Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Cougs and Dawgs head to Willamette Valley for Pac-12 cross country champs Friday...

In this blog’s preview of the 2016 Pac-12 cross country championships, World Wresting Entertainment hall of famer Ric Flair’s famous quote of “to be the man, you have to beat the man” was used to describe the cross country juggernaut that is the University of Colorado.

Although the University of Colorado won the women’s team title at the Pac-12s in Tucson last year, the tables were turned on the Buffaloes at the NCAA championships in Terre Haute, Indiana, as the University of Oregon, which finished fourth at both the Pac-12s and the West regionals, stormed past everyone to win the NCAA title.

With Oregon set to host the Pac-12 championships at the Springfield Golf Course on Friday, the number one-ranked Ducks are the team to beat for the team title over the 6k distance, especially after they defeated  Colorado at the adidas Pre-Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky two weeks ago.

A victory by Oregon on its home course would snap a two year grip by Colorado on the conference team title.

The University of Washington, led by defending champ Amy-Eloise Neale (left/photo by Paul Merca), goes into the Pac-12s as the #13 team in the country, On paper, the Dawgs, who scored the only perfect 15 in meet history in winning the Pac-10 title on this course nine years ago en route to its only national title, are projected to finish third, behind Oregon and Colorado, with #14 Stanford expected to battle the Huskies, along with #27 Utah and #28 California.

On paper, Neale does not appear to be the favorite to defend her individual title, as Oregon’s Katie Rainsberger, who set a course record of 18:48 in winning the Bill Dellinger Invitational last month; Dani Jones of Colorado, who beat Rainsberger at the adidas Pre-Nationals, and Utah’s Grayson Murphy, who was second at the Under Armour Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, have all run well in the big invitationals this season.

However, Neale, who was 14th in Wisconsin, had one of the fastest last 2k splits at that race, running 6:22 to gain ten places. If she can stay within striking distance of the leaders with less than a mile to go as she did at last year’s Pac-12 championships, she will be a factor. 

Washington State will be led into battle by Vallery Korir, the transfer from Murray State, who won the open section of the Nuttycombe Wisconsin meet two weeks ago.

In the men’s competition, Colorado is the team to knock off for the title belt, as the Buffs have won every Pac-12 title since entering the league in 2011, and are on course to set the league-record streak of seven. Colorado currently shares the league record of six straight Pac-12 team titles (2011-16) with Stanford (2000-05).

The Buffaloes, who enter the Pac-12 8k championship race as the #5 ranked team in the country, will be challenged by #6 Stanford, and #8 Oregon, with #14 UCLA, #20 Washington State, and #21 Washington all having something to say about the outcome.

Washington State will be led by All-American Michael Williams, who was 39th at Wisconsin two weeks ago. The Huskies will be led by senior All-American Colby Gilbert along with fellow senior Andrew Gardner.

The Dawgs will have available freshman Talon Hull, who sat out the Wisconsin meet with an injury.  According to the school’s press release, senior Fred Huxham will not travel to Springfield, though he was on the preliminary entry list. Huxham, who only ran in the meet against Seattle University on September 1st, will be eligible to redshirt, assuming he doesn’t compete in any more meets this season.

A pair of runners from the Spokane area could contend for individual honors in Colorado’s John Dressel, who was a cross country All-American last year, and Oregon’s Tanner Anderson, who was third in the Pac-12 10000m last spring.

For the first time, the Pac-12 Network will televise the Pac-12 cross country championships live Friday, beginning at 11 am (Comcast channel 628 in Seattle), with Jim Watson, Dwight Stones, and Lewis Johnson on the call.  Authenticated subscribers can also stream the meet on their computers or devices using the Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com. The awards ceremony will be webcast on the Pac-12’s Facebook page.



paulmerca.blogspot.com will be in Springfield covering the Pac-12s.

THE REST OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE FOR WASHINGTON’S D1 SCHOOLS…

On Friday, Gonzaga travels to Oakland for the West Coast Conference championships at the Metropolitan Golf Links, with the women’s 6k starting at 10 am, and the men’s 8k following at 11 am.

On the men’s side, #2 ranked BYU and #3 ranked Portland are set to collide for the conference crown, as those two schools have won the last 38 WCC titles.

Portland has on its roster two athletes with Washington ties, led by Nick Hauger from Spokane’s Shadle Park HS, and Logan Orndorf from Cedarcrest HS in Duvall.  Both were scorers for the Pilots in Wisconsin two weeks ago, with Hauger finishing eighth.

The Zags will be led on the men’s side by Dillon Quintana, who was 16th in last year’s conference title race, and Max Kaderabek, who led the team two weeks ago at the adidaa Pre-Nationals in Louisville.

On the women’s side, Jordan Thurston, the last remaining member of the historic 2015 team that won the WCC title en route to qualifying for its first NCAA national championship berth, leads the way for the Zags into Oakland.


The WCC championships will be streamed live on TheW.tv.

Saturday, both Eastern Washington and Seattle University will compete in their conference championships, with Eastern heading to Ogden, Utah for the Big Sky Conference meet hosted by Weber State, while Seattle University travels to Las Cruces, New Mexico for the Western Athletic Conference title clash, hosted by New Mexico State.



After conference championship weekend, all five schools will compete at the NCAA West Regionals in Seattle on November 10th at Jefferson Park Golf Course on Beacon Hill.

NOTE:  The Pac-12 Conference, the Western Athletic Conference, the Big Sky Conference, the West Coast Conference, and the sports information offices of all five Washington NCAA Division I schools contributed to this report.

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