Saturday, November 29, 2008

Schaaf defends Canadian junior cross country title...

University of Washington freshman Kendra Schaaf has successfully defended her Canadian junior cross country championship this morning in Guelph, Ontario.

Schaaf ran 17:24 for the 5-kilometer distance under cold but sunny skies, defeating her nearest competition by 12 seconds.

As a result of winning her second straight Canadian junior title, Schaaf is eligible to represent Canada at the NACAC Cross Country Championships, scheduled for early March in Orlando, Florida, and at the IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships on March 28th in Amman, Jordan.

Schaaf is the reigning NACAC champion, and finished 20th at last year's world championships in Edinburgh, Scotland.

According to UW coach Greg Metcalf, the conditions in Guelph were 20 degrees warmer than last year, where the competitors traversed a sheet of ice.

The full post-race interview with Metcalf can be seen below, courtesy of media partner Flotrack.

Visit Flotrack For More Videos

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kendra Schaaf to defend Canadian junior harrier title...

University of Washington freshman Kendra Schaaf, fresh off a twelfth place finish in Monday’s NCAA cross country championships in Terre Haute, Indiana, will defend her junior national championship Saturday at the Canadian Cross Country Championships in Guelph, Ontario, beginning at noon, local time.

Schaaf will run for her club in Saskatchewan, the Queen City Striders. She’ll compete against a field which includes last year’s runner-up, Lindsay Carson of Cambridge, Ontario.

Schaaf won this year’s NACAC cross country title in Orlando, Florida, then followed it up with a 20th place finish at the IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland. She won the Pac-10 cross country championship on October 31st, helping the Huskies score the first perfect score of 15 points in conference history.

Courtesy of media partner Flotrack, here's an interview with Kendra and club teammate Simon Bairu, the former University of Wisconsin standout now training in the Portland area with college coach Jerry Schumacher and the Nike Oregon Project.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!


As our Thanksgiving gift to you, here's the NCAA cross country highlight video, produced by our media partner, Flotrack...enjoy!

Visit Flotrack For More Videos

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Art Thiel's take on the Dawgs...

Here's sports columnist Art Thiel's take on the University of Washington women's cross country team, scheduled to be published in Wednesday's edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

"THE CELEBRATION WAS a little shy of the victory parade the city gave the Sonics in 1979 for winning the NBA championship.

Then again, the University of Washington women's cross country team isn't leaving town because the city failed to build luxury suites for fans to watch them run along the Burke-Gilman Trail.

A single bus -- no police escort -- brought the champs Tuesday to a tidy, damp salute in front of the Graves Building along Montlake Boulevard. The band, cheerleaders and a few dozen students, relatives and athletic staff members cheered in the light rain. Even football coach Tyrone Willingham showed his support, perhaps to jog his memory of how such things are supposed to look.

The salute was light on ticker tape.

But for Seattle sports lately, it was as good as it gets.

If you have cared enough to read this far, here's the takeaway point:

They came, they ran, they kicked national butt."

To read the full column, click here...

Incidentally, here's one of three parts of the CBS College Sports' coverage of the NCAA Cross Country Championships that was posted on YouTube (disclaimer--this clip may be gone by the time people get to it)...




And now, a diversion away from cross country...

Here's a story from the Vancouver Columbian written by US Olympic javelin thrower Kara Patterson updating everyone on what her life's been like after the Olympics.

"I think it was really good for me to come back from China and jump directly into the fall semester’s class schedule. I was excited about the normalcy of walking around campus and attending classes with people in my major who I really enjoy being around.

Professors were very understanding that I missed the first two days of lessons, thankfully! They were actually pretty excited to have me in their classes.

This summer after the Trials, the athletic department at Purdue (mainly our track and field staff) had a little get-together for me to celebrate my qualification for the Olympic team, and many of my nutrition, fitness, and health professors attended. It was really touching to feel their support outside of the classroom, since sometimes academics and athletics seem to battle more than they coincide.

I’m taking a wine appreciation class this semester, and we get to taste wines in the classroom. It is optional to propose a toast in class, and the first day this semester that we tasted wine, our professor proposed a toast to me. That was pretty cool, as the class is held in the largest lecture hall on campus.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet with and speak to a few different groups of people around campus and the greater Lafayette area about my experiences in Beijing, and it is always such an honor to do so. I am so grateful each time for the chance to simply say thank you to all the people that make what I do on the javelin runway possible."

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

Links on Washington's victory...


Here are some links to some of the major publications and web sites covering Washington's historic victory Monday at the NCAA Cross Country Championships:

The Seattle Times

Seattle Post-Intelligencer


University of Washington Daily

--Daily coverage of the viewing party at the Ram

Terre Haute Tribune-Star


Flotrack

Trackshark


For those of you in the Seattle area that can make it to welcome the team, the team bus will arrive in front of the Tubby Graves Building (UW Athletic office) around noon.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Washington wins NCAA cross country title...

Thanks to solid top-25 finishes by freshmen Christine Babcock (left/photo by Paul Merca), Kendra Schaaf, and Mel Lawrence, the University of Washington women’s cross country teams finished off the job they set out to accomplish in winning the school’s first NCAA harrier title, scoring 79 points.

The Huskies join an illustrious group of one dozen schools who have won NCAA team titles since 1981, the first year that women contested NCAA titles.

Babcock, the former national high school record holder in the 1500 meters from Irvine, California, worked her way through the pack of finish seventh in a time of 20:02.

Fellow frosh Kendra Schaaf did not get out as hard as many cross country experts had expected and placed twelfth in 20:18.

True to the Huskies’ season long mantra of pack running, sophomore Mel Lawrence finished 25th in 20:33, with junior Katie Follett one place behind, in the same time.

Senior Amanda Miller, running her final race as a Husky, rounded out Washington’s scorers, placing 34th in 20:37, giving the Dawgs a 1-5 split of 35 seconds, one second off their season long average of 34 seconds.

Sophomore Lauren Saylor finished 41st in 20:4, and senior Anita Campbell, a 2007 cross country All American, placing 51st in 20:51.

“I was trying not to focus too much on the battle up front, and stayed calm,” said Babcock. “I’m a better finisher when I stay calm. I was trying to wait until people started coming back to me.”

When asked about her thoughts entering the last long straightaway in the race, Babcock said, “All I was thinking about was making it to the finish line.”

Speaking for the seniors on the team, Anita Campbell said, “We kept focus on our ultimate goal all year long. Today we did what we were supposed to do, and everything we were supposed to do was done.”

“We were nervous, but we’ve been through big races this year. Our efforts were methodical, and a few of us got caught in the back, but we stayed calm, and kept moving up. No one got too excited (about the early predicament), and freaked out.”

