Friday, September 11, 2009

Seattle Pacific & Western Washington set to clash at CWU Invitational...

After a low-distance, low-pressure, have-some-fun meet, the Seattle Pacific Falcons are ready for some serious racing when they head to Yakima for Saturday’s CWU Invitational cross country meet.

The race will be at Apple Ridge Run just outside of Yakima, and will offer an abbreviated preview of the course that once again will be used for October’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships. The 4K women’s race on Saturday begins at 11:30 a.m., and the 6K men’s race follows at 12:10 p.m.

SPU will get an early-season look at a handful of its conference challengers. Western Washington, Alaska Fairbanks and Saint Martin’s also will be on the course at Apple Ridge.

The Falcons opened the season last Saturday at the Lake Padden Relays in Bellingham. The meet offered them a chance to do something different, and the Seattle Pacific teams took advantage of it, combining as three separate coed teams (two men and two women on each) instead of the usual separate men’s and women’s teams.

Competition steps up several notches next week at the annual Sundodger Invitational in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park. The meet typically attracts members of all three NCAA divisions from up and down the West Coast.

Four of the GNAC’s nine schools will be in Saturday’s meet, including the defending champion men’s and women’s teams from Western Washington. Leading the way for the Viking women's squad is Sarah Porter (left/photo courtesy Western Washington University), who won last year’s Apple Ridge meet by nearly 1½ minutes.

The Falcons will give their top runners -- seniors Jessica Pixler (Sammamish, Wash./Eastlake HS) and Jane Larson (Fall City, Wash./Cedar Park Christian HS) on the women’s side, and senior Chad Meis (Renton, Wash/Seattle Christian HS) and Jordan Lance (Mill Creek, Wash./Jackson HS) on the men’s side -- the day off as they gear up for next week’s Sundodger Invitational. But everyone else is expected to be in action.

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association has made Seattle Pacific the top-ranked team in the West Region and the third-ranked team in the nation in the NCAA Division II preseason polls. Western Washington is ranked #10 in the women's pre-season poll, and #7 in the men's preseason poll.

With four straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships and back-to-back NCAA trophies (second place in 2007, fourth place in 2008), there’s little surprise that the Falcons will be a big target for other schools this fall. And many of those will be in the GNAC, which has five of its nine women’s teams ranked in the West’s top 10, and has three teams (SPU, Alaska Anchorage and Western Washington) in the national top 10.

Information on the Central Washington University Invitational can be accessed here.

NOTE--The sports information office at Seattle Pacific University contributed to this report.

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