Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kendra Schaaf wins first Canadian senior cross country title...

GUELPH, Ontario, Canada--Days after finishing second in the NCAA cross country championships over six kilometers, University of Washington sophomore Kendra Schaaf (left/photo by Paul Merca) won her first Canadian national senior cross country title, traversing the seven-kilometer course at the University of Guelph Arboretum in Guelph, Ontario in 23:21.

Schaaf, a two time national cross country champion at the junior level, defeated runner-up Megan Brown by a seven second margin.

Finishing third was Megan Metcalfe in 24:03, followed by University of Washington senior Anita Campbell, who ran 24:09.

Schaaf and Campbell are eligible to represent Canada at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships on March 28th in Bydgoszcz, Poland, as well as the 2010 Americas Cross Country Championships March 6th in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.

UPDATE: The link to the complete results is now available here .

Here is a link to media partner Flotrack's coverage of the Canadian national cross country championships.

Washington assistant coach Kelly Strong resigns...

Here is the complete text of the release from the University of Washington announcing that assistant coach Kelly Strong (far left/photo by Paul Merca) has resigned her position as an assistant coach at the school:

"Washington track and field and cross country assistant coach Kelly Strong has chosen to resign after more than seven years of invaluable contributions to the Husky program. Strong has served as the primary assistant coach for the women's distance program under head coach Greg Metcalf since 2002, helping build the cross country team into a national powerhouse."

"Kelly Strong has been instrumental in taking this program to heights never before seen at Washington," said Metcalf. "Her efforts recruiting and mentoring our young women have been second-to-none, and her efforts have helped build the current momentum and positive energy that our women's team thrives on. I wish her all the best and can't thank her enough for her outstanding contributions."

"Thanks to the work of Metcalf and Strong, the UW women's cross country program has enjoyed the best three finishes in school history over the last three seasons, culminating in the program's first ever national championship in 2008. This year the Huskies placed third at the NCAA Championships, with sophomore Kendra Schaaf finishing as the individual runner-up and named a Honda Award Finalist. The Huskies have won the past two Pac-10 and West Regional Championships."

"All told, women's distance athletes during Strong's tenure have earned 27 All-America honors, including four more this fall in cross country. The cross country program reached NCAAs in six of her eight seasons working with Metcalf."

What will Kelly's next move be, and where will she land? It's been known by numerous people within the national community that she was a very integral part of the women's distance team's success. It's also been known that she had turned down several coaching positions, the most recent being a coaching position at Michigan State last year, in order to be with this group.

I will miss Kelly and her contribution to the program. Whoever gets this position will have some big shoes to fill.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kendra Schaaf & Anita Campbell entered in Canadian cross country championships...

Fresh off a second place finish in Monday's NCAA cross country championships in Terre Haute, Indiana, University of Washington sophomore Kendra Schaaf (left/photo by Paul Merca) is entered in Saturday's Canadian national cross country championships at the University of Guelph Arboretum in Guelph, Ontario.

Schaaf, who will compete for the Queen City Striders, will face a field that includes Megan Metcalfe, Lisa Harvey, and current UW teammate Anita Campbell, who ran out of cross country eligibility, but has remaining track eligibility.

The senior women's race, which will be contested over 7 kilometers, is scheduled for 1:30 pm, eastern time.

The Championships will also serve as the selection trials for both the 2010 Americas Cross Country Championships March 6th in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, and the IAAF World Cross Country Championships March 28 in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

The current start list for the Canadian championships is listed here.

For more information, please visit athletics.ca/guelph2009.

QUICK NOTES: According to a release from the IAAF that very few people noticed amidst the NCAA hoopla, the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships were awarded to Punta Umbria, in the province of Huelva, Andalucia, in Southern Spain.

A popular tourist location, the seaside town is also known for its fishing industry.

The course proposed, based on a 2km loop, will be located close to the town center. The date accepted for this competition is 20 March 2011.

According to sources, this will start the two-year cycle for the meet, which will now be contested in odd-numbered years, with the next meet slated for 2013.

The complete release can be read here...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NCAA Cross Country Championship photos now up...

NCAA Cross Country Championship photos are now up on our Facebook page!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Schaaf finishes second, as Washington Huskies finish third at NCAAs...

TERRE HAUTE, Indiana--The University of Washington women's cross country team's title defense was derailed by a strong effort by Villanova, who won its first national title in eleven years.

Today's championship race was contested under sunny skies and temperatures in the low to mid 50s.

Kendra Schaaf (leading pack/photo by Paul Merca), the sophomore from Canada, led the way for the Huskies with a second place finish, running 19:52, as she battled with Illinois' Angela Bizzari, before Bizarri emerged with the win in 19:47.

Senior Katie Follett placed 23rd in 20:32, and was followed by junior Mel Lawrence in 31st at 20:39. Sophomore Christine Babcock placed 34th (20:43) , followed by redshirt freshman Allison Linnell in 136th place (21:35).

Freshman Kayla Evans was 166th, followed by junior Kailey Campbell who finished 182nd, a disappointing finish for her, considering nine days earlier, she finished fourth in the NCAA West Regionals.

Colorado's Jenny Barringer, the American record holder in the steeplechase faded badly over the last 3 kilometers and finished 163rd.

Schaaf, the Canadian sophomore, was in third early in the race, and was slightly surprised to see first, Barringer, then Susan Kuijken come back to her. Meanwhile she was in her own little battle with eventual winner Angela Bizzarri, the reigning NCAA 5000 champ outdoors.

“She (Bizzarri) and I went back and forth—she would throw a little surge, then I’d surge back.

Bizarri pulled away with about 500 meters to go to get the win.

The gap between Washington’s fourth and fifth runners was perhaps the major difference between the Huskies defending their title, and obtaining a third place trophy, as the gap was 52 seconds.

Washington State's Lisa Egami finished 169th in a time of 21:50.

Schaaf, Follett, Lawrence and Babcock each earned All-America honors for their efforts.

