Friday, October 29, 2010

All five Washington NCAA D-I schools in action at conference championship meets...

For Washington’s five NCAA Division I schools, Saturday is conference championship time, as the schools begin their trek to the ultimate destination, Terre Haute, Indiana for the NCAA cross country championships on Monday, November 22nd.

The Washington Huskies only have to travel seven miles from campus down I-5, as they host the Pacific 10 cross country championships at Jefferson Park Golf Course, with the women’s 6k race starting at 10 am, and the men’s 8k race at 11 am.

The two-time defending women’s champions enter the meet as underdogs behind Oregon, Arizona, and Stanford, all of whom are ranked in the top ten in the country entering this weekend, according to the most recent USTFCCCA polls.

Oregon is ranked #2, Arizona #6, and Stanford #9, after strong showings by the latter two schools at the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute two weeks ago, and Oregon’s efforts at the Notre Dame Invitational on October 1st.

Individuals to watch include Oregon’s Jordan Hasay (3rd in 2009) and Alex Kosinski; Stanford’s Stephanie Marcy & Kathy Kroeger, Cal’s Deborah Maier, UCLA’s Shannon Murukami, Arizona’s Hannah Moen, and USC’s Zsofia Erdelyi.

Washington will have the services of 2008 NCAA 7th place finisher Christine Babcock Saturday, as she will make her 2010 season debut. Two weeks ago, she won the Charles Bowles Invitational at Willamette University in Oregon competing unattached, while the rest of the team ran in Indiana.

The Huskies, who started the season ranked #3, but saw their stock tumble after sub-par performances at both Notre Dame and Pre-Nationals, are looking to regain the swagger that took them to two straight conference titles, and a national championship two years ago

According to UW coach Greg Metcalf, "With Christine in there, she makes all the women around her better.”

"But most importantly, she's tough. With Kailey Cambell, Mel Lawrence (left/photo by Mike Scott) and the rest of our team, then all of a sudden. ... This team that on paper is the fourth-best in the conference, this team could do a little damage."

Washington will run three true freshmen Saturday in its ten-woman squad, led by Nike Cross Nationals champion Katie Flood from Iowa; Liberty Miller from California; and Mackenzie Carter from New York.

For the Washington State Cougars, coach Pete Julian hopes to get his women’s squad out of the basement after last year’s tenth place finish.

They’ll be led by true freshman Ruby Roberts from Kingston, who has finished as their top runner in every meet this season, despite getting a rude welcome to top-flight collegiate running two weeks ago at the Pre-Nationals.

“Ruby will tell you herself – she didn’t run her best race at the [recent] Pre-Nationals meet. But you have to remember, 70 of the strongest teams in the country were competing out there – I’m sure it was a bit of a rude awakening for her," Julian said.

"But you can’t get that kind of experience unless you go compete in these events – especially for a freshman. We can't forget that with these fall sports, the true freshman who are out there competing are only a few months removed from high school, from sleeping in their own beds and getting home cooked meals. It's a big adjustment. It’s a big spotlight, and there are lots of things to balance.”

WSU will run three other freshmen--Sarah Bobbe and Allison Clark from Vancouver, and Ramona Morshead from Kingston.

Both the Huskies and Cougars may consider themselves fortunate if they finish in the top five in the men’s 8-kilometer race, which starts at 11 am.

The race for the conference title will be a dual between #1 ranked Stanford, and #3 ranked Oregon, with #22 California, UCLA, and the two Arizona schools in the mix.

Stanford is led by NCAA All Americans Chris Derrick, Elliott Heath, and Bellingham native Jake Riley, who went 1-2-3 at the Pre-Nationals race two weeks ago, while the Ducks counter with Luke Puskedra, Matthew Centrowitz, Danny Mercado, and AJ Acosta.

Derrick is the defending Pac-10 champion.

Reigning NJCAA champ Stephen Sambu from Arizona, is perhaps the individual with the best chance to break up the Stanford trio, with possibly Cal’s Michael Coe sneaking into the mix.