“To see Amanda (Miller) get All American in her final race was special, and I couldn’t be happier for her”

The Huskies were behind the Oregon Ducks in the team race at the two kilometer checkpoint, but the pack worked its way out of their early predicament.


"The race plan honestly, about 1500 meters in I thought we were a little back," said 12th-year head coach Greg Metcalf (left/photo by Paul Merca). "It actually didn't go according to plan. But, they did what they've done all year long. After the 3k, they moved and ran better after that. Our front team of Christine Babcock and Kendra Schaaf were in the lead pack right where they needed to be. They did a great job. And Mel and Katie closed well and lowered our team's score dramatically after halfway. Things didn't go 100% as planned, but I won't get greedy. It was good to win."

Just missing the top-40 cutoff for All-America honors was sophomore Lauren Saylor (Clovis, Calif.), who was 41st overall and missed 40th-place by one tenth of a second. Saylor was the very last finisher at NCAA's one year ago as her body shut down near the finish, but ran her best race of the year today and exorcised any memories of a year ago.

Rounding out UW's top-seven was senior Anita Campbell (Vancouver, B.C.), who was making her fourth-straight NCAA Championship appearance. Campbell competed as an individual as a freshman and sophomore when the Huskies didn't qualify as a team, but just two short years later she ends her cross country career as a national champion. Campbell did not have her best day of the season, but still placed 51st overall in 20:50.4. Her finish would have been in the top-five for every other team in the meet.

"Honestly all year long this has been the expectation of our group," said Metcalf. "I talked to the President of the University of Washington, Mark Emmert, on the phone and he talked to our kids. That's pretty cool. Our Athletic Director, Scott Woodward, is here. It's great for the city of Seattle, it's great for the University of Washington, it's great for the young women on our team, it's great for our coaching staff. It's outstanding."

The only question facing the team now seems to be just how many they can win. Washington snapped Stanford's streak of three-straight titles, and UW will certainly be a preseason favorite next year as well, with four runners in the top-41 having two or more years remaining.

"To come here as the favorite and get the win, it says a lot about where we come in the last four years, and the direction from here. We only graduate two seniors. We should be better next year, so all is good in Seattle right now."

Conditions were cold and damp, and strong winds lowered the temperatures even more, but the overall feel was not too different from a typical cold winter day in Seattle.

Junior Katie Follett was asked about the conditions post-race and said she felt right at home.

"It was pretty cold out there today, but we're used to training in the rain," said Follett. "We were actually pretty excited when we saw the weather this morning because we're used to it. We're the Huskies from Seattle."

Texas Tech senior Sally Kipyego earned a three-peat, as the two-time defending champion prevailed after an early challenge from Florida State’s Susan Kuijken, winning in a course record time of 19:29. Kujiken took the runner-up position in 19:35, with Tasmin Fanning of Virginia Tech third in 19:38.

Former Tacoma prep standout Brie Felnagle of the University of North Carolina placed fourth in 19:54.

Former Eastern Washington standout Mattie Bridgmon placed 40th in 20:44, squeezing out Lauren Saylor for the final individual All-American spot.

After the Huskies, Oregon took second in the team race with 131 points. Florida State was third with 163, and West Virginia fourth at 198 points.

In the men’s competition, US Olympian Galen Rupp of the University of Oregon used a strong finishing kick in the final straightaway to win his first ever NCAA individual title to repel the early challenge of front-running sophomore Samuel Chelanga of Liberty.

Rupp, the Duck senior, broke the tape in 29:04, with Chelanga second in 29:08.

Senior Andrew Ledwith of Iona finished third in 29:26, while former Inglemoor High School product David Kinsella, a senior at the University of Portland was a surprising fourth in 29:27.

The day was also a success for Washington's men's team but their 18th-place finish was made somewhat bittersweet by the fact that they had to run without senior Jeremy Mineau, UW's top finisher at Pac-10's and Regionals. Mineau had a foot problem flare up over the past few days and was just unable to go. Still, the team wouldn't have been in Terre Haute without him and the rest of his teammates greatly picked up the slack, as the Huskies were ranked just 21st even with Mineau coming in.

Junior Jake Schmitt paced the Huskies in 58th-place, running the 10,000-meters in 30:32.6. Schmitt was followed by junior Kelly Spady (86th-place; 30:47.2), junior Jordan Swarthout (108th; 30:58.0), senior Jon Harding (142nd; 31:11.7), and junior Colton Tully-Doyle (154th; 31:19.0). Junior Chris Ahl was UW's sixth finisher in 234th, and junior Alec Bromka stepped in for the injured Mineau to place 236th.

Schmitt's finish capped an outstanding first season for the former transfer from California. His 58th-place run was the second-best finish for a Husky male since 1998.

This was the second Top-20 finish for the men's program in the past three seasons, after not cracking the Top-20 from 1994 all the way up until 2006.

Senior Paul Limpf of Eastern Washington finished 73rd in 30:40.

The University of Washington will host a welcoming rally Tuesday at noon at the Graves Building, and will be honored at a reception on December 1st, tentatively scheduled for 4 pm at the Don James Center, according to UW athletics marketing director Leslie Wurzberger.

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

BOOM! SHAKA-LAKA!!! (NCAA edition)...


DAWGS WIN!

Anticipation...

"We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway, yay

And I wonder if I'm really with you now

Or just chasin' after some finer day

Anticipation, anticipation
Is makin' me late
Is keepin' me waitin'

--Carly Simon, "Anticipation"

TERRE HAUTE, Indiana--This sums up my personal feelings as I awake to head to the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in a few hours to cover the NCAA Cross Country Championships for Northwest Runner, and for CBS College Sports, where I will be assisting the production team with statistical information for the live telecast at 9 am pacific/noon eastern (Comcast 412 in Seattle) and online at ncaa.com.

As posted many times this season on this blog, the run to the championship for the University of Washington women's cross country team has been nothing short of fantastic. There's a sense of pride as an alum and a former runner on the team to see these young women do so well.

And let's not forget that the Huskies also have a men's team qualified for these national championships along with some of the stories from this year's team, including the comeback of senior Jeremy Mineau, who has endured injuries over the past two years, and is running a 10-k race on only 30 to 35 miles a week of training at this level!

At Sunday's pre-race press conference, junior Katie Follett (left/photo by Paul Merca) oozed a very quiet confidence as she patiently sat on the dais with Florida State's Susan Kuijken and two-time defending champion Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech.

“I guess you can say that it’s a target or you could say that there might be a little outside pressure on us but I don’t think that any of us are going to be feeling that when we step up to the line,” Follett said. “We’re going to think about the races that we’ve run already this year and gaining confidence from that.”


