Bearcats Look to Keep Cross Country Win Streaks Alive at NWC Championships Saturday at Bush Park

Salem, OR- The Willamette University cross country men’s and women’s teams both look to defend Northwest Conferences titles as the Bearcats host the NWC Cross Country Championships Saturday at Bush Park.
The women’s 6K race begins at 10 a.m. the men’s 8k race begins at 11 a.m.

The Bearcat men are looking for their fifth straight conference title. The women will compete for their fourth straight crown. Willamette will also host the Division III West Regional Championships on Nov. 12 with a trip to the national championships on the line for both teams.

Here is a brief look at each of the races, followed by information on twenty of the Bearcat men and women who will compete Saturday.

Women’s Race 10 a.m. 6K

Seven of last year’s top ten runners return for the women’s race this year, led by Sarah Smith of Pacific University, last year’s individual champion. The defending team champs, Willamette University, are looking for their fourth straight NWC title and will be led by sophomore Sarah Zerzan, last year’s fourth place finisher.

Lewis & Clark and Whitworth College should both provide stiff opposition for the Bearcat women. The Pioneers are led by Carla McHattie who finished 21st a year ago, but has run extremely well this season. Whitworth’s top finisher is expected to be senior Kristi Dickey. She finished seventh a year ago.

George Fox’s Anna McClain finished second a year ago and looks to challenge for her first conference individual championship. Also expected to challenge for the top spots are Molly Phimister (Willamette), Shana Shosky (Pacific) and Sarah Orzell (UPS).

Men’s Race 11 a.m. 8K

Frank Prince (UPS) and Doug Blackburn (Whitworth) finished second and third in the men’s race a year ago, behind Willamette’s Aaron Hollingshead. Following those two came a pack of Willamette University runners, almost all who will be racing again this year as the Bearcats look for their fifth consecutive NWC team title.

Willamette’s top runner to date this season has been Ian Batch. He finished 5th last year, a place behind teammate Travis Harris. Also expected to compete well for the Bearcats are Nick Symmonds, Scott Overby and Carlos Ruiz, all top ten finishers a year ago.

Dan Pollard and Trevor Hanlin will help Prince and UPS challenge for the team title. Alex Henry (L&C) and Brooks Cooper (Whitworth) both finished in the top 20 a year ago and return to this year’s competion.

Bearcat Competitors:

Cross Country assistant coach Jimmy Bean has compiled brief capsules of twenty of the Bearcat men and women who will be competing in Saturday’s races.

“We want the entire Willamette community to get to know more about these student-athletes who have dedicated themselves to a disciplined lifestyle with the aim of competing for team championships at conference, regionals, and nationals,” said Bean.

Women’s Capsules

Natalie Muren-SR., Keizer, OR (McNary HS)

Natalie Muren is one of the best runners in Willamette school history, and she goes into this weekend’s championship en route to the form that she has showed in recent past. Muren, who has been a national qualifier in cross-country and track (10k), is returning from injury held her out of action all of last year. With the will to run, Muren has progressed gradually and come on strong over the last several weeks. Natalie has finished as high as 5th at NWC Championships, and finished 52nd at nationals for the 2003 team that placed 8th that year. She is a senior studying as a double major in Chemistry and Spanish.

Molly Phimister-SR., Vancouver, WA (Hudson’s Bay)

Molly is one of the best runners in recent history at Willamette. Last year, she placed 5th at this meet, 15th in the West Region, and 73 rd nationally. After battling an early season illness she has come on to show signs of last year’s form in workouts. With that in mind, Phimister will be looking to add another Top 15 finish after finishing 11th and 5th as a sophomore and junior respectively. Molly is a senior studying chemistry.

Bobbi Wright-SR., Gold Hill, OR (Rogue River HS)

Bobbi enters the 2005 NWC Championships with perhaps the most experience of any runner at the meet. This will be her fourth conference championship and she has finished as high as 19th. She was also a member of the 2004 team that placed 9th at the NCAA Division III Cross-Country Championships. Wright, a standout high school runner at Rogue River, is the consummate team leader and provides great direction for our pack up front. She is currently attending the Master of Arts in Teaching program at Willamette after receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Science this past spring.