The 15th ranked Washington men's team placed 18th with a team score of 470, as Oklahoma State, coached by former Olympia prep standout Dave Smith, won the NCAA title with a score of 127 points.

Senior Kelly Spady led the Huskies with a 65th place finish (30:36). Colton Tully-Doyle was 72nd in 30:39, followed by fellow senior Jake Schmitt in 104th at 31:00.

Washington's other scorers were Cameron Quackenbush at 159th, in 31:27, followed by Max O’Donoghue-McDonald at 183rd in 31:42.

Jordan Swarthout (32:07) and Joey Bywater (32:46) rounded out Washington’s runners.

Among other Washingtonians in the race, Portland's Tommy Betterbed, a Gig Harbor HS graduate, and the fifth place finisher in last week's NCAA west regionals, crossed the line in a time of 31;02 good for 107th place.

Other Portland runners from Washington included Matt Frerker from Skyline HS in Sammamish, who ran 32:21.

Stanford's Jake Riley from Bellingham was 54th in 30:31, and teammate Miles Unterreiner from Gig Harbor was 117th in 31:06.

Oregon's Jordan McNamara, who went to school at Auburn Riverside, finished 179th in a time of 31;41.

Video highlights--NCAA cross country championship pre meet press conference...

TERRE HAUTE, Indiana--With a few hours to go before the NCAA Cross Country Championships, here are some highlights from Sunday's press conference featuring University of Washington coach Greg Metcalf (left/photo by Paul Merca), along with senior runner Katie Follett, as they talk about their team and their outlook for defending the national championship title they won last year.

"Our sport is all about timing and momentum," said Metcalf to the assembled media. "We're healthy, fit, and excited to go run Monday."

Metcalf was asked what was different about this year's trip compared to last season when UW was looking for its first title. He thought the team would be better prepared to handle the pressures.

"The goal is just to get to that date with a shot. We can control nothing of what anyone does except what we do. We're taking it one meet at a time, one week at a time, and continue to build as the season progresses," Metcalf said. "The expectations and pressures our women put on themselves haven't changed whatsoever. I think our group is a little more calm, cool, and collected than a year ago; a little more battle-tested and ready."

The weather is supposed to be like it was Sunday--sunny with highs in the mid 50s.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Huskies inspect NCAA championship course...

TERRE HAUTE, Indiana--Relaxed was the tone as the Washington Husky cross country teams (from left, Allison Linnell, Mel Lawrence, Katie Follett & Lauren Saylor/photo by Paul Merca) made their final preparations for Monday's NCAA Cross Country Championships at the Lavern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute.

The number one ranked Husky women's team, who emerged victorious at last month's Pre-Nationals on this course, and have an 11-meet winning streak dating back to last year, cruised easily through the course, checking the footing for Monday's race.

The Washington men's team, ranked #15 in the current USTFCCCA polls, are going into Monday's national championship race with the hope of a top-10 finish, a feat last accomplished by a Washington squad in 1993.

Seniors Jake Schmitt, Kelly Spady, and Colton Tully-Doyle have led Washington in nearly every race this season.

Washington head coach Greg Metcalf, speaking to a host of reporters at the pre-meet press conference, described the course as being fast, thanks to the ideal weather conditions that have prevailed over the last few days.

Metcalf joined the head coaches from No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Princeton, and No. 4 Florida, then Follett took the stage along with Colorado's Jenny Barringer, Florida State's Susan Kuijken, Illinois' Angela Bizzarri, and Villanova's Sheila Reid.

"Our sport is all about timing and momentum," said Metcalf to the assembled media. "We're healthy, fit, and excited to go run Monday."

Metcalf was asked what was different about this year's trip compared to last season when UW was looking for its first title. He thought the team would be better prepared to handle the pressures.

"The goal is just to get to that date with a shot. We can control nothing of what anyone does except what we do. We're taking it one meet at a time, one week at a time, and continue to build as the season progresses," Metcalf said. "The expectations and pressures our women put on themselves haven't changed whatsoever. I think our group is a little more calm, cool, and collected than a year ago; a little more battle-tested and ready."

Follett was also asked to discuss the changes from one year to the next.

"That we bring back so much of the same team I think does help us carry over the momentum from last year, but it is a different year, it's going to be a different race," she said. "Obviously we have some very talented teams that we're going to be racing against tomorrow, so I think all of us are just focusing on going out there, racing as hard as we can, and not getting caught up in expectations or pressures."

The weather conditions for Monday's race are expected to be sunny with temperatures in the low to mid-50s for the start of the men's race shortly after noon, local time.

The meet will be televised on VERSUS beginning at 9:00 am, Seattle time, and streamed online via ncaa.com. Seattle area fans are also invited to a viewing party at the Ram Restaurant, located in the University Village shopping center, just north of the UW campus, beginning at 9 am.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pixler three-peats as NCAA D2 cross country champ; SPU & WWU earn fourth place team finishes...

EVANSVILLE, Indiana--Jessica Pixler (left/photo courtesy Randy Miyazaki-trackandfieldphoto.com) has done it again.

Under clear and sunny skies, the Seattle Pacific senior proved it again on Saturday as she ran to her history-making third straight NCAA Division II women’s cross country championship.

Pixler cruised along the 6-kilometer University of Southern Indiana Cross Country Course in 20 minutes, 23 seconds. It was the closest of her three title victories, as Western Washington junior Sarah Porter was second in 20:31.

Porter finished over 13 seconds ahead of third-place Ashley Siler from Missouri Southern.

“Neely Spence (of Shippensburg State, last year’s runner-up to Pixler) was with me until about the 4K mark, but then she kind of died,” Pixler said. “It was just kind of me finishing. It put a surge on the hill, and I think that helped. That was kind of a turning point.”

Spence, the 2009 USA junior champion faded to 43rd.

In talking about Porter's second place finish, Western coach Pee Wee Halsell said, "Sarah's strategy was not to go out with the leaders and expend too much energy." "At the halfway mark, she went out and really started dropping people and she was really pulling on Pixler at the end."

