Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NCAA West Regionals at Jefferson Park GC to decide who goes to Louisville...

The team race between WCC champs Gonzaga (above) and
Big Sky runner-up Eastern Washington is one of the
most intriguing of Friday's NCAA West Regionals
(Paul Merca photo)
For all five of the state’s Division I schools, the Jefferson Park Golf Course in Seattle’s Beacon Hill is the final stop before the NCAA cross country championships in Louisville, Kentucky on November 21st, as the University of Washington hosts the NCAA West Regional championships.

Both Washington squads go into the West Regionals nationally ranked, with the men’s team coming in at #17, while the women are ranked #12.

The real drama happens in the first race of the day at noon, as three of the state’s five Division I schools have realistic shots at getting their women’s squads qualified for the national championships over the 6k distance.

Assuming that the Washington women, which finished fourth at the Pac-12 championships in Colfax, can run close to what they did two weeks ago, the Huskies should advance to the national championships, due to a strong schedule that saw them finish second in their own invitational, eighth at the adidas Wisconsin Invite, and the Pac-12s against nationally ranked competition.

The top two teams from each of the nine NCAA regional races Friday  automatically advance to the NCAA championships, meaning that 13 teams will be added to the field Saturday when the NCAA committee makes its final decisions based on a formula that uses strength of schedule and what ranked teams you’ve beaten during the regular season.  Additionally, the top four individuals not on a team that advances to nationals will move on, assuming they finish in the top 25.

One of the most intriguing battles is the one between Gonzaga and Eastern Washington for what could be one of the final spots to Louisville.

The Zags, who are ranked #30 in the final regular season poll, won the West Coast Conference title on a tiebreaker two weeks ago in Spokane Valley over #24 BYU, while the Eagles finished second at altitude in the Big Sky championship race in Cedar City, Utah.

Gonzaga’s faced Oregon and BYU twice, and finished sixth at the Washington Invitational, beating Eastern Washington. 

Conversely, Eastern Washington beat Gonzaga in dual meet scoring at the Clash of the Inland Northwest in early September, finished seventh in the Washington Invitational, and 13th at the Pre-Nationals meet in Louisville, which may be significant in the eyes of the selection committee, as Gonzaga’s only major invitational was the Washington Invitational.

Bottom line—for either Gonzaga or Eastern Washington to have a chance to advance to nationals, they must beat each other, run close to one of the big four teams in the regionals—Oregon, Boise State, Stanford, and Washington, and hope for a bit of luck based on the results from the other eight regional races Friday.

In the men’s 10k race that gets underway at 1pm, assuming that Washington runs the same race that they ran two weeks ago, the Huskies should advance to the nationals, most likely as an at-large team.

The top six teams in the final West Regional rankings are Stanford, Oregon, Washington, UCLA, Boise State, and Washington State.

The Cougars could make things interesting if at least three of their runners can run up front close to Michael Williams and John Whelan, which is easier said than done, as all of their listed entries behind Williams and Whelan are freshmen with the exception of sophomore Sam Levora.

Washington State, which upset the Huskies in September at the Sundodger Invitational, will have its hands full with the likes of UCLA, Boise State, Cal, and Portland in the mix, and will probably need to beat those teams convincingly.  On paper, Stanford, Oregon and Washington are head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

Here are the links to each of the school’s pre meet previews (click on the name of each school):

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