TUCSON, Arizona—It took a late kick with 20 meters to go, but the University of Washington’s Amy-Eloise Neale (left/photo by Randy Miyazaki) broke through to win the Pac-12 women’s 6k cross country championships Friday morning at Randolph North Golf Course.
Neale, the junior from Snohomish’s Glacier Peak HS via Great Britain, had doubts in her mind about whether or not she would ever be good at cross country after finishing fourth at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational.
Neale sat back in the lead group of ten runners or so, as teammate Charlotte Prouse did most of the early leading.
In the final lap, she made her charge, moving up to third and eventually second with 1000 meters to go, as she battled Colorado’s Erin Clark and Dani Jones. Clark had a one step lead will 100 meters to go, but caught Clark just short of the line to win in 20:22.9 to Clark’s 20:23.3, with Jones third at 20:24.4.
Prouse faded to sixth in 20:32. Pac-12 10000 meter champ Katie Knight was 19th in 21:10, with freshman Kaitlyn Neal 21st in 21:15. Izzi Batt-Doyle rounded out the Husky scorers in 28th in a time of 21:27.
Colorado, the nation’s #1 ranked team, took the women’s team title with a low score of 33 points, followed by the Huskies, ranked #2 nationally with 74 points.
Washington State finished 11th in the 12-team field with a final score of 304 points, led by Devon Bortfeld’s 37th place finish in 21:38.
The Cougars’ other scorers were Morgan Willson in 63rd (22:25), Morgan Lash in 77th (22:50), Josie Brown in 81st (23:01), and Jenaya Pynn in 83rd (23:11).
Talking about her victory afterwards, Neale said, “I actually didn’t realize it was quite that close. With 100 meters to go I realized that I hadn’t lost the race yet. So I just really tried to remember all the speed work that we’ve done, we’ve done some pretty good 300s workouts now and just tried to keep that in mind.”
UW coach Greg Metcalf said, “To see (her) go win a Pac-12 championship in the manner that she did says a lot. She gets passed, she battles back; I’d say that last 100 meters sort of defined her last couple years. She never stopped believing, not that she didn’t have moments along the way, but for Amy-Eloise to be the Pac-12 champion is just an incredible testament to the young woman that she is and the athlete that she is.”
Courtesy of the Pac-12 Network, here is the finish:
Why should you never ever EVER give up?— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 28, 2016
Let's ask @UWTrack's Amy-Eloise Neale, the 2016 #Pac12XC women's individual champ. pic.twitter.com/7eaWUORfW1
The men’s championship 8k race proved to be the coronation of Oregon’s Edward Cheserek, as he pulled away in the middle of the third lap to win his fourth straight conference title, running 23:59.
Cheserek’s win made him the first in conference history to win four straight titles, surpassing the three of Oregon’s Steve Prefontaine, and Washington State’s Henry Rono.
Assisted by former Spokane prep standout John Dressel, who finished sixth in 24:21, the Colorado Buffaloes, ranked #7 in the country, once again repeated as team champions, winning the crown for the sixth straight time, with a low score of 41, six points better than #2 Stanford’s 47.
Washington State, ranked 15th in the USTFCCCA poll, finished fifth with 130 points, led by junior Sam Levora’s 15th place finish in 24:51.
Following Levora were Michael Williams in 24th place (25:01), John Whelan in 26th (25:03), Nathan Wadhwani in 27th (25:04), and Nathan Tadesse in 38th (25:19).
The University of Washington, ranked #25 in the country, finished seventh with a final team score of 187 points. They were led by Andrew Gardner’s 18th place finish in 24:54. He was followed by Fred Huxham in 31st (25:08), Colby Gilbert in 45th (25:32), Johnathan Stevens in 56th (26:04), and Mahmoud Moussa in 61st (26:23).
Among notables with Washington ties finishing the race was Spokane native Tanner Anderson of the University of Oregon, who was 30th in 25:07.
Washington and Washington State move on to the NCAA West Regionals in two weeks in Sacramento, California.
REITER FINISHES SECOND IN BIG SKY
In Moscow, Idaho, Eastern Washington’s Sarah Reiter finished second overall, as the Eagles were sixth overall with 170 points.
Reiter ran 17:23 for the 5k distance, 9 seconds behind Weber State’s Ellie Child.
She was followed by Kaili Keefe in 26th in 18:27
On the men’s side, James Breen was the leader of the Eastern Washington squad, finishing 32nd over the 8k distance in 26:04.
The Eagles finished seventh with 194 points.
Northern Arizona swept both the women’s and men’s titles, with the women scoring a low of 48 points, and the men’s team scored a perfect 15 for the second time in conference history.
Spokane prep standout Nathan Weitz was NAU’s sixth man, placing sixth overall in 24:32.
Complete results and the Big Sky Conference’s recap are available here, while Eastern Washington’s recap can be accessed here.
GONZAGA’S THURSTON TAKES FOURTH AT WCC
In San Diego, Jordan Thurston of Gonzaga led the defending West Coast Conference champs to a fourth place team finish, as she took fourth in the individual race, running 20:59 for 6k.
In a hotly contested team race, the University of Portland, ranked #8 in the country, squeezed out the championship by a 42-44 margin over BYU, with San Francisco third at 47 points, and Gonzaga fourth with 139 points.
Lauren Larocco of Portland was the individual winner, running 20:28.
In the mens 8k championship race, Dillion Quintana led Gonzaga to a fourth place team finish with his 16th place individual finish, running 25:05.
Alex Short of San Francisco took the individual championship, running 24:20. BYU, the nation’s #4 squad, won the team title with 24 points, with #12 Portland second with 45 points. San Francisco was third with 92 points, followed by Gonzaga with 123 points.
NOTE: The Pac-12 Conference, and the sports information offices of the University of Washington, Washington State, Eastern Washington, and Gonzaga University contributed to this report.