And in keeping with that theme of threes, the Falcon women captured their third straight team trophy. As the case last year, this was the fourth-place model, and SPU claimed it by beating West Region rivals Alaska Anchorage and Chico State. Seattle Pacific finished with 151 points.

The Western women finished eighth with 300 points, as Adams State emerged victorious with 73 points.

Among other notables in the women's race, former two-time Pac-10 steeple champ from Washington State Sara Trane finished 18th, competing for Florida Tech, and former Pac-10 cross country newcomer of the year from UW, Tori Tyler, representing Chico State, finished 27th, four spots ahead of Western's Lauren Breihof.

Three other West Region teams placed in the top 10, Seattle Pacific being fourth (151), Alaska Anchorage fifth (158) and Chico State sixth (172).

Pixler, from Eastlake HS in Sammamish, joined an elite group of three-time NCAA cross country champions, and is the first in Division II to win that many. The other three-time winners were Sally Kipeygo of Texas Tech (2006-07-08 in Division I) and Missy Buttry of Wartburg (2002-03-04 in Division III). She now has nine NCAA championships: three in cross country, four in indoor track and two in outdoor track.

Prior to nationals, Pixler completed a four-year sweep of the GNAC and the West Region championships.

“It’s kind of funny after having it happen -- you realize more and more it wasn’t about winning the title,” Pixler said. “So much of the journey was about spending time with teammates and family and coaches.”

Added SPU coach Erika Daligcon, “To go out there and make (D-2) history, that’s pretty special. It just speaks to the work. She’s definitely talented, but she has put in all those hours of work.”

The Falcons packed three runners within one second of each other. Seniors Suzie Strickler and Jane Larson were the Nos. 2 and 3 Falcon finishers in their final career cross country races. Strickler was 46th overall in 22:12, and Larson was 47th, just a second back. Sophomore Natty Plunkett was right with them, taking 49th in 22:13.

Senior Kate Harline (Orem, Utah) rounded out the SPU scoring by finishing 62nd in 22:25.


Adams State of Colorado won its seventh straight title, posting the day’s low total of 73 points. Grand Valley State of Michigan was second with 81, followed by Missouri Southern in third with 104.

Alaska Anchorage, which dominated both the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the West Region championships, wound up fifth with 158. Chico State, the top-ranked team in the country for a stretch of the season, placed sixth with 172.

Western Washington's mens squad earned a NCAA team trophy as well, as the Bellingham school finished fourth.

Adams State from Colorado, the team champion in both the men's and women's competition, finished with 23 points in the men's division. Western State CO was second (86), Colorado Mines third (153) and the Vikings fourth (170), 15 points ahead of fifth-place Grand Valley State MI.

Western was paced by Jordan Welling, who finished 13th, completing the 10-kilometer course in 31:45.

"Jordan got up that first hill and then at the halfway mark started picking people off," Western Washington coach Pee Wee Halsell said. "He had a very strong second half."

The Vikings' Anthony Tomsich placed 45th (32:45), Eric Brill 52nd (32:49), Bennett Grimes 56th (32:54), Blake Medhaug 61st (33:00), Greg Kubitz 79th (33:18) and Yonas Berhe 97th (33:42).

"To have all seven men finish in the top 100 is an amazing feat," Halsell said. "Brill had an incredible race, to move up from being our fifth runner most of the season to third was outstanding."

Complete results of the NCAA Division II championships can be accessed here.


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

Pixler wins third straight NCAA D2 harrier title...

The Twitter page of Seattle Pacific University reports that Jessica Pixler has indeed won her third consecutive NCAA Division II cross country title.

They also report that the Falcons finished fourth in the team race.

According to a text message received from Bill Roe before we board to Indianapolis, Sarah Porter of WWU was second; Lauren Breihof was 31st for the women, and Jordan Welling from WWU was 13th for the men. All will get All-America honors.

The Viking men's team placed fourth, while the women's squad finished eighth.

Here's a story on the Seattle Times' web site previewing Pixler's quest for the threepeat at the NCAA D2 nationals in Evansville.

More details later...we will post a story after we arrive in Indiana!

Quick links before leaving for the NCAA cross country championships...

Here are some quick links before paulmerca.blogspot.com heads to Terre Haute, Indiana for Monday's NCAA Cross Country Championships:

The link to the University of Southern Indiana's home page for the NCAA Division II cross country championships, where Seattle Pacific's Jessica Pixler will try and defend her national title is here…

Seattle Pacific has a full women's team entered, and Western Washington has both their mens' and womens' teams entered.

We'll have a recap of the Division II championships late Saturday.

The home page of the Division I championships is here…

Nike's Border Clash cross country race featuring the top high schoolers from Washington and Oregon is Sunday at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton. You can read about it here...

Some quick track & field news--Tyson Gay & Sanya Richards were selected by USA Track & Field as the Jesse Owens Award winners--you can read the USATF release here…

Gay and Richards are in Monte Carlo for Sunday's World Athletics Gala, where the 2009 World Athlete of the Year awards are being presented.

Here are links to the male and female finalists, and a quick rundown of their accomplishments.

We're going back to Indiana!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NCAA Cross Country Championship links...

Here's a series of links to get you ready for Monday's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana:

First is an announcement from UW assistant coach Jason Drake on the Husky track & cross country teams' Twitter page inviting fans to watch the viewing of the NCAA Cross Country Championships at the Ram Restaurant at the University Village Mall, just north of the UW campus.

Next is Washington State's media release announcing that senior Lisa Egami (above/photo by Paul Merca) was selected as an at-large competitor for Monday's race after her 11th place finish in last Saturday's West Regionals in Springfield, Oregon.

"Going to nationals is just an amazing way to finish off my college cross country career," Egami said. "It has been my goal all season to make it to nationals and I'm so excited to compete in Terre Haute next week. After making nationals last spring, I just really wanted to prove to myself that I wasn't a one-hit wonder and I could make it to nationals again. I have always thought of myself as more of a track runner but I knew that I could compete with the women runners in the region, and really wanted to show myself that I could be a competitive cross country runner."

