Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday in the park (with apologies to Chicago)...

With apologies to the great band Chicago, there was action Saturday in the parks across the United States involving the Cougars from Washington State, the Seattle Pacific Falcons, and even the consummate pro track athlete Bernard Lagat.

Here's's whip around the USA:


The Washington State men's cross country team took fifth place and the women's team took sixth place in the Div. I Gold Races at the Roy Griak Invitational Saturday at the Les Bolstad Golf Course in Minneapolis, Minn.

The Cougar men scored 108 points and were led by the 11th place finish of senior Sam Ahlbeck (Renton) who finished the 8000m race in a time of 25 minutes, 7 seconds. The rest of the WSU scorers included freshman Andrew Kimpel (above/photo courtesy WSU Sports Information), 19th (25:18), senior Mark Moeller, 23rd (25:22), sophomore Jono Lafler, 25th (25:23) and senior Dan Geib, 30th (25:29). Cougar men competing but not scoring were sophomore Justin Englund, 44th (25:49) and junior David Hickerson, 60th (26:12).

Iowa State was the top squad among the 18 men's teams with 71 points, and Minnesota's Hassan Mead was the top individual with a time of 24:37.5.

"We are upset we did not place higher today but being 35 points out of winning the whole thing, and be 100 points better than last year, that is a little frustrating for the guys," WSU coach Pete Julian said. "The top five teams were very close. We are dramatically better than last year and we are not a developing program anymore. I think we could have won today and it was an opportunity that got away. We are the real deal now and we will watch the teams ahead of us move up in the rankings and so this leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. Individually, Sam ran a very smart and controlled race and led the team. That was nice to see and to have the other individuals come through. We had a true freshman, Andrew Kimpel, finish in the top 20 and you don't see that very often in a major invitational. That is exciting for the future of the Cougar program."

The Washington State women's team scored 200 points with senior Lisa Egami (Coquitlam, B.C.) leading the Cougs with a 21st place finish in the 6000m with a time of 22:28. Other Cougar scorers included senior Chelsea VanDeBrake, 28th (22:36), sophomore Emily Farrar, 46th (23:23), freshman Alyssa Andrews, 52nd (23:33), and junior Amanda Andrews, 53rd (23:35). WSU women competing out of the scoring were junior Ashlee Wall, 71st (23:59), and senior Marisa Sandoval, 79th (24:15).

Iowa State won the 18-team women's competition with 31 points and Minnesota's Megan Duwell was the individual winner in a time of 21:00.4.

"The women had a strong but not outstanding day," Julian said. "They put themselves in a position for success and they ran strong. I am fully confident that this team will only get better. This is the best performance the women's team has ever had at this meet. Across the board, both men and women, we are significantly improved. We are pleased with our effort today and pleased with the direction the program is going but at the same time, to not win at a meet like this is a little bit frustrating but will be a great motivator for the next three to six weeks."

The Cougar cross country teams next competition is Oct. 17 at the Pre-National Meet at Terre Haute, Ind.


Meanwhile in Palo Alto, California, Jessica Pixler was the fastest college runner on the course at the Stanford Invitational cross country meet.

With the temperature in the 80s and approaching 90, the Seattle Pacific senior cruised along the 6-kilometer Stanford Golf Course layout in 20 minutes, 21 seconds, leaving her just one second behind winner Tara Erdmann, who was running unattached, and well ahead of everyone else.

The performance by Pixler (Sammamish, Wash./Eastlake HS) was a jump of five spots from last year’s sixth-place finish and helped the Falcons make a big jump, as well. SPU checked in 12th with 334 points, a marked improvement from their 2008 total of 447 points and an 18th-place finish.

“Everyone who ran here last year had a substantial PR,” Seattle Pacific coach Erika Daligcon said. “They were very determined today, and I don’t think it was any cooler this year than it was last year, either. We were blessed with having that week of warm weather in Seattle to train in.”

Pixler, Erdmann and a group of runners from Stanford, the No. 6-ranked team in NCAA Division I, were bunched together approaching the midpoint of the race. Pixler went to the lead near the 4K mark and was still in front about 200 meters from the finish when Erdmann started to close.

Erdmann caught up, then edged ahead and fended off Pixler as both runners kicked for the finish line.

Pixler finished 14 seconds ahead of Stanford lead runner Kathy Kroeger, who was third in 20:35.
“Jessica was really pleased, and I’m really pleased,” Daligcon said. “This group was really focused today on staying in the present. This is coming at the right time.”

Senior Jane Larson ran 31st for SPU in 21:57; senior Lisa Anderberg was 76th in 23:04; sophomore Mary Williams took 111th in 23:54; and senior Kate Harline was 115th in 23:58.
Chico State, which replaced Seattle Pacific atop the West Region rankings this week, was fifth with 187. No other Division II schools were between the Wildcats and the Falcons.


At the Continental Airlines Fifth Avenue Mile in New York, former Cougar Bernard Lagat finished fourth, clocking 3:52.7 for the 20-block race from East 80th to East 60th.

Lagat, last year’s runner-up, controlled the downhill first quarter-mile, but had plenty of company as the course climbed uphill in the second quarter.

Lagat and 20-year-old Boaz Lalang of Kenya attempted to make it a two-man race, but couldn't shake off the rest of the field.

Great Britain’s Andy Baddeley started his kick with just 50 yards remaining. At the tape it was all Baddeley at 3:51.8, with Lalang second at 3:52.0 and US Olympian Leonel Manzano third in 3:52.2.

NOTE: Washington State University, Seattle Pacific, and the New York Road Runners all contributed to this report.

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