Her coach, Greg Metcalf (above/photo by Paul Merca) also felt confident about the Huskies' chances today, adding that he will let prize frosh Kendra Schaaf go with Kuijken and Kipyego, and not hold her back.

“I will 100 percent Kendra Schaaf go do her own thing tomorrow,” Metcalf said when asked if she’d be asked to hold back to secure team goals. “She will take a risk, she’s tough as nails. I’ve told her before, Sally’s a terrific distance runner. When Sally gets out of bed, she puts her shorts on just like Kendra does. Kendra is fit, she’s ferocious. Top 5 is a realistic goal, and if somebody has an off day then anything can happen and probably will.”

From a Washington state perspective, there are other stories that we'll try to follow, and write about in depth, including former UW graduate assistant coach and Tumwater High product Dave Smith, now the head coach at Oklahoma State, who is coaching the country's number two ranked men's team, and has the best shot at upending #1 ranked Oregon.

Some individuals we'll follow include Portland's David Kinsella, formerly from Inglemoor High; Paul Limpf from Eastern Washington; and North Carolina's Brie Felnagle, the former state champ from Bellarmine Prep.

Here's a link to Jayda Evans' preview story in the Seattle Times, and also a story by Derek Bell in the Seattle P-I...

One last thing before we head out to the course--if you folks in Seattle can do it, please stop by the Ram Restaurant and Brewery and join the UW Athletic Department starting at 8:30 am for its viewing party of the NCAA Cross Country Championships!



Sunday, November 23, 2008

Huskies in good spirits as they tour the NCAA cross country course...


TERRE HAUTE, Indiana--Many apologies for posting late Sunday, as I am also involved with the television production of Monday’s NCAA cross country championships.

The favored Washington Husky women's cross country team (above/photo by Paul Merca) were in good spirits as they toured the cross country course Sunday, under cold but sunny skies at the Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.

There is a threat of rain tonight, which could make the course interesting Monday morning.


Also had the opportunity to talk to Eastern Washington’s Paul Limpf (above/photo by Paul Merca) as he did his final preparations for Monday’s race.

Looking forward to posting a full report after the races Monday!

Remember, don’t forget that the race will be on CBS College Sports (Comcast 412 in Seattle) starting at 9 am pacific/noon eastern, and streamed online via ncaa.com.

Also for those of you in Seattle, there’s a viewing party starting at 8:30 am at the Ram Restaurant and Brewery at the University Village, just north of Husky Stadium!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jessica Pixler repeats as NCAA D-II harrier champ; Falcons fourth; both Viking squads tenth...


SLIPPERY ROCK, PA--Jessica Pixler (above/photo courtesy Seattle Pacific) felt as if she could have kept running, even after crossing the finish line in Saturday’s NCAA Division II cross country championships.

But there was no need. When the Seattle Pacific junior did cross the line, she was nearly half a minute in front of her closest challenger and way in front of most everyone else to capture her second straight national title.

Capping a season in which she came back from a major track injury, Pixler pulled away after the first mile of the 6,000-meter race at Cooper’s Lake Campground and won easily, leading the Falcons to a fourth-place finish in the team standings on a cold morning that was speckled with snow flurries.

“It was really kind of amazing. Even at the end, I felt good,” said Pixler, whose time of 20 minutes, 59 seconds broke the two-week-old course record and made her the first woman to beat the 21-minute mark on the Cooper’s Lake layout. “I had no idea how the race was going to go. I really had no plan going in it. My only plan was to give it my best shot.”

At the wire, Pixler (Sammamish, Wash., Eastlake HS) was 28 seconds in front of Shippensburg (Pa.) freshman Neely Spence, who was considered the primary challenger to Pixler. Spence, who ran 21:27 on Saturday, had set the previous course record of 21:09 when the won the Atlantic Regional meet on Nov. 8.

“This was my first time racing her. I had heard there was quite a bit of hype about her gong into the race,” Pixler said. “But I try not to worry too much about the competition. With cross country, you really can’t tell based on people’s times (because of the different courses).”

Pixler’s performance helped the Falcons place fourth among the 24 teams with 194 points. Defending champion Adams State of Colorado won again, this time with 79 points. Grand Valley State was second with 102, and Western State took the third-place trophy with 183.

Falcons junior Jane Larson (Fall City, Wash., Cedar Park Christian HS) delivered another strong performance, finishing 12th. Natty Plunkett (Bellevue, Wash., Newport HS), who earned GNAC Freshman of the Year honors on Oct. 25, placed 40th. Junior Kate Harline (Orem, Utah) was 69th, junior Lisa Anderberg (Edmonds, Wash., Kamiak HS) was 72nd, senior Katie Hart (Pasadana, Calif.) placed 87th, and freshman Mary Williams (Lake Jackson, Texas) was 91st.

Western Washington University men's and women's teams placed 10th and four Vikings earned All-America honors at the 2008 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships on Saturday at the Cooper's Lake Campground course (host Slippery Rock University).

"It's an awesome feeling being here and having two top 10 teams," said Western coach Pee Wee Halsell (22nd year). "It's great to be back where we were in the early 90s with both teams at nationals and doing well, showing the rest of the country what we're all about."

The Viking women, making their first NCAA II national appearance and ranked No.24 in the final United State Cross Country Coaches Association Top 25, finished with 301 points in the 24-team field. They were led by Sarah Porter (So., Hockinson), who placed 13th to earn All-America recognition, covering the 6-kilometer course in 21:59 with the temperature hovering around 29 degrees.

Lauren Briehof (Fr., Vancouver/Mountain View) was 42nd in 23:05, Courtney Olsen (Jr., Bellingham/Squalicum) 56th in 23:24, Rachael Johnson (So., Yakima/West Valley) 94th in 23:58, Phoebe Hartnett (Fr., San Diego, CA/Patrick Henry) 99th in 24:02, Danielle Slaughter (Jr., Spokane/Shadle Park) 121st in 24:31 and McKinley Williams (So., Federal Way/Todd Beamer) 126th in 24:37.

"The second half of their race was the key for them," Halsell said. "They got into solid spots, but then they moved up very well. Everybody was moving during that portion of the race."

The Western men, ranked 12th nationally, had a 263 point total, just nine points behind ninth-place Colorado Mines. It was the Vikings' best NCAA national finish. They placed 11th last year and 13th in 2003.

"They went out and attacked a steep hill in the first 500 meters and established position," Halsell said. "It was hard to move up after that, but they were able to hold on because it was a tough course and that was to our advantage."

Leading the Vikings over the 10-kilomoter distance the trio of Jordan Welling (So., Burlington/Burlington-Edison), Blake Medhaug (So., Bothell) and Bennett Grimes (So., Pocatello, ID/Century), who all received All-America accolades.

