Thursday, November 12, 2009

Springfield Country Club to host NCAA West Regional Championships...

With just one race remaining on the road to Terre Haute and the NCAA Championships, Washington will take its two ranked cross country teams south down I-5 to Springfield, Oregon to compete in the NCAA West Regional Championships, hosted by Oregon this Saturday morning.

The top-ranked Husky women's team (left/2008 file photo by Paul Merca) will be looking to defend its Regional crown with a controlled effort, as they are virtually assured of an NCAA bid. The 17th-ranked men's team is also in a solid spot for nationals but must run well on Saturday to solidify that spot.

The top-two finishing teams in both the men's and women's races earn automatic spots at the NCAA Championships, which are just nine days after Regionals on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Indiana. The West Region is one of nine Regions across the country, which account for 18 auto qualifiers, then 13 at-large spots are awarded to round out the field.

Oregon hosts the Regional meet in nearby Springfield, at the Springfield Country Club. The men's race will be up first at 9:45 a.m. Regionals marks the first race where the standard men's distance increases from 8,000 to 10,000 meters, the same length as the national meet. The 6,000-meter women's race will follow at 10:45 a.m.

The Cougars of Washington State find themselves in a "must perform" situation if they expect to go to Terre Haute for the NCAA Championships on November 23rd. After a strong performance in the Pre Nationals meet last month which earned them their first national ranking since 2003, Wazzu's men's squad stumbled out of the gate at the Pac-10 championships two weeks ago, and dropped out of the national top 30.

"I think we have a pretty solid shot," said Cougar cross country coach Pete Julian. "We're ranked 18th in the West Region right now but I feel like we are a little better than that. We had a bit of a hiccup at the Pac-10 meet where the lads didn't run so well, but I feel good about our training over the last couple weeks and everyone seems healthy so I'm optimistic. I think these guys have an outside chance of qualifying for the NCAA championships. Individually, this team is a mixed bag. Any number of our guys could be our number one man, but what is more important is where our fifth man finishes which will determine whether we go to the NCAA Championships or not."

Eastern Washington will send a full men's team, but will miss junior Alex Smyth due to a strained quad muscle that was ailing prior to the Big Sky Conference Championships on Oct. 31. He finished 23rd after placing sixth as a sophomore.

"Without Smyth in the race, we've had to re-evaluate our goals a bit going into the meet this weekend in Oregon," said head cross country coach Chris Zeller.
Gonzaga will send Chris Boyle and Brett Withers.

For Washington, Kelly Spady is UW's top returner for the men. He was 24th last year and fellow senior Jake Schmitt was right behind in 26th. Junior Jordan Swarthout is coming off his best race of the year at Pac-10's, placing 30th, and was 36th a year ago. Senior Colton Tully-Doyle could see a big one year jump, as he was 100th one year ago but has been UW's No. 2 finisher at every race this year. While the lineup may change, it would be the first 10k run for Joey Bywater, David McCary, James Cameron, and Cameron Quackenbush, while Max O'Donoghue-McDonald will run his first since the 2007 Regional meet.

The #1 ranked Stanford Cardinal enters the meet as the favorite, led by Pac-10 champ Chris Derrick. They'll have Bellingham's Jake Riley and Gig Harbor's Miles Unterreiner on the squad. It's expected to be a battle between host Oregon, the University of Portland, featuring a number of Washington high school standouts, Arizona State, and the Huskies for the second automatic NCAA spot.

The No. 1 Husky women are coming off a Pac-10 title run two weeks ago in Long Beach, California. They've won 10 consecutive races, but the recent Pac-10 win was the closest of any of those 10. The Huskies outkicked the Oregon Ducks down the stretch, and will face the 5th-ranked Ducks again on Saturday. Oregon has the home course advantage, but the last time UW ran at the Springfield Country Club they swept the 2008 Pac-10 Championships, and Kendra Schaaf set the course record.

Washington will have the luxury of traveling nine women to Springfield, including five who have not competed at the regionals before, including 2008 Pac-10 harrier champion Kendra Schaaf, who UW coach Greg Metcalf intentionally sat out of last year's regional meet in Palo Alto, California.

Sophomore Christine Babcock is the Huskies' top returning runner from last year's meet, as she finished third in Palo Alto.

The WSU women will be represented by seniors Lisa Egami, Marisa Sandoval and Chelsea VanDeBrake , juniors Amanda Andrews and Ashlee Wall , sophomore Emily Farrar as well as freshman Caroline Austin.

Eastern and Gonzaga will not send a team or individuals to the regional meet.

NOTE: The sports information offices of Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Eastern Washington & Gonzaga contributed to this report.

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