You can read the WSU release here

Joe Darda has a great feature on Washington senior Jake Schmitt and his preparation for Monday's race, and how running the 2006 Pac-10 cross country meet as a Cal sophomore was a wake up call for him.

After a period where he had to sit out, due to Pac-10 transfer rules, he's made two appearances at the NCAA outdoor championships, and claimed All-America honors indoors last season with his ninth-place finish in the 5000.

"That was huge," he says of his first All-American honor. "That's why I transferred. That's why I came to Washington, to compete at nationals, to be an All-American. I really felt like it had all come to fruition, and it was really nice to be able to look back on my first couple years and see my growth."

You can read Darda's story here

The Husky women's team have a giant target on their back as the defending NCAA champions. Here's a link to a video by KING 5's Lisa Gangel, featuring Husky senior Katie Follett and UW coach Greg Metcalf.



The University of Portland Pilots, who were led by Gig Harbor's Tommy Betterbed, are now ranked #4 in the USTFCCCA polls entering the NCAA championships.

The Pilots jumped from seventh to fourth with 317 points to move ahead of the now No. 6 Colorado, No. 8 Oregon and No. 13 Northern Arizona. Portland defeated the Ducks by 25 points at Regionals. Stanford remained the top team in the poll and has had the ranking for the last six polls. The Cardinal earned 11 first-place votes to take the top spot with 359 points, while Oklahoma State is No. 2 with 349 points and Alabama is No. 3 with 326 points.

You can read the Portland release here...

DIVISION II CHAMPIONSHIP LINKS

To get you ready for Saturday's D2 nationals, here's the link to Seattle Pacific's release, as the Falcons bid for a spot on the podium, led by senior Jessica Pixler, who is bidding for her third straight national title, in what may be an epic battle against Shippenburg State sophomore and 2009 USA junior national champ Neely Spence.

Senior Jane Larson will chase yet another All-American honor. And a pack of five Falcons -- fellow seniors Kate Harline , Lisa Anderberg, and Suzie Strickler and sophomores Natty Plunkett and Mary Williams will follow as closely as they can in an effort to snare yet another piece of hardware for the SPU trophy case.

The SPU release can be read here…

Western Washington University's Kelven "Pee Wee" Halsell has been voted the 2009 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year.

Halsell directed the Vikings to a GNAC title and a national-qualifying second-place finish at the NCAA Division II West Regional Championships.

The award is the fourth men's cross country GNAC Coach-of the Year award for Halsell, who was also selected in 2003, 2006 and 2007.

You can read Western's release here...

Don't forget that you can watch Monday's NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships live on Versus (Channel 34 or 626 in HD on Seattle area Comcast) starting at 9am on Monday, if you can't make the viewing party at the Ram. You can also watch the streaming video via Versus.com or NCAA.com.

paulmerca.blogspot.com will cover the NCAA championships for the second consecutive year. We get into Terre Haute Saturday night, and will attend the press conference and the workouts on Sunday, and the race (naturally!) on Monday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dr. Ken Foreman to be inducted into National Track & Field Hall of Fame...

One of the greatest track & field coaching legends from the Pacific Northwest will add one more milestone to his illustrious career, as Dr. Ken Foreman (left/photo courtesy Seattle Pacific University), the long time coach at Seattle Pacific University and the founder of the Falcon Track Club, will be inducted into USA Track & Field's National Track & Field Hall of Fame.

The induction ceremony is set for Saturday, December 5th at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held in conjunction with USATF's 2009 Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Being inducted along with Foreman are athletes Joetta Clark Diggs, Andre Phillips, Willie Steele and Randy Williams.

"All of us at USA Track & Field congratulate these five talented individuals on their election to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame," said USATF Chairman and President Stephanie Hightower. "Their contributions have added tremendously to the legacy of USA Track & Field, and we all look forward to their induction ceremony next month in Indianapolis."

Foreman served as SPU’s head coach from 1950-57, 1965-78, and 1985-99. He founded the Falcon Track Club in 1955, and served as that squad’s coach in 1977.

Considered the patriarch of the Falcon family, Foreman also served as the Seattle Pacific athletic director from 1952-57, had three stints as the cross country coach (1950-56, 1964-71, and 1973-77), and also was the basketball coach from 1952-57.

Among the many athletes who excelled under Foreman’s tutelage was Doris Brown Heritage, a five-time women’s cross country world champion and already a USATF Hall of Fame member. He also coached Olympic athletes Kelly Blair-LaBounty, Lorna Griffin, Pam Spencer and Sherron Walker.

Altogether, athletes coached by Foreman won 14 AAU titles between cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, and collected 26 collegiate championships. He saw 13 of his Seattle Pacific teams finish in the top 10, was the head women’s track coach for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team and served as the Team USA head coach at the 1983 World Outdoor Championships. In addition, he was the head coach of the U.S. world cross country team in 1967, 1970 and 1973.

In a statement released by USA Track & Field, Foreman said, "Actually, having been nominated twice and passed over, I was in total shock. I couldn't believe that I had been nominated again, let alone voted in to the Hall of Fame. It's very exciting."

Foreman is a charter member of the Falcon Legends Hall of Fame.

NOTE: Tom Surber of USA Track & Field, and the sports information office at Seattle Pacific University contributed to this report.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NCAA West Regional Cross Country interview: Tommy Betterbed...

Here is a video interview with University of Portland senior Tommy Betterbed (left/photo by Paul Merca), who graduated from Gig Harbor High School after Saturday's NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championships in Springfield, Oregon.

Betterbed finished fifth individually to lead the Pilots to an automatic NCAA Championships bid with a second-place finish. He was the only upperclassmen of seven Portland runners, all of which finished among the top 76 individually. The No. 8 Pilots scored 84 points, trailing only No. 1 Stanford (27), while beating out No. 3 Oregon by 25 points to match the second highest regional finish in school history.

