Saturday, November 20, 2010

Western's Sarah Porter takes NCAA D2 West Regional title in Bellingham...

BELLINGHAM--Western Washington's Sarah Porter's (left/photo courtesy Western Washington University) march to a NCAA Division II national cross country crown moved one step closer, as the senior won the NCAA Division II West Regional race at Lake Padden Park.

In cold conditions featuring three inches of snow that fell to the ground the night before, Porter won by a 40-second margin, covering the 6-kilometer course in 21:22, with GNAC rival Ruth Keino of Alaska Anchorage taking second in 22:02.

"Hey, we made it and we're looking forward to letting it all out in two weeks," said WWU coach Pee Wee Halsell. "Having the snow actually made the footing a lot better. It was more of a blessing than a hindrance."

Alaska Anchorage took both team titles, the men upsetting Chico State, the region's top ranked team, by five points to snap an eight-year winning streak by the Wildcats. The Seawolves won the women's crown for the second straight year.

The top four men's teams qualified for nationals. UAA won with 49 points, as all five of its scorers placing among the top 15 to earn West Region all-star honors. The Seawolves were led by Marko Cheseto who finished first for the second straight year. He completed the 10-kilometer course in 31:21.

Cheseto was followed by two WWU runners, as Jordan Welling placed second for the second straight year (31:30) and Bennett Grimes was third (31:40).

Blake Medhaug also earned all-region honors for the Vikings, finishing 13th (32:20). Completing WWU's scorers were Nick Abraham in 35th (33:30), and Chip Jackson in 40th (33:35).

Chico State, which had won the last eight regional titles, placed second in the 19-team field, with 54 points. Host WWU was third (93), its fourth straight top three performance at regionals, and Western Oregon fourth (125).

Saint Martin’s finished 11th with 302, followed by Seattle Pacific at 372, and Central Washington was 16th with 438 points.

The Seawolves won the women's championship by 15 points, 40 to 55, over Chico State. UAA had the next three finishers behind Porter, whose time of 21:22 over the 6-kilometer distance was 40 seconds better than the runner-up.

"I've been trying to be conservative at the start, but today I threw caution to the wind and was almost reckless," said Porter, who competed in snow and 14-degree temperatures two years ago at nationals. "I really wanted this for my team, Pee Wee and everyone who came out here today."

Six women's teams were national qualifiers in the field of 24. WWU was third (111), with Cal Poly Pomona fourth (183), Western Oregon fifth (211) and BYU Hawaii sixth (213).

Seattle Pacific was 12th with 311, followed by Saint Martin’s in 17th with 451 points, and Central Washington 18th with 479 points.

WWU's Lauren Breihof earned all-region honors by finishing sixth (22:52). Other Viking counters were Sierra Brisky 30th (24:09); Jessica Boyer 33rd (24:17); and Lacey Nation (So., Lakewood), 41st (24:21).

The Vikings prepare for the NCAA Division II championships in two weeks in Louisville, Kentucky.

The complete results from the NCAA West Regionals are available here.

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

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