Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NCAA Division II championships start Thursday; DI regionals on docket...

The NCAA Division II championships get underway Thursday at the Irwin Belk Complex on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina.

All of the action in Thursday's session consists of qualifying rounds in running events, except for the multi-events, a few field events, and the men's and women's 10000 meter runs.

Athletes from Seattle Pacific, Western Washington, and Central Washington will be in action Thursday, including heavy favorite Jessica Pixler, as the senior from Eastlake HS in Sammamish is entered in both the 800 and 1500 meter runs in her final collegiate race before she starts her pro career.

Buried in a Seattle Pacific news release about the "Fab Four" group of seniors--Pixler, Jane Larson, Lisa Anderberg and Kate Harline--was the revelation that Larson, who was seeded second in the women's 1500 meter run behind defending NCAA champ Pixler, was forced to withdraw from the national championships because of the discovery of a stress fracture in her femur earlier this week.

You can read the release about the "Fab Four" here...

The schedule of events for the NCAA Division II championships are posted here, while the men's start lists are available here, and the women's start lists are here.

In Austin, Texas, the NCAA Division I West Regionals will be contested beginning Thursday, featuring athletes from the University of Washington, Washington State University, and Eastern Washington.

If you are thinking that this meet will be like the regional meets of years past--think again!

This meet, for all intents and purposes, is the equivalent of the first and second rounds of the national championships. To use the NCAA basketball tournament analogy, the meet in Austin and the East regionals in Greensboro, North Carolina, are the equivalent of the games paring teams down from 64 teams down to the final four, with the NCAA Championships in two weeks in Eugene being the site of the Final Four.

Unlike the Final Four (oh yeah, gotta remember to capitalize the word Final Four, or else the NCAA police will be all over us!), there's no such thing as a regional champion in each of the events. The top twelve (no ties, which could make things interesting, especially in field events, and lane races) marks in each events in Austin and Greensboro, advance to the national finals in Eugene.

The time schedule for the West regionals are available here...the men's start lists are available here, while the women's start lists are available here.

Just for fun, our friends at the USTFCCCA have a downloadable copy of the West & East Regional start list, conveniently packaged as a bracket a la the NCAA basketball tournament for you bracketologists out there--you can download it here!

I hate to admit this, but as a longtime observer of this sport, I'm honestly lost in how this new regional format is supposed to work. If you think I'm lost, then how does the casual fan of the sport who happens to stumble upon the track in Austin or Greensboro to root for his/her favorite athlete/school figure out who's moving on to Eugene?!?

To help everyone out, here's a great article about how the regional meets are supposed to work, and the pros and cons of it, courtesy of The Statesman in Austin.

By the way, a live video stream of the meet is available from the West Regionals...please click on the NCAA West Regionals home page here, and follow the links.


KENDRA SCHAAF NOT RETURNING TO THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON...

For the past couple of weeks, University of Washington sophomore Kendra Schaaf (left/photo by Paul Merca), who was the NCAA cross country runner-up in the 2009 championships behind Illinois' Angela Bizzari, was the subject of numerous rumors, after she only ran in two indoor meets this winter, and didn't run in any outdoor meets for the Huskies.

In a short email exchange with paulmerca.blogspot.com, Schaaf's Canadian club coach, Steve Gersten of the Queen City Striders Track Club, confirmed that Schaaf, the 2009 Canadian senior national cross country champion, is indeed leaving the University of Washington.

Where Schaaf ultimately ends up remains a source of speculation, as the message boards on letsrun.com have her going to either North Carolina, West Virginia or Florida State (disclaimer--take it with the proverbial grain of salt; this site will not speculate, preferring to wait until official word comes out).

Assuming Schaaf ends up at another NCAA Division I school, she would have at most two seasons of eligibility in cross country, and three seasons in both indoor and outdoor track.

During her career at Washington, she helped lead the Huskies to the school's first national cross country championship in November 2008, and won the Pac-10 cross country championship that season, leading the Huskies to a perfect score of 15 points and an unprecedented sweep of the first six places in the conference championship race.

Last season, Schaaf finished first or second in every race of the year, leading the Huskies in every race, as UW won Pac-10, Regional, and Pre-National titles and placed third at NCAAs. She is one of just five women to earn multiple Pac-10 Athlete of the Year honors, and won her first NCAA West Regional title and the first ever for a Husky.

Before entering Washington, Schaaf finished 20th in the 2008 IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland; seventh in the 5000m at the 2008 IAAF World Junior Track & Field Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland in the 5000, and 13th in the 1500m.

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