Welling placed 23rd in 32:02, Medhaug 29th in 32:11 and Grimes 34th in 32:18. It was the second straight All-America honor for Grimes, who placed 43rd last year.

Western's Eric Brill (Fr., Kent/Kentwood) was 83rd in 33:14, Yonas Berhe (Fr., Seattle/Roosevelt) 94th in 33:26, Tahoma Khalsa (Jr., Shoreline/Shorecrest) 113th in 33:46, and Sam Bedell (Jr., Reno, NV) 129th in 34:15.

Adams State CO won both team titles. Seattle Pacific's Jessica Pixler dominated the women's race, posting a winning time of 20:59, 28 seconds ahead of the next competitor. Chico State's Scott Bauhs was the men's individual champion in 30:23.

It was the first time since joining the NCAA in 1998 that the Vikings had qualified both their squads for nationals in the same season.

St. Martin’s University senior John Riak finished 101st in a time of 33:17.

Complete results of the NCAA Division II championships can be accessed here.

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

Falcons & Vikings have date in Slippery Rock...


Seattle Pacific's women's squad (above/photo courtesy Seattle Pacific University), and both Western Washington University teams are set to compete in Saturday's NCAA Division II cross country championships in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.

For defending women's champ Jessica Pixler, it'll be a chance to cap a comeback from an injury (fractured femur, fractures in her back) during last winter's indoor track season that ultimately kept her on the sidelines for the spring outdoor track schedule.

"This is going to be like a fun chance to thank God for allowing me to have a healthy season," Pixler said. "I've been thinking about it a lot the last two or three weeks. I've decided to view the race as a blessing and kind of as a celebration of the fact that I can run and that I've worked so hard to come back.”

The Falcons finished second in last year's title meet, behind Adams State, and are currently ranked tenth according to the latest USTFCCCA polls. After winning the GNAC title, they finished second behind Chico State, led by former Washington Husky Tori Tyler, at the West Regionals in San Diego.

For Western Washington's Sarah Porter, who almost attended Eastern Washington University, Saturday's meet is an opportunity to see how much she's improved over her freshman year.

Her first year at Western culminated with a top 10 finish in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA D-II outdoor track and field championships, which Porter said "really set a standard" for her sophomore year.

After winning every race she ran during the regular season, Porter was second at the GNAC meet and third at the West regionals both won by Seattle Pacific's defending national champion, Jessica Pixler. Then Porter realized that success now is really expected at all.

"What was interesting was that last year at regionals, I placed 13th and everybody was like, `Oh, wow. That was great, Sarah. You ran the race of a lifetime,' " Porter said. "This year, I took third and my coach was like, `That wasn't your greatest race,' and I was like, `I know.' It's so funny how expectations shift. I've learned to expect more of myself, and because of that, other people expect more of me."

Porter's success has translated to success for the Vikings, as they qualified for the NCAA D-II meet for the first time in program history. The Vikings finished third at the GNAC meet and fifth at regionals.

It'll be cold going for that top seven – and everyone else's top seven at Cooper's Lake Campground in Slippery Rock. The current forecast calls for snow flurries and a race-time temperature of 27 degrees with 10-mph winds that will feel like 17 degrees with the wind-chill factor.

The Viking men's team, led by sophomore Jordan Welling, head into Slippery Rock as the #12 team in the country according to the USTFCCCA polls, after finishing third at the West Regionals two weeks ago in San Diego, despite a race stoppage and a subsequent re-run at the 5-k mark.

St. Martin's senior John Riak, who finished third at the NCAA West Regionals, will compete at the national championships as an individual for the third straight year. Riak finished 46th in last year's meet in Missouri.

The NCAA Division II championships will be streamed online starting at 9 am pacific time, via this link...

Click here to access the home page of the NCAA Division II championships, including final results.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

UW to host NCAA cross country championships watch party at the Ram!


Someone in America listened to paulmerca.blogspot.com (or responded to the press release of the University of Oregon)...

Leslie Wurzberger, the associate athletics director for marketing at the University of Washington fired off an email to the mighty blogspot--here it is:

"We'd love to have this posted on your site. Hopefully we can pack the Ram! We'll get this up on gohuskies shortly and will also be blasting it out to a bunch of folks on our end."

Here's the details:

Join other Husky fans for a NCAA Cross Country Championships Watch Party on Monday, November 24 at the Ram Restaurant & Brewery in University Village. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. and there will be a light breakfast menu available. RSVP not required, but encouraged at icamktg@u.washington.edu.

Afterwards, you can walk to Specialty's Bakery & Cafe and pick up some hot chocolate chip cookies, the fuel that fires the Dawgs up, as documented by our media partner Flotrack...

Visit Flotrack For More Videos



Incidentally, here's the link to the UW's official press release for Monday's race...


Jessica Pixler set to defend NCAA D-II title at Slippery Rock, PA...


Jessica Pixler (above/photo courtesy Seattle Pacific University) wondered if she'd get to run in the race, let alone win her second consecutive NCAA Division II women's cross-country title.

The Seattle Pacific junior endured a fractured femur and other fractures in her back that were diagnosed during last winter's indoor track season.

Yet on Saturday in Slippery Rock, Pa., Pixler will be a favorite to win — again.

"I've decided to view the race as a blessing and kind of as a celebration of the fact that I can run and that I've worked so hard to come back," Pixler said. "Running has a different meaning for me now. It's definitely a gift.

To read the full story, click here...

To read Jessica's blog, click here...

Any viewing parties of the NCAA Cross Country Championships in the Seattle area?

After receiving this press release yesterday from University of Oregon track/cross country media contact Greg Walker, paulmerca.blogspot.com wondered if there were any viewing parties Monday morning in the Seattle area to watch the #1 ranked University of Washington women's cross country team in its quest for a national title.

Given the general "suckiness" of Seattle sports teams in 2008, one would think that the sports fans of Seattle would want to embrace a winner (Mariners--DFL; Sonics--DFL & masquerading as the Oklahoma City Thunder; Seahawks--currently DFL; Husky football--currently DFL & battling Washington State this Saturday in the "Rotten Apple Cup" for DFL).

Having the NCAA championship meet on Monday morning at 9 am Seattle time isn't exactly the best time to have a sporting event, but it is what it is.

If any of you know of any public viewing parties (whether it's at a running store, sports bar/restaurant, etc.), please let us know by hitting the comment link at the bottom of this post, and we'll post it here!

According to this press release from the USTFCCCA,“A live television broadcast, and the ability to watch the championship online for the second year in a row, is such a huge step in the sport of cross country,” said Robyne Johnson, NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championship Committee Chair. “With so many student-athletes from all over the country, it is great that their family and friends who aren’t able to attend the championship can watch them on television or online. We were very happy with the 2007 championship viewership and we are hoping even more tune in this year.”

