alaska Anchorage, which is currently ranked second in the region and seventh nationally. Six-time defending regional champion Chico State is the No. 1 ranked team in the West.

Back for the Vikings, who are ranked third in the region and 13th nationally, are 2007 NCAA All-American Bennett Grimes, Blake Medhaug and Jordan Welling. They placed third, eighth and 10th last season and are among six returning Top 10 finishers from the 2007 meet at Nampa.

Also back are defending conference and West Region champion John Riak of Saint Martin's and Mike Schmidt and Braxton Jackson of Western Oregon. Riak will be seeking his 16th career victory and his fourth this season. Schmidt and Jackson are back after placing sixth and ninth a year ago.

Another returning all-conference performer is David Kiplagat of Alaska Anchorage, who finished second in 2005 and won the 2006 race, but slipped to 17th last season. He, however, did rebound to place fourth in the regional meet and then earned All-American honors with a 26th place finish at the national meet. Grimes placed 43rd, but was among the Top 30 U.S. born runners to also earn All-American honors.

UAA has had an outstanding fall led by newcomer Marko Cheseto. Cheseto won the UAA Invitational earlier this fall with the second best 8,000 meter time in GNAC history. Last weekend, he led a 2-3-4-5 Seawolf finish at the UCSD Triton Classic.

UAA easily won the team title in the meet which was billed as the NCAA Region preview, though Chico State and Western Washington were absent. Kiplagat finished third in the race behind Cheseto and UAA freshmen Alfred Kangogo and Jacob Parisien placed fourth and fifth.

Riak's wins this year have been at Western Washington, Saint Martin's and in the Apple Ridge Run. Two Western Oregon runners also have posted wins this fall. Chris Reed won the Willamette Grass Course Invitational in September and Zeke Van Patten won the PLU Invitational. The Wolves are currently ranked fifth in the region and also hope to challenge UAA and WWU for conference and regional honors.

In the women's race, Seattle Pacific, which is ranked third in the region and 17th nationally, will be seeking its fourth straight team title and its fifth in six years. Back to lead the Falcons, who won last year's meet with a GNAC-record low 24 points, are three Top 10 finishers including defending national champion and two-time defending GNAC champion Jessica Pixler.

Pixler will try to become the first GNAC athlete to win three conference titles and only the sixth to place in the Top 10 three times. Four other women will also be attempting the latter feat.

Pixler, a two-time cross country All-American, has only one win this fall, but she finished third against predominately Division I competition in the University of Washington Sundodger and placed sixth in the prestigious Stanford Invitational in her other two outings. Her lone win came in the UC San Diego Triton Classic.

Also back for the Falcons is All-American Jane Larson, who finished second in last year's conference meet and ninth at nationals, and Kate Harline, who was 10th in the conference meet.

A top-four finish in the team standings will mean a trip to San Diego for the NCAA West Regionals on Satuday, Nov. 8. That meet will take place at UC San Diego, where four SPU runners – juniors Jessica Pixler (Sammamish, Wash., Eastlake HS) and Jane Larson (Fall City, Wash., Cedar Park Christian HS) from the women's team, along with senior Brian Cronrath (Battle Ground, Wash., Battle Ground HS) and Chad Meis (Renton, Wash., Seattle Christian HS) from the men's – already have competed. (Those four ran in the Triton Cross Country Classic on Oct. 11.)

From there, the top five women's teams and top three men's teams qualify for the NCAA Division II nationals, which are set for Nov. 22 in Slippery Rock, Pa.

SPU is one of three GNAC teams that have been nationally ranked this fall. Alaska Anchorage is currently 19th and Western Washington was ranked earlier this season before dropping out of the Top 25. Currently, the Seawolves and Vikings are fifth and sixth in the West Region.

The top returnee for UAA is Elizabeth Chepkosgei, who placed eighth last year. Earlier this month she placed third at UC San Diego in leading the Seawolves to the team title in the Triton Classic. Also back is Laura Carr who was 10th in 2005 and eighth in 2006 before skipping last season.

Western Washington is led by Sarah Porter, who has a GNAC-best four wins this season (Orca Invitational, Appleridge, UW Sundodger Open Division, WWU Invitational). Porter placed ninth a year ago in the GNAC championship meet to earn Freshman of the Year honors.

Three other GNAC women have won race titles this fall, including UAF's Anna Coulter and Theresia Schnurr and freshman Joscelyn Minton of Saint Martin's. Coulter and Schnurr's wins came in races early in the year in Fairbanks. Minton won the PLU Invitational, earning the first victory by a Saint women in an event with at least three teams during the eight-year history of the conference.

Also competing in the conference meet will be Ashley Puga of Northwest Nazarene and Marcie Mullen of Central Washington. Puga placed third last year in the conference meet, fourth at regionals and 19th at nationals to earn All-American honors. Mullen was sixth in the 2007 GNAC meet.

SPEAKING OF THE FALCONS

As the postseason progresses, Pixler and Larson are expected to remain among the pacesetters. Coach Erika Daligcon said it's what happens behind them that will determine how high the Falcons ultimately fly.

"They're going to be focusing on any gaps (between runners) that may be appearing and on really working as a strong pack," she said. "Going into the season, we had a little motto: The Three C's – Concentration, Calmness and Confidence. Now, it's The Three D's – Decisions Determine Destiny. That means taking care of the little things."

Daligcon added that the Falcons should be helped by the fact that most of them either ran the Apple Ridge course earlier this season, or at least have seen video of it.

"We've been training on surfaces to get us ready," she said.

