Wednesday, November 7, 2012

West's best cross country teams converge upon Beacon Hill for NCAA West Regionals...

For Gonzaga, Eastern Washington, Seattle University, the University of Washington, and Washington State University, the road to Louisville, Kentucky goes through 4101 Beacon Avenue South in Seattle on Friday, as the Huskies hosts the NCAA West regional championships at Jefferson Park Golf Course to determine who runs in the national championships the following week.

The vaunted University of Washington women's cross country team (left/photo by Paul Merca), currently ranked #7 in the USTFCCCA national poll, is the defending regional champion, a title the Huskies have won the last four years.

If the Huskies are to win a fifth straight regional title, they will have to upend #3 Oregon, #4 Arizona, and #5 Stanford, all of whom finished ahead of Washington at the Pac-12 championships almost a fortnight ago in Santa Clarita, California.

The Dawgs will also have to have a strong performance from junior Katie Flood, who had an uncharacteristic bad race in California, as she struggled to a 26th place finish.

A first or second place finish in this meet, which is one of nine regional championship races contested across the country on Friday, guarantees those teams a berth in the NCAA championships on November 17th, with an additional 13 teams earning at-large bids, which are selected by committee.

Washington is in prime position to earn a national championship spot even if they don't' finish in the top two, based on their strength of schedule this season, which included appearances at the Louisville Classic and the Wisconsin adidas meet.

Both the Washington and Washington State men's teams will need to run over their heads Friday to be in the conversation for an at-large entry into the national championships, as they will face #3 Stanford, #9 Portland, #11 Oregon, #25 Arizona State, and #27 UCLA.

In the case of Washington State, any hopes for the Cougars to make a return trip to the national championships will rest on the shoulders of senior captain Andrew Kimpel, who missed the Pac-12 meet with a hamstring injury.  In last year's regionals at Stanford, an inspired Kimpel finished 13th to help WSU take fourth.

Though Seattle University's men's team is a long shot to qualify for the national championship meet, the Redhawks' Erik Barkhaus could potentially qualify as an individual to the national championships.

Barkhaus, the WAC champion, would have to be one of the top four finishers in the regional 10k race not on an advancing team, while also finishing in the top-25.

In the women's 6k race, scheduled to get underway at noon, runners to watch include freshman sensation Laura Hollander from Cal Poly/SLO; Stanford's Kathy Kroeger; Oregon's Jordan Hasay; San Francisco's Eva Krchova; Arizona's Elvin Kibet; Oregon's Alexi Pappas; Jennifer Bergman of Arizona; Amanda Mergaert of Utah; Megan Goethals of the UW; and Shelby Houlihan of Arizona State.

Lawi Lalang & Stephen Sambu
of Arizona (Paul Merca photo)
In the men's 10k race that will be contested at 1:15, defending NCAA champion Lawi Lalang of Arizona is the one to watch along with teammate Stephen Sambu, after they destroyed the field two weeks ago at the Pac-12s.  Others to watch include the Oregon duo of Trevor Dunbar and Parker Stinson, Scott Fauble and William Kincaid of Portland; Chris Frias of Cal Poly; Lane Werley of UCLA; Joe Rosa of Stanford; and Joey Bywater of the host Huskies.

Admission to the meet is absolutely free.  Complete meet information is available here.

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