Last year 8,531 people watched the championship online, representing the highest viewership of any NCAA championship other than men’s and women’s basketball.

CBS Sports, the broadcast rights holder for the Championship, worked in conjunction with the NCAA and the U. S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) to create a live broadcast of the championships.

“The USTFCCCA plans to continue to work with the NCAA in exploring and implementing new ideas and technologies that will enhance the championship experience for student-athletes and NCAA member institutions as well as contribute to the growth of cross country,” said USTFCCCA CEO Sam Seemes. “Last year’s live broadcast of the Division I Cross Country Championships was the first step.”

The NCAA cross country championships will be shown on CBS College Sports (channel 412 on Comcast in Seattle; may have to upgrade to get the sports tier package) starting at 9 am Monday, and online at ncaa.com.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Washington to debut new threads at the NCAA Championships...


Thanks to head coach Greg Metcalf and equipment manager Gary McGuire, paulmerca.blogspot.com was granted a sneak peek at the new uniforms the Washington men's and women's cross country teams will wear beginning with the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Monday in Terre Haute, Indiana.

As they have for the past several seasons, the uniforms were designed by Nike, Inc. This will be the look that the men's and women's track teams will have, beginning with the Husky Indoor Preview meet on January 17th (according to McGuire, they will stay with the current uniforms for the Husky Winter Preview on December 6th).

The women's jersey is on the top, and the men's jersey is on the bottom. You'll notice that like many of Nike's tops for elite women athletes, it has a racer-back look to give female athletes more freedom of movement in the shoulder area.

If this design looks suspiciously familiar, the theme of the Huskies' new uniforms are similar to the ones designed for several national teams at the Olympics in Beijing, and Nike's contracted elite track and field athletes, utilizing the Swift technology that garnered numerous medals.

Here's the link to the story paulmerca.blogspot.com wrote in April on the new national federation uniforms debuted at the Nike Beijing Summit...

Like the national teams of Germany, Kenya, Russia, China, the United States, and Estonia, the Huskies will have choices including a sprint unitard, a classic singlet and shorts set, half tights, and for women, racing briefs and "boy cut" shorts.

PS: This is the 500th post since paulmerca.blogspot.com made its debut on March 1, 2007--thank you to everyone who's helped make it possible, including all of the readers out there.

Huskies remain #1 in USTFCCCA final regular season rankings...

The Washington Huskies (left/photo from NCAA regionals by Paul Merca) showed why they are the nation's top collegiate team on Saturday as they followed up a dominating Pac-10 performance with a similar result in the West Regional. The Huskies finished first as a team despite running without freshman Kendra Schaaf.

The Huskies scored 25 team points en route to the title as five of their seven runners finished in the top-10. Washington's victory helped the team retain its No. 1 ranking as the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) released the final women's cross country poll of the 2008 season.

Oregon remains the second ranked team in the country followed by Florida State at No. 3. Oregon was the runner-up in Saturday's West Regional. The Ducks were paced by the one-two finish of Alexandra Kosinski and Nicole Blood. Florida State won the South Regional title over in-state rival Florida. Susan Kuijken led the way for the Seminoles with her third-place finish overall. Six Seminole runners finished in the top-25.

Princeton and West Virginia are ranked fourth and fifth respectively. The two teams tied for first place in the Mid-Atlantic Region with 51 points. Minnesota (No. 6) and Villanova (No. 7) follow Princeton with Michigan, Texas Tech and Wisconsin rounding out the women's top-10. Michigan improved nine spots from the previous poll after winning the Great Lakes Regional title. Nicole Edwards led the way for the Maize and Blue finishing second overall.

Texas Tech won its first Mountain Regional title with the help of standout All-American Sally Kipyego. Kipyego won her third straight Mountain Regional title.

Arkansas, winners of the South Central region, is ranked 11th, followed by Stanford, Michigan State, Illinois and Arizona State. Florida is ranked 16th following its runner-up finish in the South, with Georgetown and Baylor close behind.

No. 22 Rice moves up three spots this week following the Owls' second-place finish in the South Central regional. Junior Nicole Mericle led the way for the Owls winning the individual championship.

Providence won the Northeast Regional title and is ranked 20th, followed by New Mexico, the Mountain Regional runner-up.

Up seven spots this week at No. 22 is Nebraska. The Cornhuskers finished third in the Midwest Regional. Iowa, fourth in the Midwest, is ranked 23rd. Southern Methodist and Syracuse are ranked Nos. 24 and 25.

Northern Arizona moves up two spots to No. 26, while Boston College remains at No. 27. Virginia won the Southeast Regional title and enters the poll at No. 28 followed by Stony Brook and Notre Dame.

In the men's rankings, Oregon, Oklahoma State and Stanford remain in the top three spots heading to Monday's national championship meet.

The University of Washington men's team moves up two spots to number 21 in the final regular season rankings.

The NCAA Division I Cross Country National Championships will take place on Monday, November 24th, 2008 and is hosted by Indiana State University. It will be televised by CBS College Sports (channel 412 in Seattle/Comcast), and streamed online via ncaa.com and cstv.com, with Lewis Johnson, Larry Rawson & Carrie Tollefson providing commentary, starting at 9 am, Pacific (Noon, eastern).

The secret to the success of the Husky cross country team...

Thanks to our media partner, Flotrack, here's a little video showing the secret of success behind the University of Washington cross country team, featuring freshman Christine Babcock and junior Jake Schmitt.

This place, Specialty's Cafe & Bakery in the University Village, about a good brisk walk from Husky Stadium and the Dempsey Indoor, is where we find Christine and Jake, along with coaches Greg Metcalf, Jimmy Bean, and Kelly Strong.

Specialty's is also where you may find a good friend of paulmerca.blogspot.com, Robyn Winters of Nike+ fame, hanging out for lunch!

Guess this means we'll take a couple dozen with us to Terre Haute for the NCAA championships!

Visit Flotrack For More Videos

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Selection Sunday: Paul Limpf, Brie Felnagle & Husky men's team earn at-large berths...

The NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Committee announced today the team and individual qualifiers for the 2008 Division I Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships.

In order to be eligible to participate in the championships, teams and individuals qualified in their respective NCAA regions.

Among those selected as individuals were Eastern Washington's Paul Limpf (left/photo by Paul Merca), who finished 11th in the West Regional championships at Stanford on Saturday; North Carolina's Brie Felnagle, the Bellarmine Prep product, who finished second in the Southeast Regionals in Clemmons, North Carolina; and, the University of Washington men's team, which finished fifth in what was the country's toughest region, the West Region.