On the men’s side, Daligcon said her team is setting its sights on placing high enough to earn a trip to regionals.

"We're really focused on being in the top four," she said. "Saint Martin's probably will be our big focus. If we see any of those guys sneaking up around us, we'll be going after them."

Daligon was pleased that both the men's and women's teams got together on their own last week to take an early look at the challenges ahead.

"They sat down to refocus their goals and make sure everyone is on the same page as we go into this part of the season," she said.

NOTE: The Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and the sports information offices of Central Washington, Western Washington, and Seattle Pacific University all contributed to this report.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Running and the incredibly shrinking dollar...

The Running Network’s Larry Eder, who is the publisher of American Track & Field, and other publications, has a very interesting take on the direction of the sport, given the current economic conditions in the United States and around the world.

“Running is something that requires a pair of shoes, at that, some loose fitting clothing, and can be done anywhere. I have run or walked in shopping centers, parking lots, around baseball fields, but the most fun is through trails and park like settings. The truth is, running and walking can be done anywhere.

Running requires a pair of good shoes, which can be found at one of 728 local running stores across the U.S. There are twenty to twenty five brands of running shoes and trail shoes and half of those are excellent product. The others are struggling. Competition in the running and trail categories is brutal and non stop. One either makes it or tries to hang on for the ride. The real laboratory is not in some university, but in any of those stores. As my dear friend, Gary Goettlemann says, " The shoe wall does not lie."

Running will thrive in the current economy. It will thrive because most runners, walkers and would be runners realize that their hour of zen is priceless. The $120 spent on a pair of running shoes pales in comparison to what one spends on the car, even with gas prices dropping. It is a cheap way of providing some solace when the stock portfolio continues to drop, and it is a good friend when you need to work something out, like looking for another job or deciding how to juggle finances for the month.

Running will thrive in this new global financial village, where one person's fear is mulitplied by several million. Where unscrupulous and greedy financiers and investors have compromised a generation of retirement accounts and put into question the very thought of retirement for millions.

First we need to be honest again. Running is all about honesty. Some are fast, some are slow, some are in between. You will probably never see Bill Rodgers walking an eight hour marathon, but you will see three thousand marathon walkers going into local running stores for shoes. Running is a paradigm that allows the slower of us to appreciate the faster of us and vice versa.”

To read Larry’s essay, click here…

Greg Metcalf interview, courtesy Runner's World...

After the successful run by the University of Washington women's cross country team on October 18th at the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Indiana, University of Washington track and cross country coach Greg Metcalf (back turned in white shirt/photo by Paul Merca) talked to Runner's World magazine's Peter Gambaccini about the season so far.

The Huskies' next meet is on Halloween at the Pac-10 Conference cross country championships in Springfield, Oregon, where they will meet the pre-season #1 ranked team in the Oregon Ducks, featuring Olympic Trials qualifier Nicole Blood, and a trio of fifth-year senior transfers in Lindsay Scherf (Harvard), Melissa Grelli (Georgetown), and Mattie Bridgemon (Eastern Washington).

Runner's World: Washington’s performance at Pre-Nationals was obviously very impressive. How close to full strength was your team in terms of personnel?

Greg Metcalf: We left a couple of bodies home. One, in particularly, was Amanda Miller. Amanda was an NCAA finalist last year, indoors and out, the mile and 1500 meters. She was an Olympic Trials qualifier and has run in our top five (in cross country) the last couple of years. She’s a middle distance runner. The way our schedule’s been laid out, we made a conscious decision to leave her home. And Michelle Turner and Kenna Patrick, three young women who could potentially run in our top seven. But, for the most part, on that day, we were essentially at full strength, just minus Amanda Miller.

RW: And it’s a season that has three important meets left. Can you assess how far along your runners were compared to where you want them to be for the NCAA Championships (on November 24)?

GM: Looking at our team, people ask did we expect to go score 36 points. I didn’t really give the point total that much thought as much as I did, in the pre-race conversations with the athletes on our team, about being in the hunt to go win a cross country race. And when you have those conversations, your point total ends up being really low, I guess. But looking especially at our returners and Katie (Follett) and Anita (Campbell), they’re just going to continue to make progress. Last year, Katie ran 21:06 (for 6K) in the Pre-National meet. I think she finished in the 30s, and she was 19th at the NCAA Championships. I thought it (the Pre-Nationals last Saturday) was a very solid day but it’s not the best day we’re going to have this fall, for sure.

RW: But it’s all good news for now, it seems. You are ranked #1, you beat Villanova by 90 points, and you measured up extremely well against teams in the other ("White") race like Florida State. And you’ve been coaching for awhile and doing very well, but is it scary at all to suddenly be at this position at this stage of the season?

GM: Not for one second. It’s not an accident. One year ago, we were at the NCAA Championships. We were sitting in a tent. We’d just finished eighth place, which is our best finish in program history. And I honestly believe we walked away just a little bit disappointed. Three weeks earlier at the Pac-10 Championships, we were two points behind Oregon for second and tied Arizona State for third and they both won trophies at the NCAA Championships (Oregon took second and Arizona State fourth). We had a couple of girls who were sick and didn’t have a great meet, but I think we had kind of missed an opportunity. So we sat there and had a conversation, "it was great, it was positive for eighth place, but this what could have happened, and ultimately, where are we going to be one calendar year from that moment?" I told our women "we can contend to win the NCAA Championship." So being ranked #1 midway through the season, it’s great for our program, great for our young women, but at the same time, it’s just a number. It’s a big compliment of course. And the very, very coolest thing about our sport is that on November 24 (at the NCAA Championships), we all figure it out. It’s as great as any other sporting event out there. There’s no room for discussion. It’s reality.