“The guys did a nice job of executing our race plan and finishing hard over the last half of the race,” said Portland coach Rob Conner. “The fact that we have five freshmen and a sophomore going made it even more impressive. Usually it’s hard to get the younger guys to be patient. Tommy really came through with a nice race today. He was 52nd at nationals last year, so he still has some unfinished business remaining.”

As expected, Washington Huskies earn at-large berth to NCAA championships...

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the University of Washington men's cross country team, led by senior Colton Tully-Doyle (left/photo by Paul Merca) was announced as one of the 13 schools receiving an at-large berth to next week's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The Huskies, who entered the weekend ranked #17 in the most recent USTFCCCA poll, earned the right to contest for the national title with its fourth place showing at Saturday's NCAA West Regional championships, behind only #1 ranked Stanford, #7 ranked Portland, and #3 ranked Oregon.

The Huskies also benefited by winning the Notre Dame Invitational and finishing fifth in their section of the ultra-competitive Pre-Nationals meet on the same Terre Haute course that hosts the upcoming NCAA championship meet.

This will be the fifth NCAA team appearance in the last seven years for the men. Leading the Dawgs this year has been the senior trio of Jake Schmitt, Kelly Spady, and Colton Tully-Doyle. All three competed at NCAAs last year. The best finish for a men's cross country squad under Coach Greg Metcalf was 12th in 2006, a spot this year's group will certainly be striving to surpass.

This is just the fifth time in more than 30 years of UW cross country that both the men's and women's teams will be competing at the NCAA Championships, but the second season in a row. Last year while the women finished first, the men earned an 18th-place finish and returned six of the seven runners from that NCAA run. Metcalf also led both his teams to NCAA bids in 2003, and Husky men's and women's teams each qualified in 1977 and 1989 as well.

Indiana State University will host the Championships, November 23, at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course located at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. The men’s race will begin at approximately 12:08 p.m. Eastern time, followed by the women’s race at approximately 12:58 p.m. Both championship races will be broadcast live on Versus Network and streamed online via NCAA.com.

The complete release from the NCAA can be read here...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Video interview with Washington's Kendra Schaaf & Greg Metcalf...


SPRINGFIELD, Oregon--Here's a video interview with Washington's Kendra Schaaf & Greg Metcalf following the NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championships at the Springfield Country Club.

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Washington emerges with the victory at NCAA West Regionals...

SPRINGFIELD, Oregon--Another day, another W.

While not quite the dominating performance by the Washington Husky women's cross country team that it demonstrated on this same course one year ago, the Huskies proved that for now, they are the team to beat in nine days with their convincing win at the NCAA West Regional championships Saturday at the Springfield Country Club.

Washington prevailed over Oregon 25-66. Stanford was third at 94 points, and Arizona State was fourth at 119 points. Most experts are projecting Stanford and ASU as the two at-large teams that will advance from this region to the national championships.

Rebounding from two straight losses at the Pre-Nationals and the Pac-10 Championships, sophomore Kendra Schaaf (above/photo by Paul Merca) took the victory over the six-kilometer course, running 20:42 after being content to stay in the pack for the first two laps.

Despite a course that UW coach Greg Metcalf described as a bit on the soft side, forcing many of his runners to go to longer spikes, Schaaf was not fazed by the conditions.

"Coming from Canada, I've run in much worse conditions. This course had the right amount of squishiness."

In discussing the race strategy, the champion stated that she and the rest of their teammates planned to run easily for the first 3/4ths of the race, knowing that the nation's number one team has a formidable task ahead in nine days.

When asked about whether or not this year's version of the Washington cross country team is better, she said that this team is indeed an improvement over the 2008 version that won the national title.

Behind Schaaf were junior Mel Lawrence in third at 20:59, followed by a breakthrough performance by Ballard High School grad Kailey Campbell in fourth at 21:01.

Senior Katie Follett was seventh at 21:03. followed by sophomore Christine Babcock in tenth at 21:13.

Washington State senior Lisa Egami earned an individual berth to next week's NCAA championship meet with an 11th place finish at 21:19.

The Cougars finished the meet in fifteenth with a score of 410 points.

In the men's 10k race, the Cardinal of Stanford proved to be as dominating as the Husky women, going 1-2-3, led by sophomore Chris Derrick, who ran 30:39.

Gig Harbor's Miles Unterreiner finished 13th for the Cardinal at 31:03. Bellingham native Jake Riley sat out the regionals for the Cardinal.

Gig Harbor's Tommy Betterbed, who attends the University of Portland made a significant breakthrough with his fifth place finish in 30:43, to lead the Pilots to a second place finish with a team score of 84 points, ahead of host Oregon with 109.

The Washington Huskies finished fourth with a team score of 120, ahead of Cal Poly and Arizona State at 155. Oregon, Washington, Cal Poly and ASU should advance to nationals as at-large selections.

Colton Tully-Doyle led the Huskies with his 18th place finish at 31:13. Fellow senior Kelly Spady was 20th at 31:15, followed by redshirt frosh Joey Bywater at 31:22. Jake Schmitt in 30th at 31:27, and Cameron Quakenbush in 34th at 31:38 rounded out the Husky scorers.

The Cougars of Washington State did not have the type of race that coach Pete Julian projected them to have in his pre-meet comments to the media.

Washington State finished tenth with a team score of 268, and were led by Justin Englund in 41st at 31:54.

Running with a group of underclassmen and without the services of their top runner Alex Smyth, Eastern Washington coach Chris Zeller took his team to Springfield to get the experience necessary to compete at this level in the future.

Kyle King was the top finisher for the Eagles in 120th place at 33:39.

Gonzaga's top finisher was Chris Boyle from Blanchet HS in 101st at 33:13.

Video interviews featuring UW's Greg Metcalf and Kendra Schaaf will be posted later, along with Portland's Tommy Betterbed from Gig Harbor.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chris Lukezic announces retirement from sport...

In a post on his Twitter account Wednesday night, former Auburn High School standout Chris Lukezic (left/2008 photo by Paul Merca) announced that he was retiring from professional track & field.