The top seven teams from the West Region all advanced to the national championships, including auto qualifiers Oregon & Stanford, along with Portland, California, the Huskies, UCLA, and Cal Poly/San Luis Obispo.

Thirty-one teams were selected to participate in each championship. The top two, seven-person teams automatically qualified from each of the nine regions, for a total of 18 teams. Thirteen additional teams were selected at-large.

Thirty-eight individuals were selected to participate in each championship through an automatic qualifier and at-large selection process. All individual qualifiers finished in the top 25 in their region.

Indiana State University will host the Championships, November 24, at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course located at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. The women’s race will begin at approximately 12:08 p.m. (9:08 am on the west coast) Eastern time, followed by the men’s race at 12:48 p.m (9:48 am on the west coast). Both championship races will be broadcast live on CBS College Sports Network (channel 412 on Comcast in Seattle area) and streamed online via NCAA.com.

To read the complete NCAA release, you can click here...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Babcock leads Washington to NCAA West Regional harrier title...

STANFORD, Calif.--Eleven seconds.

Eleven seconds was all it took for the top ranked University of Washington Huskies to cement the victory at the NCAA West Regional cross country championships at the Stanford Golf Course Saturday morning, scoring 25 points for a convincing win over second ranked Oregon, who scored 62 points.

Stanford (91) and Arizona State (124) rounded out the top four teams.

Washington State, which needed a strong showing to be considered for an at-large berth to the national championships, finished a disappointing tenth with 328 points.

With Kendra Schaaf sitting out today’s meet, the question became who would walk away with the individual title.

Fellow Husky freshman Christine Babcock (above, leading/photo by Paul Merca), the national high school record holder at 1600 meters took out the race, and led up until the final kilometer when first, eventual winner Alex Kosinski of Oregon, then teammate Nicole Blood passed her.

Kosinski, the former national prep record holder in the 1600 won the race in a time of 20:00, followed by Blood at 20:02.

In a scene eerily similar to the proceedings a fortnight ago came a sea of purple, as Babcock led a stream of five Huskies across the line. Babcock finished in 20:03, followed by sophomore Mel Lawrence in 20:04. Cross country all-Americans Katie Follett (20:08) finished fifth, followed by Anita Campbell in 20:13.

One second behind Campbell was fellow senior Amanda Miller to round out the Husky scorers.

For the Cougars of Washington State, Sara Trane was the top finisher in 29th place (20:52). Amber Nickleson of Eastern Washington finished 166th in 23:17.

Babcock played down the importance of Saturday’s race, stating that “My goal today was just to qualify as a team. It was just another day. Our plan was just to get in the top two and get into the nationals”

Husky coach Greg Metcalf said that he wanted his charges to go out aggressive, but at the same time temper that aggressiveness. “I wanted to walk away feeling like we didn’t have to go to the well. Over the last 1000 meters, everyone was running within themselves, with no one digging in.”

He praised senior Michelle Turner, who finished 15th in 20:24, and sophomore Kenna Patrick, who finished 37th in 21:13.

In the men’s race, it was all Galen Rupp, as the 2008 US Olympian destroyed the field by fifty seconds, winning in 27:42.

Former Inglemoor standout David Kinsella, representing the University of Portland finished a strong fourth place, running 28:44.

Washington senior Jeremy Mineau finished eighth, running 29:07, leading the Huskies to a fifth place finish, as the Ducks of Oregon took the team title with 38 points. Stanford (72), Portland (85), and California (116) finished ahead of Washington’s 122 points.

Eastern Washington senior Paul Limpf finished 11th in 29:18, and all but assured himself of an individual entry to the NCAA championships on November 24th in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Washington State finished ninth with 298 points, and Eastern Washington was 20th with 565 points.

Quick notes before heading to Palo Alto...

As a follow up to Jayda Evans' story in the Seattle Times on Friday, paulmerca.blogspot.com has learned that Lauren Saylor will be the other runner on the University of Washington cross country team that will sit out the NCAA West Regional cross country meet at 11 am on the Stanford Golf Course in Palo Alto, California.

So, the Huskies will go with Mel Lawrence, Christine Babcock, Anita Campbell, Katie Follett, Amanda Miller, Kenna Patrick & Michelle Turner.

Washington State traveled eight runners to Stanford. It was believed that either Marisa Sandoval or Chelsea VanDeBrake would sit out.

We are on the way to the airport this morning, and will arrive in San Francisco around 8:30 am or so, plenty of time to make the drive down Highway 101 to the Stanford campus. Look for our post sometime early this afternoon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

NCAA West Regional cross country meet preview...

Eastern Washington, the University of Washington, and Washington State University will all send athletes to compete in Saturday’s NCAA West Regional championships at the Stanford Golf Course, beginning with the women’s 6 k race at 11 am.

Naturally, the buzz centers around the nation’s number one collegiate team, the Washington Huskies. Coach Greg Metcalf told Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times that he will rest Pac-10 champ Kendra Schaaf for Saturday’s contest, along with one other runner from his traveling squad of nine runners.

Coach Jason Drake traveled to Stanford eight women, and will have a decision to make over which one to sit on Saturday. The Cougars have an outside shot at qualifying for the NCAA championships on November 24th in Terre Haute, but will need an outstanding effort Saturday to grab one of the at-large berths to the national championship.

Pac-10 steeple champ Sara Trané (above/photo by Paul Merca) of WSU has a strong chance to advance as an individual.

Besides Washington and Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State are the teams projected to advance from the West Region to the NCAAs.

Senior Amber Nickelson will be Eastern’s lone representative in the women’s race.

One hour later, the men toe the line for the 10 k race over the Stanford Golf Course. Oregon, led by US Olympian Galen Rupp is the clear favorite to take the team title, followed by West Coast Conference champ Portland, led by Inglemoor grad David Kinsella, and host Stanford.

The Washington Huskies, led by senior Jeremy Mineau, will need a perfect race to position themselves for an at-large berth in the big dance, despite tying Cal for third place at the Pac-10 meet two weeks ago. Besides the Dawgs, the Bears of Cal and the Mustangs of Cal Poly-SLO are the teams scrapping for the at large entries.

At best, Eastern Washington is a long shot to get their teams into the national title meet. However, the Eagles’ Paul Limpf, who has run solidly all season long, has a strong chance to advance to nationals as an individual, along with teammate Alex Smyth, and Washington State’s Drew Polley.

Links to the team releases of Eastern Washington, Washington & Washington State are available by clicking on the team’s name.

Below is the .pdf copy of host institution Stanford’s press release.

Stan 08 Xc Regional Preview
Get your own at Scribd or explore others:


Look for paulmerca.blogspot.com’s coverage of the NCAA West Regional Championships!