To read the full article, click here…

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Washington retains #1 spot in USTFCCCA harrier poll...

Thanks to its outstanding performance Saturday at the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Indiana, the University of Washington women's cross country solidified its hold on the number one position in the latest U.S Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll, released Tuesday.

The Huskies placed four women in the top-10 on Saturday scoring 36 points. Washington beat out 11 other ranked teams, including four in the-10 in the Blue Race. Sixth-ranked Villanova finished second to Washington.

Washington picked up all twelve first place votes in this week's poll.

Oregon comes in this week at No. 2 in the poll following their win at the Mike Hodges Invitational. Lindsey Scherf led the Ducks in the race with her first win as an Oregon Duck. Florida State remained at No. 3 in the poll this week, despite their performance in the Pre-National’s White Race. Florida State tied with fourth-ranked Princeton for the White Race team championship.

The University of Washington men's team, moved into the nation's top 30 for the first time this season with its #24 ranking, tied with the University of California.

The Huskies cracked the national poll based on its 11th place showing in the Pre-Nationals meet, where they ran in the White race.

Monday, October 20, 2008

6 Reasons Why You Should Fear the Huskies This Season...

At the risk of being called a "homer", here's a link to an article by Angelina Ramos of trackshark.com on the six reasons why teams should fear the Huskies this season (and no, this is not about the 0 for the season football team)...

While it's a bit premature to call it, Ramos cites sophomore Mel Lawrence (left/photo courtesy Spencer Allen, trackshark.com) as the team's most valuable performer so far this season, saying, "you can count on her to solidify the score every time she toes the line".

While we're on the subject of the Pre-Nationals, here's an interesting entry from Washington State's Drew Polley on the Cougars' adventures in Terre Haute over the weekend, in which freshman runner Emily Farrar left her wallet, identification, and belongings on the plane, and the tires of the team van were slashed, "almost certainly by a Pac-10 foe (UW? ASU?) looking to cheat their way past the formidable WSU squads".

You can read Drew's entry here...


Weekend wrapup: October 18th cross country highlights...

The Pre-Nationals cross country meet wasn't the only game in America for collegiate cross country runners, as Kelly Spady and Kenna Patrick of the University of Washington, and Josh Simpson of Whatcom CC earned victories Saturday at the Cascade Conference cross country preview meet at Lincoln Park.

Spady (#234/photo by Paul Merca) took the victory in the open men’s 6-kilometer race, defeating Washington State’s David Hickerson by six seconds, 18:13 to 18:19.

Washington’s Caleb Knox finished third in 18:29, followed by two UW runners competing unattached, freshman Rob Webster (18:33), and senior Austin Abbott (18:38).

In the women’s 5k race, Washington sophomore Kenna Patrick cruised to a five-second victory over Husky redshirt Mo Huber, winning in 17:17, to Huber’s 17:22. Washington’s Bailey Schutte (17:30) was third, followed by Husky redshirt Adrienne McGuirk (17:31), and Washington’s Brooke Anderson (17:32).

Seattle University’s Katie Hansen was sixth in 18:00. Ashlee Wall was the top Washington State finisher in 18:21.

Whatcom Community College’s Josh Simpson took the individual title in the men’s 8k race with a 25:31, defeating Hassan Khalif, competing for Club Cav, by roughly 40 meters (25:35). Seth Bridges of Northwest University finished third in 25:54, with Nick Cannata-Bowman (25:55) of Seattle University fourth, and Chris Grever of Concordia fifth in 25:59.

The men’s 8k race was marred by a freak accident on the course as Charles Cummings of Concordia, running in the top pack, was attacked by a loose dog with a little more than a mile remaining in the race.

“I’ve never seen anything like this during a race,” Concordia head coach Randy Dalzell said. “We will see how he is doing as the week progresses, but he will probably need take some time off.”

Cummings was immediately taken to the hospital and received medical attention for puncture wounds.

EWU Invitational recap...

The Eastern Washington University men’s and women’s cross country teams took first and fourth, respectively, at the sixth annual EWU Cross Country Invitational Saturday (Oct.18) in Cheney, Wash.

Paul Limpf and Alex Smyth finished 1-2 in the men’s race to help Eastern’s men’s team win the title in the four-team meet over Montana, Calgary and Gonzaga.

Amber Nickelson led the EWU women with a sixth-place finish. Eastern finished fourth, with Calgary winning the women’s title, followed by Montana and Gonzaga.

In the men’s 8,000-meter run, Limpf had a time of 24:54to win the individual title at the EWU Invitational for the first time. Teammate Alex Smyth was second Saturday with a time of 25:01.

Other Eagle men’s finishers included Kyle King (6th, 25:52), Graham Vaux (7th, 25:55), Cody Barton (20th, 26:42) and Cody Bradwell (36th, 27:51).

In the women’s 5,000-meter race, Nickelson finished sixth with a time of 19:00. She was followed by teammate Stephanie Dye, who finished 13th with a time of 19:59

Other EWU women finishers include Brittney Williams (15th, 20:08), Lauren Matthews (21st, 20:57, Kelly Downey (30th, 21:41), Amanda Weaver (36th, 22:10) and April Axtell (40th, 23:19).