Chris, who recently moved from Colorado Springs to the San Francisco area wrote, "Today I'm officially retiring from the sport of track and field! 2 months ago I followed my heart when I joined @airbnb."

"
I will sincerely miss the sport, but I am excited for the challenges that await."

After graduating from Georgetown University, Lukezic ran professionally for Reebok, and made the 2005 world championship team in the 1500 meter run. He won the 2006 US indoor title, and was a two-time USA junior champ at 1500 meters.

paulmerca.blogspot.com hopes to have more on Lukezic's decision to leave the sport soon.


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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two good reads on Jason "JD" Drake & Katie Follett...

Here are two great articles on the web on new Washington assistant track & cross country coach Jason "JD" Drake (left/photo courtesy University of Washington), and on Husky senior Katie Follett.

Drake, who joined the Washington staff in July, is described by head coach Greg Metcalf as someone "that could be a head track coach at another Pac-10 school."

Drake certainly has the credentials. During his seven-year stint across the state at Washington State University, Drake led the men's cross country team to the 2006 NCAA Championships, their first NCAA appearance in eight years and second since 1984.

From the few times that I've had the opportunity to interact with JD, I've found that he's been willing to push the button and embrace the use of social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to get the word out about Husky track & cross country.

Joe Darda writes, "In addition to coaching and recruiting responsibilities, he will be encouraging alumni relations and fundraising with the aim of a new outdoor track and field facility. This is what Drake calls "the big picture stuff."

"In the new world with resources like Flotrack, our sport is getting more exposure and there are people in the community who will get involved," Drake points out. "I'm hoping to reach out to those people."

In addition to websites like Flotrack, which provides comprehensive video coverage of track and cross country events, Drake is doing his own part to promote the sport--and the Huskies--through his "uwtrack" Twitter account.

You can read the full story here...

Meanwhile, senior Katie Follett (left/2007 photo by Paul Merca) was interviewed by Runner's World writer Peter Gambacccini in advance of Saturday's NCAA West Regional cross country meet in Springfield, Oregon.

Follett talks about the differences between the 2008 national champions and this year's squad, as well as her high school career, where she said, "I hadn't had the most success in high school. I never made it to any of Foot Locker races or on the national scene."

Follett, a two-time Pac-10 champion and Olympic Trials qualifier at 1500 meters, is a very articulate young woman who wrote a guest column last year for paulmerca.blogspot.com at the Olympic Trials in 2008, and was selected by UW coach Greg Metcalf to speak at last year's NCAA cross country championships media session the day before winning the national title.

You can read Gambaccini's article here.

paulmerca.blogspot.com will have coverage of Saturday's NCAA West Regional meet from Springfield, Oregon.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Both Western Washington squads & Seattle Pacific women earn NCAA berths...

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Western Washington University had the best combined showing in school history as its men's team, led by junior Jordan Welling from Burlington (left/photo courtesy Western Washington University) placed second and the women's squad finished fourth at the NCAA Division II West Region Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Golden Gate Park's Speedway Meadow.

The finishes qualified both Viking teams for the national meet November 21st at Evansville, Ind. The men were ranked sixth nationally and the women 10th in this week's U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association/NCAA Division II Top 25.

The runner-up finish by Western's men matched their best ever at regionals. The Vikings also were second in 2007, and third in 2008.

Chico State took the men's title for the eighth straight year with 42 points. Western was second in the 20-team field with 74, and Alaska Anchorage was third with 96, edging out Western Oregon, fourth at 105.

"We hit our goals and got to nationals," said Western coach Pee Wee Halsell . "Now, we just need to fine-tune and I can still see improvement happening."

Welling was second individually in the men's 10k race (31:00) as was the Vikings' Sarah Porter in the women's 6k run (20:43).

In all, five Viking runners earned all-region honors by placing among the top 15. Anthony Tomsich was seventh at 31:24 and Bennett Grimes was 12th in the men's division (31:43), and Lauren Breihof was 12th (21:45) in the women's division.

SPU's Chad Meis, the lone Falcon in the men's race, ran a personal-best time of 32 minutes, 22 seconds for a 21st place finish that fell just short of a national qualifying spot.

Seattle Pacific senior Jessica Pixler from Sammamish went out from the start and ran to her fourth straight Division II West Regional title. She cruised over the 6-kilometer (3.72-mile) course in a record time of 20 minutes, 9 seconds.

The Falcon senior broke her own course standard of 20:37, which she set on Oct. 9 in the San Francisco State Invitational pre-regional meet, and gave her a 34-second margin of victory on runner-up Sarah Porter of Western Washington.

Pixler’s victory and a solid seventh-place run from fellow senior Jane Larson led SPU to a national-qualifying third-place finish in the team standings. Great Northwest Athletic Conference stablemate Alaska Anchorage won with 35 points, Chico State was second with 58, the Falcons were next with 75, and Western Washington grabbed the fourth and final team qualifying spot with 121.

Tori Tyler, a former Pac-10 cross country freshman of the year at the University of Washington, finished sixth in 21:24 to help Chico State earn a second place team finish.

All four of those schools are ranked in the top 10 nationally. Chico came at No. 2, Anchorage at No. 5, Seattle Pacific at No. 6, and Western at No. 10.

Complete results from the NCAA Division II West Regionals can be accessed here.

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

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.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nike Spring 2010 Global Running Summit (part 2)...

SAN FRANCISCO--In conjunction with the Nike Women's Marathon, Nike hosted a group of journalists from around the world to introduce product from its spring 2010 running line.

The main story of the summit was the introduction of an improved Nike LunarGlide running shoe, along with two other shoes utilizing the LunarLite foam material--the Lunar Elite, and the Lunar Swift for both men and women.

Nike's Ernest Kim is the speaker featured in this video, as he discusses the LunarRacer+ 2 racing flat, used by Kara Goucher (left/photo by Paul Merca) at the Boston and IAAF World Championships marathon, along with Dathan Ritzenhein at the Beijing Olympic marathon.

