Cross country teams put together best combined year in school history

Willamette’s cross country teams had high hopes prior to the 2002 season — and they delivered. The Bearcat men and women’s programs put together the best combined effort in a season since the women’s program was added in 1977.
The Willamette men’s squad was ranked among the top four in the nation all season long, including a two-week stint as the top ranked team in NCAA Division III — a first for the program.

The Bearcats won their second consecutive Northwest Conference title, their first-ever West Region crown and placed fifth at the national championship, equaling the highest finish in school history by the 1982 team.

The Bearcat women were ranked in the NCAA top 25 most of the year and ascended to as high at No. 14 by mid season. WU won the NWC championship — the second such title in the history of the program — then placed third in the West Region meet. The Bearcats narrowly missed out on qualifying the entire team for the national meet, but did qualify three individuals for the NCAA meet in Northfield, Minn.

Juniors Aaron Young and Jake Stout led the Bearcat men the entire season and each earned All-America honors for the second year in a row by placing in the top 35 at the national championships. Young finished 15th and Stout was 35th.

Sophomores Aaron Hollingshead and Scott Overby, and freshman Nick Symmonds were consistent placers all year behind Young and Stout.

WU men’s coach Matt McGuirk was named NCAA West Region Coach of the Year.

Young also won his second NWC individual title and placed third in the West Region meet. Stout was third in the conference meet and seventh at regionals.

The Willamette women showed immense promise for the future after being led by sophomores Kari Holbert and Katie Pierce, and freshman Natalie Muren.

Holbert won the NWC crown after placing 18th in the conference meet as a freshman. By winning the individual title and leading her team to the championship, it marked the first time in Willamette history that the Bearcats have swept the individual and team titles.

Holbert, Muren and Pierce finished 6-7-8 in the West Region meet to earn qualification for the national championships. Those three then went on to place in the top half of the national championship field by finishing 66th, 70th and 83rd, respectively.

WU women’s coach Kelly Sullivan was named NWC Coach of the Year.

WILLAMETTE’S NCAA FINISHERS

WOMEN (6,000 meters)
66. Kari Holbert (So.) 22:57.6
70. Natalie Muren (Fr.) 22:58.4
83. Katie Pierce (So.) 23:06.9

MEN (8,000 meters)
15. Aaron Young (Jr.) 25:34.3 (All-American)
35. Jake Stout (Jr.) 25:47.5 (All-American)
58. Aaron Hollingshead (So.) 26:00.6
81. Scott Overby (So.) 26:15.4
89. Nick Symmonds (Fr.) 26:18.3
188. Brendan Brown (So.) 27:33.5
206. Jon Osborne (So.) 28:31.4


RESULTS/HIGHLIGHTS PRIOR TO NATIONAL MEET

WILLAMETTE’S NCAA WEST REGION FINISHERS
(Top 35 are all-region)

WOMEN
6. Kari Holbert
7. Natalie Muren
8. Katie Pierce
26. Nattalie Wright
28. Molly Brady
31. Amber Emery

MEN
3. Aaron Young
7. Jake Stout
10. Aaron Hollingshead
12. Scott Overby
14. Nick Symmonds
19. Brendan Brown
31. Mark Welsh

WILLAMETTE’S NORTHWEST CONFERENCE ALL-STARS

FIRST TEAM (1-7 finishers)

WOMEN
1. Kari Holbert

MEN
1. Aaron Young
3. Jake Stout
4. Aaron Hollingshead
6. Scott Overby

SECOND TEAM (8-14 finishers)

WOMEN
10. Nattalie Wright
13. Natalie Muren

MEN
8. Nick Symmonds
11. Jon Osborne