Larua Volcheff was the top runner for the Gonzaga women, finishing 11th overall in 19:33 for the 5K course. Molly Funk was 14th in 20:05, Jenne Dilts was 18th in 20:32 and Corrina O'Brien was 19th in 20:35 as Gonzaga placed four runners in the top 20.

Matt Bejar turned in his second straight outstanding performance for the men, finishing 15th in 26:30for the 8K run. Colby Litzenberger was 24th in 26:53

The Bulldogs were without Brett Withers who is nursing a leg injury.

The Eagles will next compete in the Big Sky Conference Championships on Nov. 1 in Portland, Ore., with the women running at 8:30 a.m. and the men at 9:30 a.m. Gonzaga competes at the West Coast Conference Championship Nov. 1 at Crystal Springs Golf Course in Crystal Springs, Calif.

NOTE: The sports information offices of the University of Washington, Northwest University, Concordia College, Washington State University, Gonzaga University, and Eastern Washington University all contributed to this report.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Schaff and Babcock lead Huskies to victory at Pre Nationals in Terre Haute...

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - A phenomenal team effort carried the No. 1 Washington women's cross country team, led by freshmen Kendra Schaaf and Christine Babcock (left/photo by Paul Merca) to a dominating win at the Pre-National Meet this morning, as the Huskies placed four runners in the Top-10 despite taking on 11 ranked teams.

This was the first major challenge for the Huskies and they could hardly have done more to confirm their current ranking as the top team in the nation.

The Pre-National race is the final regular season event for most teams, and always attracts an elite field as it is held on the same LaVern Gibson Championship Course that hosts the NCAA Championships just over a month from now. Washington was one of four Top-10 teams in the current USTFCCCA rankings competing in the Blue Race.

The top-seeded Huskies accumulated a scant 36 points, with second-place Villanova well back with 126 points. Minnesota, ranked fourth in the nation, was third with 198, followed by 9th-ranked Michigan State in fourth with 215, and No. 15 Florida in fifth with 233. For some perspective, one year ago the Stanford women won Pre-Nationals with 102 points on their way to a third-straight NCAA title.

The Huskies placed all five of their scoring runners in the top-20, where many teams would be happy to have one finisher. A trio of Huskies finished together in third, fourth, and fifth places, led by freshman Kendra Schaaf who covered the 6,000-meter course in 20-minutes and 15 seconds. Fellow freshman Christine Babcock was just a split second behind in fourth place, and sophomore Mel Lawrence took fifth in 20:18.

"In talking to our women they honestly thought we could have seven in the top-25," said head coach Greg Metcalf. "We just were very aggressive and at 3K we had five in the top-10 and it just shaped up to be an outstanding day. We just did what we've done every other weekend. Ultimately did I think we would score 36 points? No. But this group is capable of excellence and showed it again today. You know you're going to have great team success when five women are thinking about winning a race."

Washington's two returning All-Americans were the fourth and fifth finishers on the squad. Junior Katie Follett placed 8th in 20:20, and senior Anita Campbell was 16th overall in 20:38. Not to be overlooked was sophomore Lauren Saylor who had a great day coming in 27th in 20:57, and sophomore Kailey Campbell who was 51st in 21:18.

Christine did a phenomenal job. She took a shot and had a lead but (winner Brie Felnagle of Tacoma, competing for North Carolina) kind of stalked her. But for their first run over national course, that was one of the most exciting things today

There is more in the tank for sure, lots more," said Metcalf on the team going forward. "Katie had her best race of the year today but is still getting into shape and needs more time. Anita ran faster today than she did last year (in a 12th-place finish). Christine and Kendra, to run so well in their first time over the national course, that was one of the most exciting parts of the day. Christine did a phenomenal job, and Kendra took a shot at one point and had a ten meter lead, but it was great experience."

Also in the Blue race, the Washington State women’s team finished 16th. Junior Sara Trané (Pixbo, Sweden) continued her consistent performance for the Cougars, finishing the 6,000m women's Blue race in 47th place with a time of 21-minutes, 16 seconds. Junior Lisa Egami (48th, 26.17.0), freshman Michelly Foley (98th, 21:50.7), junior Chelsea VanDeBrake (134th, 22:13.6), and sophomore Amanda Andrews (140th, 22:16.4) also scored for WSU. Emily Farrar and Marisa Sandoval finished 198th and 218nd, respectively.

Junior Jake Schmitt led the men's team with a 27th-place finish in 24:08 for 8,000-meters. He was followed by senior Jeremy Mineau who was 48th in 24:23. A strong third for Washington was junior Colton Tully-Doyle, who placed 68th in 24:39 for his best Husky finish. Senior Jon Harding was 78th in 24:43 and junior Chris Ahl was 85th in 24:48 to round out the scoring. Juniors Jordan Swarthout and Alec Bromka were 103rd and 157th, respectively, to complete the top-seven.

"I thought our men ran solid. We're still following a deliberate plan to run better later in the season at 10,000-meters," said Metcalf. "This was Jake Schmitt's first time on the national course and he was very strong. The guys were out a little harder than they probably should have been, but the West Region did what it needed to do which works to our advantage at Regionals. All in all our men took a step in the right direction."

The women's first-place finish surpassed the fourth-place showing from 2007 as the program's best ever. The Huskies were so impressive, their top-five women averaged 20:21, which equaled the time of the second-place finisher in the women's White Race, held after UW's Blue Race and featuring several more Top-10 teams including No. 3 Florida State. Anita Campbell, who was UW's fifth finisher, would have been the No.1 runner for 4th-ranked Minnesota and 6th-ranked Stanford.

