The 2016 collegiate cross country season begins for the state’s Division I schools Thursday, as the University of Idaho hosts the Clash of the Inland Northwest meet on the Idaho Golf Course, with the women’s 4k starting at 6pm, and the men’s 6k 30 minutes later.
The meet features Gonzaga, Eastern Washington and Montana, in what is a preview of the course that will be used for the Big Sky Championships at the end of October.
Eastern Washington’s women’s squad will be led by senior Sarah Reiter (left/photo by Paul Merca), a former Big Sky cross country champ, who was two seconds away from earning All-America honors at the NCAA championships in Louisville last year.
While the Eagles, coming off the program’s most successful season in school history on the women’s side, graduated most of their top seven competitors, they will have Reiter and Paula Gil Echevarria back.
Defending West Coast Conference women’s champions Gonzaga will be led by redshirt senior Jessica Mildes, who was Gonzaga’s top returning finisher at the NCAAs.
The men’s race will be wide open, and potentially not be as strong as in years past, with Washington State, which qualified for the NCAA championships last year, opting to run an intrasquad meet in Colfax at the Colfax Golf Course, site of last year’s Pac-12 championship meet.
The Cougars’ intrasquad meet gets underway in Colfax at 6:30 with the women’s 4k, and the men’s 6k at 7 pm.
WESTERN AND SEATTLE PACIFIC RANKED IN DIVISION II PRE-SEASON POLL
Both Western Washington squads and Seattle Pacific’s women’s team were ranked in the USTFCCCA national coaches’ Division II rankings that were released Wednesday.
On the women’s side, Western Washington begins the season with a #9 ranking, while Seattle Pacific comes in at #23.
Other Great Northwest Athletic Conference teams ranked in the national top 25 include defending conference champ Alaska Anchorage at #6, and Simon Fraser at #20.
Grand Valley State in Michigan begins the season as the country’s #1 women’s team in the pre-season poll.
The Viking men’s squad, which finished third at last year’s GNACs, start the 2016 season ranked 22nd.
Defending champ Alaska Anchorage is ranked #4, while Simon Fraser, who finished second at last year’s GNACs, starts off the season ranked #12 in the D2 men’s poll.
Defending national champ Colorado Mines begins the season as the #1 ranked team in Division II.
NOTE: The sports information offices of Eastern Washington, Gonzaga, Idaho, and Washington State, along with the USTFCCCA, contributed to this report.