Friday, November 6, 2009

A trip to Evansville is on the line for SPU & Western Washington...

SAN FRANCISCO--The Seattle Pacific Falcons will toe the line with rivals Alaska Anchorage, Western Washington, Chico State, and 21 other teams for the NCAA Division II West Regional championships.

The starting gun for the 6-kilometer race goes off at 9 a.m. That will be followed at 10 a.m. by the 10K men's race, in which SPU senior Chad Meis will take one final run at qualifying for the NCAA championships.

The NCAAs will, in fact, be on everyone's mind Saturday. On the women's side, the top four teams will earn a trip to Evansville, Ind., for the nationals, which are set for Saturday, Nov. 21. In the men's race, Meis will have to finish either in the top five overall, or be one of the top two finishers from outside of the three qualifying teams to grab a ticket to Indiana.

Falcon senior Jessica Pixler from Eastlake HS in Sammamish will be seeking an unprecedented fourth straight regional championship. That would come on the heels of her winning a fourth consecutive Great Northwest Athletic Conference crown on Oct. 24 in Yakima.

On the subject of good things coming in fours, the SPU women are out to earn their fourth trip in a row to NCAAs. Their past two national trips have ended with trophies: second place in 2007 and fourth in 2008.

Last year, Western qualified both teams for the first time since joining the NCAA in 1998, with the men placing third and the women fifth as five teams went to nationals in that division in 2008.

In the latest U.S. Cross Country Coaches Association/NCAA Division II Top 25 (Oct. 28), the Vikings are ranked No.6 in the men's poll and No.10 in the women's poll.

"Our goal is to qualify both teams for nationals," said Western coach Pee Wee Halsell "The men are running really strong and probably have a little wiggle room, but on the women's side it'll be important to move up our four through seven runners."

Chico State is the pre-meet favorite in both races, the women being ranked second nationally and the men third. The Wildcats have won the last seven regional men's titles and are the defending women's champion.

Western, which won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference men's title, is rated No.2, followed by Cal Poly Pomona and Alaska Anchorage. GNAC champion UAA is second regionally in the women's poll, followed by Seattle Pacific, Western and UC San Diego.

The Viking men placed third at regionals last year and went on to finish 10th at nationals. They finished second at regionals in 2007 and were 11th at nationals, and also went to nationals in 2003, placing 13th.

Leading the Viking men are three junior All-Americans, two-time honoree Bennett Grimes, Blake Medhaug, and Jordan Welling.

Western is led by All-American Sarah Porter, who was runner-up for the second straight year at the GNAC meet behind Pixler.

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

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