The Washington State men’s team raced in the Blue division, as WSU senior Drew Polley was the top finisher for the Cougar men. Polley finished the 8,000m in 37th place with a time of 24:16.8. The other scorers for the Cougars were junior Sam Ahlbeck (66th, 24:38.3), junior Dominic Smargiassi (92nd, 24:52.5), junior Mark Moeller (124th, 25:06.3), and freshman Justin Englund (177th, 25:30.4). Freshman Jono Lafler also ran for the Cougars and finished 238th respectively.

The WSU men placed 17th out of out of 41 teams in the Blue division.

Up next for the Cougars and Huskies is the Pacific-10 Conference Championships, Oct. 31 in Springfield, Oregon, and for the Husky women, a showdown of titanic proportions with pre-season #1 Oregon, which did not travel to the Pre-Nationals.

NOTE: The sports information offices of the University of Washington and Washington State University contributed to this report.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Huskies and Cougars head to Terre Haute; Zags at EWU Invite; Cascade Conference preview on tap at Lincoln Park...

The biggest challenge to date awaits the Washington men's and women's cross country teams as they converge on Terre Haute, Indiana along with dozens of highly-ranked and highly-regarded opponents for the Pre-National Meet this Saturday, Oct. 18. The No. 1 ranked Husky women's team will be looking to fend off several Top-10 schools and confirm their top seed, while the men's team could make a statement in a deep field that features 12 of the top 30 teams according to the latest USTFCCCA Rankings.

The meet is run over the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, the same course that will host the NCAA Championships just over one month later, on Nov. 24. Indiana State hosts the meet and earliest results will be posted to www.GoSycamores.com.

With over 80 teams entering the meet, the field is split into two races, and seeded evenly based on the USTFCCCA rankings and taking some considerations as to separating conference teams. Thus, Pre-Nationals features a White Race and Blue Race for both the men and the women. The Husky women are in the Blue Race, while the men are in the White Race.

Washington's women, who hold the No. 1 ranking for the second-straight week, will be tested by 11 teams ranked in the Top-30, led by No. 4 Minnesota, No. 6 Stanford, No. 9 Michigan State. Also running with the Dawgs will be Villanova (No. 13), Florida (15), Wisconsin (16), North Carolina State (18), Providence (21), Rice (24), BYU (26), and New Mexico (27). This will be the first of what will likely be four-straight meetings between UW and Stanford, the three-time defending NCAA Champions. The Huskies and Cardinal will meet next at the Pac-10 Championships, followed by NCAA West Regionals, and potentially the NCAA Championships back in Terre Haute.

Leading the Huskies is freshman Kendra Schaaf, winner of her first two college races by a combined 41 seconds. She will face a field loaded with NCAA All-Americans and will get to gauge where she ranks with the nation's best at this early stage in her career. Freshman Christine Babcock and sophomore Mel Lawrence, the second and third-place finishers at the recent Tiger Invite, will also look for breakout showings against an elite field.

The Husky men's team is one of 40 schools competing in the Blue Race, with 12 of those teams appearing in the Top-30. Currently receiving votes but residing outside the Top-30, Washington has an opportunity to gain respect as well as wins over potential NCAA Championship teams that factor into NCAA at-large bids. The Blue Race features third-ranked Colorado and seventh-ranked Iona, as well as three ranked Pac-10 teams in No. 10 Stanford, No. 23 UCLA, and No. 25 California, therefore a strong showing at Pre-Nats could give the Huskies a boost going into the conference meet at the end of the month.

Washington State will also send their teams to Terre Haute to gauge how the Cougars match up against the rest of the nation.

"I am excited to see both teams compete at the Pre-National meet in Indiana," WSU Head Coach Jason Drake said. "On the men's side there are 32 of the top 37 teams in the country, and 29 of the top 38 in the country on the women's side. This meet is a fantastic measuring stick to see where we stack up on the national scene."

Washington State will be represented by seven runners at the Pre-Nationals meet...juniors Sara Trané, Chelsea VanDeBrake, Lisa Egami and Marisa Sandoval lead the Cougars...also competing in Indiana are sophomore Amanda Andrews and freshmen Michelly Foley and Emily Farrar.

On the men's side, representing WSU this weekend will be senior captain Drew Polley and senior Evan Blanshan along with juniors Sam Ahlbeck, Dominic Smargiassi, and Mark Moeller...also competing will be freshmen Jono Lafler and Justin Englund...

Those Huskies not traveling to Terre Haute will be out in West Seattle running on UW's home course, but as a visiting team. Washington will send several runners to compete in the Cascade Conference Preview Meet hosted by Northwest University at Lincoln Park, the site of the Huskies' annual Sundodger Invitational. The meet begins at 10:30 a.m. with the women's 5000-meter run, followed by the men's 8000-meter race at 11:15 a.m.

Sophomores Stephanie Sipes and Ashlee Wall and freshmen Mietra Smollack and Sarah Dunn will head to Seattle for the Cascade Conference Preview. Sophomores David Hickerson, Luke Lemenager, Peter Miller and Jeremy Swenson will also travel to Seattle, for the Cascade Conference Preview.

Seattle University will also send athletes to the Cascade Conference Preview meet, as will Seattle Pacific University.

EASTERN HOSTS INVITE FEATURING GONZAGA

The Eastern Washington University cross country teams will compete Saturday (Oct. 18) in Cheney, Wash., as the Eagles host the sixth annual EWU Cross Country Invitational.

The women will begin at 10 a.m. on a 5,000-meter course, followed by the men's 8,000-meter race at 10:30 a.m. Both races take place on campus at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center.