Incidentally, special thanks to Nike and their media relations team of Heidi Burgett, Jacie Prieto, Megan Saalfeld, and Morgan Shaw for their assistance and hospitality during our stay in San Francisco.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Darren Rovell's blog posts on Meb hot topic in the running community...

CNBC.com sports business writer Darren Rovell's post on ING New York City Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi (left/photo from US Olympic Marathon Trials by Paul Merca), has touched a raw nerve among people in the running community, if you read the comments posted at the end of the article.

A few hours after I posted my take on Darren Rovell's article, Rovell issued an apology on his page, the contents of which you can read here.

The comments left on my Facebook page, especially from those who I consider to be insiders of the sport, came fast and furious over the last 24 hours, when I posted links to Rovell's original article on cnbc.com, along with the New York Times' article.

Instead of calming the readers down, his follow up post got folks even more fired up, as there were about 13 pages (at 7:30 pm, pacific time on Tuesday) of comments, nearly all of which read to the effect that Darren's apology was not enough, and disingenuous to Keflezighi, his family, friends, support system, and so forth.

He wrote, "Frankly I didn't account for the fact that virtually all of Keflezighi's running experience came as a US citizen. I never said he didn't deserve to be called American."

"All I was saying was that we should celebrate an American marathon champion who has completely been brought up through the American system."

"This is where, I must admit, my critics made their best point. It turns out, Keflezighi moved to the United States in time to develop at every level in America. So Meb is in fact an American trained athlete and an American citizen and he should be celebrated as the American winner of the NYC Marathon."

This sentence leads one to ask, "If Meb were an Anglo-American, would the American sporting public, or for that matter, the American running community react differently?"

What is so galling is the fact that Rovell fails to admit that he didn't do the research on Meb's history, including the fact that he won an Olympic silver medal in the marathon for the USA at the 2004 Olympics in Athens--or if he did, he conveniently left that out.

A post on his Twitter page (twitter.com/darrenrovell1) Monday, where he writes, "If u move here @ age 12, u aren't American-born. USA running still has a problem even w/Meb win" suggests that he maybe--just maybe--he did know about Meb's history.

The bottom line? At best, Darren's apology comes off as half-assed. I quite frankly am disappointed, especially considering that Rovell is a damn good reporter who normally is very thorough in researching his topics, especially in the sports business field.

Curiously enough, USA Track & Field, and Meb's sponsor, Nike, have not issued a statement supporting Keflezighi. It's my hope that they are speaking to Darren behind the scenes and educating Rovell on Meb.

One person who has spoken out is New York Road Runners head Mary Wittenberg, who tweeted on her page, "Meb's not only American. He's living the American dream. So happy for him!"

What's your take on this? If you have any thoughts, please post it in the comments section, but please keep it clean and civil. Any comments construed as slanderous, libelous, etc., will be deleted.

Meb Keflezighi's not American enough?!? Darren Rovell, please tell me you're joking...

Folks in the American running community had reason to celebrate Meb Kefezighi's (left, #999/file photo from 2005 World Championships by Paul Merca) victory in the ING New York City Marathon Sunday, as Keflezighi ended a 27-year streak of foreign winners in one of the world's most prestigious big city marathon races.

Unfortunately, some people in the mainstream media, most notably CNBC's Darren Rovell--a guy who I should point out is normally one of the sharpest journalists on issues dealing with sports business--chose to think that Meb's win wasn't all that it's cracked up to be.

In his blog post of November 2nd, Rovell described the 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist's win as, "Nothing against Keflezighi, but he's like a ringer who you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league."

Are you kidding me?

Are you FREAKING kidding me?!?

I'd use some other words, but I'm not going to go there.

I will say this--his post is one of the most off-base and ignorant pieces I've ever read in quite a long while. Not only that, what he wrote borders on racism. I've got to say that Darren obviously didn't do his research.

Incidentally, the last American to win the New York City Marathon--Alberto Salazar--wasn't born in the United States, but emigrated to America from Cuba.

For those that have followed the sport for a long time, Meb has always been at the forefront in this country. He didn't begin to run competitively until he came to the United States from Eritrea via Italy, and was developed as a runner in the San Diego public school system, beginning in the late 1980s.

In 1993, he finished second in the Foot Locker national high school cross country championships in his home town to a guy you might have heard of--Adam Goucher.

(Incidentally, did you see the finish line tape when Meb crossed the line--it had Foot Locker's logo--a company that is one of the biggest supporters of the sport, and whose program Meb was a beneficiary of as a prep)

His talents earned him a scholarship to UCLA, where he earned his degree in Communication Studies and a specialization in business--and oh, by the way, won four NCAA individual championships under the tutelage of Bob Larsen, who remains his coach to this day.

I felt compelled to write this piece because I consider myself first and foremost a friend of Meb's. I've been privileged enough to work and travel with Meb on three USA national cross country teams, and countless national championship races.

It's my hope that those of you who read this give Darren a piece of your mind--but as Merhawi Keflezighi, Meb's brother and agent said on his Facebook page, "please let Darren Rovell of CNBC know just how American Meb is. And let's do it respectfully."

Here's a link to an article in the New York Times discussing Meb's citizenship and why mainstream America hasn't exactly embraced him, along with a link to letsrun.com.

On a more positive note, Meb appeared on David Letterman's show Monday night--here's the link, courtesy CBS:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sayenko finishes 14th in ING New York City Marathon...

NEW YORK--Former Washington Husky Mike Sayenko (left/2007 file photo by Paul Merca), a 2006 graduate and native of Bellevue, Wash., finished 14th Sunday at the ING New York City Marathon, one of the world's premier races.

Sayenko, a Sammamish High alum who now competes for Strands, has developed into one of the country's top up-and-coming marathoners over the past few years, and was the eighth-best American finisher, running a personal-best time of 2-hours, 16-minutes, and 38-seconds.

American Meb Keflezighi won the race in 2:09:15, becoming the first American man to win the race in 27 years.

Results from the ING New York City Marathon can be accessed here.

Weekend roundup: Halloween conference cross country edition...