Washington will be led by Joey Bywater from Lake Stevens, who finished 69th at the Pre-Nationals meet two weeks ago, and hope to get a strong performance from Spokane’s Cameron Quackenbush, who dropped out of the last two races this season.

The Huskies will send a trio of redshirt freshmen—Mike Miller from Alaska, Gareth Gilna from New Mexico, and Taylor Carlson from Texas into the race.

Washington State will be led by sophomore Andrew Kimpel, who was a member of the USA junior team at last spring’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Poland, along with junior Justin Englund from Federal Way, who was the Cougs’ top returning finisher from last season.

WSU coach Julian says, “We struggled mightily at the Pre-Nationals race. It was just one of those unfortunate days. Everything that could have gone wrong, did. However, we still did not execute like we were supposed to. But at the end of the day I still knew this was a very solid team and we know that we can compete with some of the better teams in the country, and certainly with some of the better teams in the Pac-10.”

Four freshmen, and a redshirt frosh will toe the line for WSU—Vancouver’s Kyle Boe, Redmond’s Mack Young, Nevada’s Richard Shroy, and Oregon’s Drew Jordan, with Kennewick’s Andrew Gonzales.

UW's release is here, while Washington State's release is here.  The Pac-10 release is available here.

For those unable to watch the race in person, media partner Flotrack.org will provide live streaming video of the Pac-10 championships.

EASTERN TO HOST BIG SKY CONFERENCE; GONZAGA TRAVELS TO WEST COAST CONFERENCE, AND SEATTLE U HEADS TO TEXAS FOR GREAT WEST

Across the state in Cheney, Eastern Washington prepares to host the Big Sky Conference championships at the Fairways Golf Course starting at 10 am with the men’s 8k championship, and the women’s 5k at 11 am.

Northern Arizona, currently ranked #11 in the USTFCCCA men’s poll, is the prohibitive favorite to walk away with both conference championships.

Eastern will be led by senior Amy Kolin and junior Kyle King.

Eagle coach Chris Zeller thinks that Kolin has a shot at a top-10 finish and an all-conference berth, while King, who battled mono earlier this season, and finished third in the open section of the Pre-Nationals race two weeks ago, is slowly rounding into form.

Eastern's preview of the meet is here.  The Big Sky Conference release is here.

Gonzaga travels to Belmont, California for the West Coast Conference championships, where Bulldog coach Pat Tyson hopes that one-or-both of his squads breaks 100 points in the conference dominated by perennial powerhouse Portland on the men’s side, and San Francisco on the women’s ledger.

"These are pretty exciting times. This is my third year under the leadership of the program and here we are 24 months later from our women being seventh, our men sixth 24 months ago and some pretty high scores”, he said. "Here we are with completely different abilities. The runners we have now are definitely more talented, more focused than any team since I've been here."

"If we can break 100 it's a nice goal for our team. Whatever place that gets us I don't know. It might get us in the top four," Tyson said.

Laura Volcheff and Seattle native Chris Boyle are the Bulldogs’ top female and male runners, with Boyle a top-10 finisher in last year’s WCC race.

You can read Gonzaga's release here.

While Seattle U is ineligible to compete in the NCAA championships for another season after making the jump from Division II last school year, they travel to Edinburg, Texas for the Great West Conference championship meet.

Last year, the men’s team came in second behind champion Utah Valley, and it is expected that they will again be challenging UVU as well as trying to open the gap with the teams behind them.

“Based on our season and theirs, they should still be on top, but we definitely have a fighting chance. Our men’s team is considerably stronger and more experienced this year,” said Seattle U coach Trish Steidl.

Freshman Cara Talty and junior Erik Barkhaus are the frontrunners for the Redhawks.

You can read Seattle U's release here.

Here is a link to the USTFCCCA's Conference Championship Central, where all of the results and recaps from the various conference championship meets are located.

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