On the men’s side the Eagles are led by senior Paul Limpf, who finished sixth at the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 3. He finished the five-mile course with a time of 23:42, trailing the winner by just 10 seconds.

That race earned Limpf Big Sky Conference Athlete of the Week honors for the third time this season. He also won the honor after winning and setting the new course record at the Sundodger Invitational on Sept. 20 with a time of 23:33 in the 8,000-meter race to help give his team a third-place victory over Gonzaga and Idaho. He also was honored at Eastern’s first meet at the Clash of the Inland Northwest (Sept. 6).

On the women’s side, the Eagles are led by senior Amber Nickelson, who finished 10th at the Montana Invitational on Oct. 4. She had a time of 18:52 in the 5,000-meter race, just 42 seconds behind first-place finisher Sara Trane of Washington State.


NOTES: WSU junior Dan Geib has suffered a stress fracture to his femur and will miss the remainder of the cross country season...the University of Washington is close to naming a new sprint & hurdles coach to replace LaMonte Vaughn, Jr., who resigned a few weeks ago. Coach Greg Metcalf said that an offer's been made to a candidate. It's expected that an announcement will be made after the Huskies return from the Pre-Nationals.

The sports information offices of the University of Washington, Washington State, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific, Gonzaga, and Eastern Washington all contributed to this report.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jayda Evans writes on the Husky women's cross country team...

Seattle Times sports reporter Jayda Evans has a great article on the University of Washington cross country team in Thursday's edition.

"Surrounded by her teammates under a white tent on a cold fall day last year, Anita Campbell knew she should feel some pride in Washington's eighth-place finish at the NCAA cross country championships, the best placing in school history.

But all she felt was frustration, the same as close friend Katie Follett, who finished 20th, one spot behind Campbell, both of them earning All-America honors.

"All we kept thinking when we were done was, 'What if someone [a UW teammate] had been right behind us?' " Campbell said. "It was definitely somber and we knew we could do better."

Campbell had to rebound from a stress fracture in her right tibia, which slowed her times her junior season. While Campbell recovered, assistant coach Kelly Strong took the recruiting lead, helping bring in Metcalf's best recruiting class."

To read the rest of the article, click here...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Huskies remain #1 in USTFCCCA rankings...

NEW ORLEANS – The Washington Huskies remained the top ranked team in the women’s Division I cross country poll. However, the Huskies lost three first-place votes in the poll this week, as the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced the women’s poll on Tuesday.

Washington received 9 first-place votes and 357 points overall, while second-ranked Oregon picked up the remaining three first-place votes and 350 points. Both Washington and Oregon will be in action this weekend as Washington will travel east to Terre Haute for the Indiana State Pre-Nationals event on Saturday while Oregon will stay in-state and compete at the Mike Hodges Invitational at Clackamas Community College. All-in-all 23 of the women’s top 30 ranked teams will be in Terre Haute for the annual event.

No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Minnesota, No. 5 Princeton, and No. 6 Stanford will also be traveling to Terre Haute this coming weekend. No. 7 West Virginia will be at Penn State this weekend for the Penn State Invitational.

Eighth-ranked Arizona State and ninth-ranked Michigan State will run at the Pre-Nationals event. No. 10 Arkansas hosts the Chile Pepper Festival this weekend and will welcome No. 23 SMU and No. 29 Texas Tech to Fayetteville.

The Women's Division I Cross Country National Poll:

Ranking

Team (1st place votes)




Totals

Previous

1

Washington - (9)




357

1

2

Oregon - (3)




350

2

3

Florida State




336

3

4

Minnesota




320

4

5

Princeton




307

5

6

Stanford




295

6

7

West Virginia




285

7

8

Arizona State




276

8

9

Michigan State




271

9

10

Arkansas




254

10


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chicago Marathon...

7:09 am--Welcome to paulmerca.blogspot.com's coverage of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. We are posting from the Hilton Chicago hotel, the race headquarters.

With less than an hour to go before the start, it's about 65 degrees and about 70% humidity. By the time noon rolls around, we're projecting around 72 degrees, and 68% humidity.

For those of you reading in the state of Washington, the stats we've been provided by the Chicago Marathon folks show that there are 245 entrants from the Evergreen State among the 40000+ runners signed up to run here today.

7:50 am--The wheelchair racers are on their way, with the elite runners getting ready to roll in a few minutes. The Chicago Marathon folks now announce that about 34500 runners have picked up their packets and chips.

7:55 am--The elites are on their way. Their are two pace makers in the men's race, who are supposed to take the runners to 1:02:45.

8:00 am--First mile went through at 4:51, as the masses get under way. Meanwhile, the women went through in 6:04.

8:06 am--No real change...second mile is at 4:50 on the men's side. Incidentally, there are 94 runners here from Seattle, according to the stats from the Chicago Marathon.

8:10 am--15:00 is what the lead group of eleven went through 5 kilometers. David Mandango of Kenya is the reluctant leader, flanked by the pacers....the women just went through in 18:31.

8:20 am--The usual cast of suspects are hanging out here in the press room. In front of me is Amby Burfoot of Runner's World, and Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune. Sitting in my row are David Monti of Race Results Weekly, and Larry Eder of the Running Network. The runners in the men's race went through 5 miles in 24:00, around 2:06:30 pace.

Former NCAA champ Boaz Cheboiywo is one of the designated pacers.