After a one hour delay due to weather conditions making travel conditions to the course hazardous for several teams, the Eastern Washington men's team finished fifth in the Big Sky Conference cross country championships Saturday in Greeley, Colorado.

Sophomore Kyle King (left, #133/photo courtesy Eastern Washington University Sports Information) led the Eagles with his 17th place finish over the 8K course, running 26:52. Junior Alex Smyth (#134) was 22nd at 26:59, followed by junior Graham Vaux in 28th at 27:11.

Freshman Simon Sorensen was 38th in 27:58, and sophomore Cody Barton was one place behind in 28:04 to round out Eastern's five scorers.

The Eastern women's team finished ninth in the Big Sky meet with a team score of 278 points, and were led by sophomore Stephanie Dye's 44th place finish, clocking 21:50 over the 6K course, hosted by Northern Colorado University.

At Belmont, California, Gonzaga University's cross country teams got at least some of the improvement they were looking for at the West Coast Conference Cross Country Championship.

The Bulldogs men finished fifth with 123 points, one spot better than last year's sixth-place finish and 145 points. The Gonzaga women finished sixth with 134 points, just five points behind fifth-place Pepperdine University. Last year the Bulldog women were seventh with 211 points.

"It was night and day from last year," Gonzaga second-year head coach Pat Tyson said. "We showed improvement but we still have goals, and one of those is to be in the top four in this conference."

Seattle sophomore Chris Boyle, who Tyson said has been the Bulldogs top runner the past two weeks, proved it Saturday with a 10th-place finish in 25:34 over the 8K course. Junior Matt Bejar, running near his hometown of San Jose, Calif., finished 23rd in 25:34 and senior Brett Withers of Woodinville, Wash., was 28th in 26:17. All three ran in last year's championship.

Boyle was named to the All-WCC first team, the first Bulldog since Joe Miller in 2006 to earn first-team recognition. The top 10 finishers are named to the All-WCC first team with the next five runners accorded honorable mention recognition.

Newcomers comprised the rest of the Bulldog roster. Spokane freshman Tate Kelly was 30th in 26:29, Christian Burger, a freshman from Portland, Ore., was 32nd in 26:30, freshman Patrick Richie, who hails from Grand Rapids, Minn., was 37th in 26:40 and freshman Brad Kachigan from Long Beach, Calif., was 41st in 26:52.

"We hoped we could have cracked the top four but they competed well. Plus, we have six of these seven back next year along with whatever we add to the arsenal for next year. We left some pretty talented alternates home this year," Tyson said.

Tyson said Boyle ran a good race, starting in about 20th and gradually moving his way through the pack and getting into the top 10 in the last mile.

"He would have been a good guy for some of our other runners to have keyed off," Tyson said.

Junior Molly Funk of Denver drew the praises of her coach.

"Molly was hit with some asthma problems during the race and probably dropped 10-14 positions in the final mile," Tyson said. "But she hung on to finish and was still in our top four. She's fine, but she was disappointed. But I'm extremely proud of her."

Elizabeth Slamkowski, a sophomore from Colorado Springs, Colo., paced the Bulldogs in 22nd in 22:39 over the 6K layout to lead a solid line of tightly-bunched Bulldog blue through the finish gate. Spokane junior Corrina O'Brien was 26th in 22:47, junior Brittany O'Regan of Chico, Calif., was 27th in 22:49, Funk was 29th in 22:52, Spokane freshman Laura Bergam was 30th in 22:56, sophomore Kayla Lloyd of Hood River, Ore., was 32nd in 23:01 and Eugene, Ore., sophomore Brenn Donnelly was 40th in 23:26.

"We were the best team with balance," Tyson said. "But we need a couple of top guns to go with a solid group. Our ladies are marvelous middle-distance runners, but we need some 5K runners to supplement them. But they are young and will continue to improve."

At Bronx, New York, the Seattle University men's cross country team finished in second place, while the women's cross country squad also exceeded preseason expectations with a fourth place finish at the Great West Conference Championships Saturday at Van Cortlandt Park.

Matthew McClement earned second team All-Great West honors with an 11th place finish, posting a time of 26:53.49 over the eight-kilometer course. Hans Heitzinger (Scottsdale, Ariz.) was the next SeattleU runner to cross the finish line, finishing in 17th place with a time of 27:10.33.

By coming in one after the other, the next three runners were able to secure the team's second-place finish. Michael Van Nuland (Newcastle, Wash.) finished in 22nd place with a time of 27:22.55, followed by Kelton Sears (Maple Valley, Wash.) in 23rd place in 27:23.12 and Nicholas Alvarado (San Francisco, Calif.), closing out his collegiate cross country career, in 24th place with a time of 27:25.96.

Adam Kollgaard (Kent, Wash.) earned a 36th place finish with a time of 28:08.27, and Erik Barkhaus (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) finished in 41st place in 28:27.60. SeattleU finished with 91 points, holding off third-place South Dakota (96 points) and fourth-place New Jersey Tech (99 points). Utah Valley easily won the team competition by placing five runners in the top eight, while Christian Baumbach of New Jersey Tech won the individual race in a time of 25:57.95, over 20 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.

For the second time this season, Celeste Cassidy (Bellingham, Wash.) was the top finisher for the SeattleU women, crossing the finish line in 18th place in 24:24.32 over six kilometers. Lauren Hammerle (Seattle, Wash.) completed her first collegiate season with a 23rd place in 24:51.93, and Rachel Yorkston (Bellingham, Wash.) quickly followed her to the finish, placing 24th with a time of 25:00.33. Greta Stickney (Poulsbo, Wash.) crossed the finish line in 26th place with a time of 25:06.87, and Brittney Hovdenes (Rapid City, S.D.) finished in 28th place with a time of 25:21.85.

Freshman Jennifer Stolle (Seattle, Wash.) earned a 30th-place finish with a time of 25:38.55, and Allison Prather (Carpinteria, Calif.) finished in 37th place in 26:15.96. Led by individual champion Mary Nothum, who posted a time of 22:16.49, Utah Valley easily won the team title with seven runners among the top nine.

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

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