Incidentally, here's a link to the USTFCCA's cross country central, which will be updated regularly on Saturday as results from around the country come in. Click here to visit the site...
NOTE: The sports information offices of Washington, Washington State, and Eastern Washington all contributed to this report.

Jessica Pixler named USTFCCCA D-II West Region AOY...

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named Seattle Pacific's Jessica Pixler as its West Region Cross Country Athlete of the Year in Division II for the second year in a row.

Pixler won her regional title in record-setting fashion earlier this month and looks ready to make a run for her second straight NCAA Division II title, which will happen on November 22nd in Slippery Rock, PA.

Pixler set a course record of 20:57.1 and finished more than 30 seconds ahead of the field in winning her second straight West Region title at UC San Diego. Pixler, the defending NCAA Division II cross country champion, finished sixth in a field of 278 runners at the 2008 Stanford Invitational and won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference by a large margin. She is a junior from Sammamish, Wash.

Speaking of Pixler, you can read her latest entry from her blog here...

NOTE: Seattle Pacific University and the USTFCCCA contributed to this report.

Kendra Schaaf to sit out NCAA West Regionals...

In a move which many Husky insiders felt was not surprising, considering the unprecedented team victory two weeks in Springfield, Oregon, Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times reports in Friday's edition that Washington coach Greg Metcalf will sit out freshman Pac-10 cross country champion Kendra Schaaf (left/photo by Paul Merca) for Saturday's NCAA West Regional meet in Palo Alto.

"We are not going to bomb," he said. "We're going to run well."

The Huskies, undefeated and winners of their first Pac-10 title since 1989, will ease up in the regional meet, though. Metcalf will take nine runners to the meet, but Schaaf and one other runner to be determined will not run Saturday.

Metcalf said he wants to rest Schaaf, who is healthy, for the national meet. He's not concerned about the Huskies qualifying for the NCAA championships in Terre Haute, Ind. The top two teams from each regional automatically advance, and the remaining field is selected by 13 at-large bids based on a point system. The Huskies have defeated enough tough competition, including second-ranked Oregon, to give them confidence.

"We'd like to have a relaxed meet," Metcalf said. "The only pressure would be qualifying for the next meet. If we do our thing, we have a shot to win, but we're going to change our personnel a little bit. We have great team depth, which allows us to make those decisions. Reality says if we're in the top five, we're still going to get to the national meet."

For those wondering about the rationale, Schaaf raced until the end of July at the junior world track & field championships in Poland, and the Canadian junior nationals. To date, Metcalf has sat out Christine Babcock & Katie Follett (Sundodger), along with Amanda Miller & Michelle Turner (Pre-Nationals) from his core group.

Here's Washington's full season stats page...

To read the full story from the Seattle Times, click here...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Washington week continues on Flotrack--Jeremy Mineau...

Courtesy of media partner Flotrack, here's an interview with Washington senior Jeremy Mineau.

Mineau entered Washington in the fall of 2004 with a ton of promise. He made the US world junior cross country team in 2005, running on a squad that included 2008 Olympian Galen Rupp.

In 2006, he set the Washington school record in the 5000m indoors, running 13:54.03, and followed it up with the second fastest time in school history in the 10000m outdoors at 28:49.69.

However, injuries in the form of two stress fractures have derailed his progress over the last few years. Mineau is finally back to the form that made him one of the Pac-10's best distance runners, finishing tenth two weeks ago in Springfield, Oregon.

The graduate of Menlo Atherton HS in Menlo Park, California will have the opportunity at Saturday's NCAA West Regionals to run in front of friends and family making the short drive to the Stanford Golf Course in Palo Alto.

Here's the video:

Visit Flotrack For More Videos

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Washington week continues on Flotrack--Workout Wednesday!

Courtesy of our media partner Flotrack, here's a video of the Washington women's cross country team workout, shot November 4th at Seattle's Magnuson Park.

The workout begins with 4 x 200 from a standing start with 100m recovery, followed by a two-mile tempo run. Concluding the workout are four more 200m runs with a rolling start and a 100m recovery jog.

Visit Flotrack For More Videos

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Katie Follett interview on Flotrack...

Courtesy of our media partner Flotrack.org, here's a video interview with the University of Washington's Katie Follett, with her thoughts on the current cross country season, and the expectations of the Huskies heading into the final two meets of the season, Saturday's NCAA West Regionals in Palo Alto, and the NCAA championships in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Visit Flotrack For More Videos

By the way, Katie and Kendra Schaaf give a shout out to "Uncle Bob", who's been a familiar face at UW cross country meets this season!


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times writes about Kendra Schaaf...

Columnist Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times writes his take on University of Washington freshman sensation Kendra Schaaf (left/photo by Paul Merca).

"Kendra Schaaf, the antidote for our loss-infested sports province, is trembling. Her knees shake constantly, like china during an earthquake. She fidgets with her hair, makes friction with her hands, rubs her elbow.

For the first time in her remarkable freshman season, the Washington cross-country star is truly uncomfortable. She has encountered the one foe she cannot outrun — attention.

A one-on-one interview makes Schaaf more nervous than a vegan at a bacon convention. Asked why, she shrugs and offers, "I don't know. I don't want to be in the spotlight. Growing up, I was taught to stay humble. I'd rather just be low key. It's less pressure."

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

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.”

CRONRATH MISSES NCAA BERTH BY ONE PLACE

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.”

WESTERN QUALIFIES BOTH MENS AND WOMENS SQUADS

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.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Club Northwest decathlete Chris Randolph receives training grant from USA Track & Field...


The USA Track & Field Foundation has presented Elite Athlete Development Grants to seven athletes, Foundation Executive Director Tom Jackovic and Chairman Bob Greifeld announced Thursday.

Athletes receiving $4,000 grants include former Seattle Pacific and current Club Northwest decathlete Chris Randolph (above/photo by Paul Merca), Lionel Larry (400 meters), and Dominique Darden (400m Hurdles).

Athletes receiving $3,000 grants include Desiraye Speer (Steeplechase), Keith Moffatt (High Jump), Kyle Alcorn (Steeplechase) and Lotasha Wallace (400m Hurdles).

"The USA Track & Field Foundation is excited to assist another group of elite athletes as they work toward their dream of competing in an Olympic Games," said USATF Foundation Director Nicholas Sparks. "Based upon the success of Foundation grant recipients David Oliver (Bronze Medal, 110 Hurdles) and Stephanie Brown Trafton (Gold Medal, Discus) in Beijing, we are confident our grants are funding the right athletes."