8:25 am--The men roll through 10k at 29:48, roughly about the same pace as the leaders in the Olympics. That's roughly 2:06:20 pace. It's quicker than when Khalid Khanoucchi set the world record here in 1999.

8:29 am--From watching the television screen, if you didn't know any better, you'd think that Constantina Tomescu-Dita wasn't wearing anything, with the gold outfit that Asics has her wearing, which almost blends in with her skin tone. Anyway, the women go through 10k at 36:30.

8:38 am--In the women's race, Colleen De Reuck and Kate O'Neill are in the front of the pack.

8:43 am--The 15k split was 44:43, and now the 10 mile split's been announced at 47:54. Mutai, Mandago, Cheboiywo, Kipsang, Limo, Salim Kipsang, Evans Cheruiyot & Daniel Njenga are still in it.

We've now gotten word that both pace makers have dropped out. The temperature on the course is 72 degrees and 54% humidity.

8:50 am--4:38 for mile 11, the quickest of the race! Mutai leads a single file group of five. Race reporter Toni Reavis comments on television that the pack looks like a pack at 23 miles, and not 11.

8:55 am--Some observations from Amby Burfoot of Runner's World:

"Emmanuel Mutai has taken the lead, working it pretty good. He ran 2:06:29 to win Amsterdam last fall, so he knows how to run this pace and how to win. He's closely followed by tall David Mandanago, who has a best of 2:07:23. Mutai just ran a 4:38 mile, the fastest of the race. Four are lined up in single file behind Mutai: also Kipsang, Arusei and Limo.

Daniel Njenga seems to be falling off the pack. He was reportedly running 200 miles a week to improve on string of second and third-place finishes. But it looks like his strategy might not have worked. Men's pacers are gone now, so it will be interesting to see if the pace holds up."

8:57 am--They are ahead of course record pace. Richard Limo is is fourth, away from the lead trio of Emmanuel Mutai, David Madago, and Evans Cheruiyot. Course observers say that Limo is just biding his time, and waving to the crowd. Limo is the 2001 world champ at 5000 meters. 1:02:27 is what the trio went through the half-marathon.

1:03:59 is what the women went through 11 miles.

9:05 am--Just as a heads up to you folks reading the blog, I will be leaving around 9:30 or so to walk to the finish of the race to shoot some photos, as this is a one-man operation. I suggest that folks go to chicagomarathon.runnersworld.com or runblogrun.com to catch the rest of the race...

The official start numbers were 32889.

9:11 am--In the women's race, former University of Kansas runner Paige Higgins was among the leaders. Higgins finished seventh in 2:40:14 last year.

Alevtina Biktimirova of Russia is the women's leader through the half-marathon at 1:16:03. There's a group of 11 at the halfway point, and just as I type, eight runners have been dropped. with Biktimorova, countrywoman Lidiya Grigoreyva and Bezunesh Bekele of Ethiopia having broken away from the big pack.

9:20 am--It's now down to two with Mandago and Cheruiyot. In the women's race, it's now down to the two Russians.

9:26 am--They are on pace for 2:05:20 for the distance. If you are watching on universalsports.com, Madago is the taller of the two runners wearing the blue Nike uniform.

9:35 am--We are departing the Chicago Hilton to go to the finish line of the race and try to get some photos. We will leave you in the capable hands of Larry Eder at runblogrun.com, and Amby Burfoot at chicagomarathon.runnersworld.com.

11:30 am--We are back...Evans Cheruiyot (photo above by Paul Merca) won the Chicago Marathon in a time of 2:06:25. Lidiya Grigoryeva of Russia won the women's race in 2:27:17.

Some quotes from Evans Cheruiyot:

"I was looking to push the pace. At about 18 miles, David Mandago was moving up by doing some fartlek to try and break me, but I kept steady.

I am looking to maybe open a supermarket in Eldoret with the money I won today.

During the Olympics, I was in Eldoret watching Sammy Wanjiru winning the marathon with a bunch of friends."

I had a slight problem with my leg during training, but the heat wasn’t as big a factor.

The race developed slowly, and I was very confident with my speed. I will donate part of my winnings to a church in my hometown.

I was very surprised that nobody went with us when we picked up the pace.

12:00 pm--Quotes from winner Lidiya Grigoryeva (left/photo by Paul Merca) from Russia:

I had a slight problem with my leg during training, but the heat wasn’t as big a factor.

The race developed slowly, and I was very confident with my speed. I will donate part of my winnings to a church in my hometown.

I was very surprised that nobody went with us when we picked up the pace.

12:10 pm: Top 10 men: 1) Evans Cheruiyot, Kenya, 2:06:25; 2) David Mandago, Kenya, 2:07:37; 3) Timothy Cherigat, Kenya, 2:13:53; 4) Wesley Korir, Louisville KY, 2:13:53; 5) Martin Lauret, Netherlands, 2:15:10; 6) Emmanuel Mutai, Kenya, 2:15:36; 7) Mike Reneau, USA, 2:16:20; 8) William Kipsang, Kenya, 2;16:41; 9) Daniel Njenga, Kenya, 2:17:33; 10) Richard Limo, Kenya, 2:18:48.

12:15 pm: Top 10 women: 1) Lidiya Grigoryeva, Russia, 2:27:17; 2) Alevtina Biktimirova, Russia, 2:29:32; 3) Kiyoko Shimahara, Japan, 2:30:19; 4) Constantina Dita-Tomescu, Romania, 2:30:57; 5) Desiree Davila, Rochester Hills, Michigan, 2:31:33; 6) Colleen De Reuck, Boulder, 2:32:25 (American masters record); 7) Bezunesh Bekele, Ethiopia, 2:32:41; 8) Paige Higgins, Flagstaff, AZ, 2:33:06; 9) Kate O'Neill, USA, 2:34:04; 10) Berhane Adere, Ethiopia, 2:34:16.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Two part article on the Husky women's cross country team...

