Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eastern, Gonzaga & Seattle University compete in conference championship meets...

While the state's two big NCAA Division I schools are in Long Beach, California for Friday's Pacific 10 title meet, the other three NCAA D-I institutions also have conference title meets to contest.

The Eastern Washington University men's and women's cross country teams will compete Saturday (Oct. 31) at the Big Sky Conference Cross Country Championships in Greeley, Colo., at the Boomerang Golf Course.

The Eagle men will compete at 10 a.m. on the 8,000-meter course with the women following at 11 a.m. in the 5,000-meter run.

Last year at the conference championships, the men's team finished a best-ever third place with Northern Arizona and Weber State finishing one-two, respectively. The women were seventh after having a best-ever finish of fourth in 2007.

"We are really looking forward to the conference championships," said head cross country coach Chris Zeller. "Our Conference is tough though. It is going to come down to who can run the most consistent. We can't worry about how other teams race. We can only go out and run the race we know how to do."

Eagles top runners include junior Alex Smyth and sophomore Kyle King. Smyth finished sixth last season at the conference championships with a time of 23:47.6 and in 2007 he was 13th. Smyth skipped Eastern's final two regular season meets to nurse a strained muscle. In 2008, King was 15th with a time of 24:34.1.

"Our women's team is young, but beginning to figure things out," said Zeller. "The spread of our finishers at Idaho was as small as it's been all year. We have a few who are battling some nagging injuries, but should be good to go in Greeley."

Gonzaga, led by sophomore Chris Boyle from Blanchet HS in Seattle, and senior Brett Withers from Woodinville, heads to Belmont, California for Saturday's West Coast Conference title meet, where they are heavy underdogs to unseat 30-time conference champ University of Portland, who is currently ranked #8 in the USTFCCCA polls.

On the women's side, the Zags are led by redshirt junior Corrina O'Brien from Spokane's Gonzaga Prep, who placed second two weeks ago at the Inland Northwest Cross Country Challenge in Moscow, Idaho.

Portland is heavily loaded with talent from the Puget Sound area, led by senior Tommy Betterbed from Gig Harbor HS. However, according to Portland's release, the Pilots plan to hold out most of their top runners from the WCC meet and focus on the NCAA West regionals two weeks later in Springfield, Oregon.

Seattle University, in its first full season as a NCAA Division I school, travels to historic Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx, New York for the Great West Conference Championships on Saturday, beginning at 9:30 am local time.

The GWCC meet consists of newly minted NCAA D-I schools, who are not eligible for NCAA championship meet competition until they obtain full status from the NCAA.

The team will be led by sophomore Matthew McClement from Bellingham on the men's side, and senior Greta Stickley (#227/photo courtesy Seattle University) from Poulsbo on the women's side, with freshman Lauren Hammerle (#223) from Seattle's Ballard HS behind Stickley.

The trio were the top runners for the Redhawks in last week's Beaver Classic in Corvallis, Oregon.

NOTE: The sports information offices at Gonzaga, Eastern Washington, and Seattle University contributed to this report.

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