The Foundation Elite Athlete Grant Program contributes to the pursuit of world-class performances by American post-collegiate track and field athletes. Athletes must meet minimum performance standards to be eligible and also participate in the Win With Integrity program.

The USATF Foundation provides a means to attract and guide funds to new and innovative track and field programs with an emphasis on providing opportunities for youth athletes, emerging elite athletes and anti-doping education. The Foundation depends on donations from its Board of Directors and from generous fans of track & field.

For more information or to contribute to the USA Track & Field Foundation, visit www.usatffoundation.org.

NOTE: USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

Falcons, Vikings off to San Diego for NCAA D-II West Regionals...


It's make or break time for Seattle Pacific cross country.

The Falcon women's team (above/photo courtesy SPU sports information) and two members from the men's squad will head south to San Diego for the NCAA West Regionals. The races are set for Saturday morning on the UC San Diego campus in La Jolla, Calif., with the men starting their 10,000-meter race at 8:45 a.m. and the women beginning their 6,000-mete run at 10:15 a.m.

At stake will be berths in the NCAA Division II nationals, set for Saturday, Nov. 22, in Slippery Rock, Pa. For the defending regional champion Falcon women, a top-five team finish will earn tickets to Pennsylvania. On the men's side, with only senior Brian Cronrath and junior Chad Meis competing as individuals, finishing in the top five, or being one of the top two runners who aren't members of the three qualifying teams will earn a spot.

Led by defending regional and national champion Jessica Pixler (Sammamish, Wash., Eastlake HS), the Falcon women are seeking a return trip to the NCAAs after finishing second last year. They will take a No. 12 national ranking and a No. 3 West Region ranking into the race.

Seattle Pacific went into the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships on Oct. 25 in Naches as the favorite to win its fourth straight team title. The Falcons did win it. But it was their closest call, as they hung on to edge Alaska Anchorage, 48-52.

While things were tight from a team standpoint, it was no contest individually. Pixler, a junior, made it 3 for 3 in GNAC meets, establishing an sizable lead early and gradually extending it. She finished 6,000 meters at Apple Ridge Run in 21 minutes, 12 seconds, beating runner-up Sarah Porter of Western Washington to the finish line by 39 seconds.

Junior Jane Larson (Fall City, Wash., Cedar Park Christian HS) ran a solid third for SPU, and freshman Natty Plunkett (Bellevue, Wash., Newport HS) was seventh, giving the Falcons three among the top 10. Then, some solid pack running behind them clinched the crown. Junior Kate Harline (Orem, Utah) was 16th, then junior Lisa Anderberg (Edmonds, Wash., Kamiak HS), senior Katie Hart (Pasadena, Calif.) and freshman Mary Williams (Lake Jackson, Texas) came across in 21st, 22nd and 23rd, respectively.

Pixler's victory made her the GNAC's Female Athlete of the Year, and Plunkett earned Freshman of the Year honors by virtue of being the first frosh to the finish. Those two were joined by Larson on the All-GNAC squad.

WESTERN LOOKS TO QUALIFY BOTH TEAMS FOR NATIONALS

Western Washington University hopes to accomplish a first since it joined the NCAA in 1998, qualify both its men's and women's cross country teams for the national championships in the same season.

The Vikings shoot for that double Saturday at the NCAA II West Regional on the UC San Diego campus course in La Jolla, Calif. The men's 10-kilometer race begins at 8:45 a.m., followed by the women's 6-kilometer run at 10:15 a.m.

The top three men's teams and the first five women's squads advance to the national championships on Nov. 22 at Slippery Rock, Penn. The top two individuals not on a qualifying team also qualify for nationals.

In this week's United States Cross Country Coaches Association/NCAA Division II Top 25, the Western men are ranked No.11 and the Viking women No.25.

Chico State has won the last six regional men's titles and goes into both races as the No.1-ranked team.

Alaska Anchorage, which won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference men's title, is rated No.2 and Western No.3.

"Our men look to be a solid third," Halsell said, "and, if the right things happen, we could beat either one of them (Alaska Anchorage or Chico State)."

The Western men placed second at regionals last fall and went on to finish 11th at nationals. They also reached nationals in 2003, placing 13th.

Leading the Viking men are three sophomores, All-American Bennett Grimes (So., Pocatello, ID/Century), Blake Medhaug (So., Bothell) and Jordan Welling (So., Burlington/Burlington-Edison).

Completing the squad are Yonas Berhe (Fr., Seattle/Roosevelt), Tahoma Khalsa (Jr., Shoreline/Shorecrest), Eric Brill (Fr., Kent/Kentwood) and Sam Bedell (Jr., Reno, NV).

In the women's division, No.3-rated and GNAC champion Seattle Pacific is the defending titlist with Western ranked No.6. Cal State L.A. is No.2, Alaska Anchorage No.4 and the host Tritons No.5.

The Viking women have never gone to nationals since joining the NCAA. Their last national appearance was as an NAIA member in 1996 and the last time both squads went to nationals the same year was in 1994.

"We're really close and I think that we can get UC San Diego," said Halsell, "but it's going to be a hard-fought battle. Our fifth runner has to beat their fifth runner for us to win."

Western placed third at the league championships with Sarah Porter (So., Hockinson) finishing second individually. Porter, who went to nationals last year, was undefeated in her four regular-season meets.

Also representing the Vikings are Lauren Briehof (Fr., Vancouver/Mountain View), Phoebe Hartnett (Fr., San Diego, CA/Patrick Henry), Rachael Johnson (So., Yakima/West Valley), Courtney Olsen (Jr., Bellingham/Squalicum), Danielle Slaughter (Jr., Spokane/Shadle Park), and McKinley Williams (So., Federal Way/Todd Beamer).

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Q & A with Raul Sheen...

Almost lost in the excitement and success of the University of Washington women's cross country team was the hiring of former Long Beach State sprint coach Raul Sheen (left, with vault coach Pat Licari/photo by Paul Merca) to lead the Huskies in the sprints and hurdles.

Sheen will have a good core of runners returning on the men's side, including NCAA scorer and Olympic Trials 400m qualifier Jordan Boase, along with Jeff Gudaitis, Ryan Hamilton, Joe Turner, and Randy Bacon. Add to the mix Cal State Northridge transfer Kenjamin Jackson, and the Dawgs appear solid on paper.

The Huskies may have some depth issues with the women, but will be led by NCAA qualifier Falesha Ankton and Syreeta Martin. Newcomers to look out for include Garfield's Bianca Greene, and Shadle Park's Jordan Carlson.

The Huskies open the 2008-09 season on December 6th with the UW Indoor Preview at the Dempsey Center.

paulmerca.blogspot.com looks forward to talking to Sheen soon. In the meantime, here's a link to an article from trackshark.com.

Blog Archive