Here's a link to a two part article from trackshark.com on the meteoric rise of the University of Washington women's cross country team, and a group interview with Michelle Turner, Amanda Miller (left, at Olympic Trials/photo by Paul Merca), Katie Follett, and Christine Babcock, written by Angelina Ramos.

Some highlights:

Trackshark.com: Tell me your favorite quirky or awesome thing about a member of your coaching staff, but whatever you can in 15-20 seconds, ok Go!

ALL 4:
(Coach Greg) Metcalf+ espresso = METCAFFINATED…says it all!

Metcalf favorite words=
frickin’ outstanding, fan-freakin’-tastic

Metcalf fact: owns more shoes than the entire cross team combined!

Loveable Kelly= HUGS! She’s famous for them, braids all of our hair before races, superb artistic ability, without her we wouldn’t last because she is the glue to our team!

Trackshark.com:
Coaching a women’s team to become ranked #1 in the nation, easily working over a typical 40 hour work week, and training at the Olympic Trials qualifying level (qualifying in 2000, 2004 and in 2008) in the steeplechase, both which are easily seen as one very time-consuming full-time job…how do you do both simultaneously and excel the way you have?

Kelly Strong: I try not to think about “how many hours worked” in a week because it’s such an enjoyable job. On my birthday, I got to hang out with our women’s team for breakfast, then with a fabulous recruit AND Lauren Saylor! It was awesome! I am surrounded by wonderful people and it doesn’t seem like work most of the time.

I’ve been coaching and training since 2002. I’ve been fortunate enough to be sponsored by Asics. They have been so good to me in terms of support and supplying equipment. Coach Metcalf has been incredibly flexible with my schedule and allows me to have time for my training. I treat coaching/training as 2 separate jobs even though they are related. I get my individual training done in the morning so that I can focus on coaching the rest of the day.

I have to admit, it was tough leading up to the trials. Trying to be more selfish with my needs was hard…having an Achilles injury made it even more challenging. Ultimately, I continued running professionally for the 2008 Olympics. To see it slip away was a struggle. The trials ended up being an amazing experience though, because being there as an athlete was obviously great, but I was just so proud of our girls (all four athletes interviewed competed at the Trials)! I walked away from a poor race and was able to switch roles and put on another hat: my coaching hat…how many people can say that?

To read the full article, click here for part one; and here for part two...

Off to Chicago!

paulmerca.blogspot.com will be covering this weekend's Bank of America Chicago Marathon, (photo of runners courtesy Chicago Marathon) and the Nike Spring 2009 Running Media Summit!

We'll be covering the various pro runners competing in Chicago, including reigning women's Olympic champion Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania, and top seeded Richard Limo of Kenya.

Look for reports from the Windy City beginning Saturday!

Western Washington to host WWU Invitational...

The Western Washington Vikings return to action on Saturday as they host the WWU Invitational at Lake Padden Park.

Western is currently ranked #15 in the latest men's poll.

The Vikings, led on the women's side by Sarah Porter, who won the open race at the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle three weeks ago, have been idle. In that time, they dropped out of the top 25 in the current USTFCCCA Division II poll, released Wednesday.

In that same poll, the Seattle Pacific women's team dropped to #17.

The Falcons will send most of their squad to Bellingham to run in the WWU Invite, except for Jessica Pixler (Sammamish, Wash., Eastlake HS) and Jane Larson (Fall City, Wash., Cedar Park Christian HS) on the women's side, along with senior Brian Cronrath (Battle Ground, Wash., Battle Ground HS) and Chad Meis (Renton, Wash., Seattle Christian HS) on the men's side – will fly south to San Diego for the UC San Diego Triton Classic. It will offer all four of them a chance to preview the course on the UCSD campus that will be the site for next month's NCAA West Regional meet. The men will run 10,000 meters, the women will go 6,000.

Central Washington will also send runners to Bellingham; meanwhile, the University of Puget Sound will stay close to home and compete in the Pacific Lutheran University Invitational at the University Golf Course in Parkland.

All five Division I schools--Washington, Washington State, Gonzaga, Eastern Washington, and Seattle University--have the weekend off.

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

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Phil Hersh's top ten women's marathoners of all time...

As a kickoff to paulmerca.blogspot.com's coverage of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune, who is one of the best Olympic beat writers, compiled on the Los Angeles Times' web site a list of the top ten women's marathoners of all time.

Hersh's caveat: "Because there were no championship marathons for women until the early 1980s, it was impossible to rank any of the standout pioneer female marathoners, like Jacqueline Hansen of the U.S. and Chantal Langlace of France, each of whom set two world records in the 1970s".

His list:

1. Catherine Ndereba (left/photo by Paul Merca)
2. Grete Waitz
3. Paula Radcliffe
4. Joan Benoit Samuelson
5. Rosa Mota
6. Lidia Simon
7. Katrin Dorre
8. Ingrid Kristiansen
9. Valentina Yegorova
10. Naoko Takahashi

You can read his article here, along with his rationales on why they're ranked where they are...

I'd be interested in hearing what you folks think and also why you think so-and-so should be ranked higher or lower. If you choose to accept this mission, please send in your top female marathoners in via the comments section.

Fire away!

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