No. 2-ranked Bearcat men, trio of WU women qualify for nationals

CHINO, CALIF. - The No. 2-ranked Willamette men's cross country team and three members of the Bearcat women's team qualified for the NCAA Division III national championships Saturday in the Division III West Region championships at Prado Park.

The Bearcat men grabbed one of three West Region team spots by winning their first-ever regional title - but it was close. Willamette finished with 46 points, followed closely by second place Puget Sound (50) and third-place Claremont-Mudd Scripps (54).

The Willamette women needed to be among the top two teams to qualify for nationals, but were narrowly edged out. Whitworth won the region title with 66 points, and Claremont nipped WU 67-70 for the second berth. However, the Bearcats' Kari Holbert, Natalie Muren and Katie Pierce placed 6-7-8 over the 6,000-meter course to gain individual berths to the national meet, which will be held Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.

The Willamette men had its top five runners finish in the top 15. The Bearcats were led by Aaron Young and Jake Stout, who placed third and seventh, respectively. Aaron Hollingshead finished 10th, Scott Overby took 12th and Nick Symmonds placed 14th over the 8,000-meter course. (Official results were not available as of 6:30 p.m. Pacific time).

Although the 21st-ranked Bearcat women's team fell just short of qualifying for nationals, they did post their best regional score since moving to the NCAA in 1998. WU scored 75 points in winning the West Region crown in 2000 and the Bearcats scored 108 in a second-place finish last year.