Lauren Sherwood-SR., Eugene, OR (South Eugene HS)

Lauren will be competing in her fourth NWC meet along with Bobbi, and will be looking to make a bigger impact than ever before. Sherwood, another team leader, has made vast improvements in performance through a great dedication to training at a higher level this year. With this weekend’s meet, she could solidify herself as the most improved runner not only for Willamette but also within the conference. Her highest finish at a conference meet is 21st, and she is in position to make a marked jump from that. Sherwood is a senior, due to graduate in the spring with a degree in psychology.

Elizabeth Hart-JR., Spokane, WA (Lewis & Clark HS)

Elizabeth Hart will be competing in her second NWC Cross-Country meet and will look to improve upon her 16th place finish last year as a sophomore. As Elizabeth gains more experience, she will be a factor every time she races, and this weekend will be no different. A member of last year’s national team, Hart finished 21 st in the West Region Championships, and was a scoring member of that championship team. Hart is a junior academically studying biology/chemistry and Spanish.

Sarah Zerzan-SO., San Carlos, CA (Notre Dame HS)

Sarah enters this meet as one of the runners being talked about as a contender for the individual title, and rightly so. Last year, Zerzan led the Bearcats with a 4th place finish at this meet, an 8th place finish at the West Region meet, and a 60th place finish at the NCAA Division III Cross-Country Championships. With the sixth highest finish by a freshman at the national meet, Zerzan built upon last fall with a stellar freshman track season, and she will be heading into championship season with a lot of confidence. Sarah is a sophomore academically studying bio-chemistry.

Ashley Sharratt-SO., Union, OR (Union HS)

Ashley will be running in her first NWC Cross-Country Championship. As a freshman, Ashley was just on the edge of making the conference team, and has made significant improvement from last year. This past spring, Ashley was 5th in the 3000m Steeplechase at the 2005 NWC Outdoor Track & Field Championships. After a solid summer of training, Ashley has made the progression from freshman to sophomore and will be a factor for years to come. Ashley is in her third semester at Willamette, studying history.

Ali Maki-FR., Shoreview, MN (Mounds View HS)

Ali will be making her Northwest Conference debut having run a strong series of races already as a freshman. As a Minnesota prep runner, Ali ran 4k and has made a smooth transition into collegiate running with relative ease. Her physical and mental abilities have allowed her to race and workout with our top group, which bodes well for and our team as championship season approaches soon. Maki has been as high as our second runner, running to a 29th place finish in a field of 258 runners at the Willamette Invite. Ali is currently undecided on her major.

Maddie Coffman-FR., Boise, ID (Boise HS)

Maddie, an outstanding runner for Boise High School last year, has made a similar progression to that of Ali, and has been a steady presence at the front of the Bearcat Pack. She has trained consistently throughout the fall, and each week she has gained a new level of fitness. She has finished as our third runner, most recently at this year’s Willamette Invite, where she was 38th overall (258 total runners). Maddie is currently undeclared on her major.

Mara Engle-FR., Bellingham, WA (Bellingham HS)

Mara Engle has been a pleasant surprise this fall and enters her first NWC meet with the momentum of a great freshman season thus far. Mara has been as high as our sixth runner, running to a 66th place finish out of 265 runners at the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle, WA. Mara has been not only a factor in terms of racing well, but she has been an outstanding team person, adding to the great team chemistry on the women’s side. Mara is currently undecided on her course of study.

Men’s Capsules

Scott Overby-SR., Gresham, OR (Sam Barlow HS)

Scott enters his senior year of cross-country with an outstanding resume in track, and one that he wants to add to in cross-country. After breaking his arm in a National 3000m Steeplechase, where he earned All-American honors, Scott missed last cross-country season. After he was selected as an NCAA Postgraduate Scholar, a very prestigious honor that offsets cost of graduate school, Scott decided to attend The Master of Arts in Teaching program at Willamette. As a graduate student, he has done an outstanding job of balancing the academic and athletic load, and has raced better than ever this fall. Scott has been as high as 6th at this meet, and has been a member of three national teams that have finished 7th, 5th, and 12th. Scott attained his undergraduate degree in sociology this past May.

Nick Symmonds-SR., Boise, ID (Bishop Kelly HS)

Nick is enjoying the best cross-country season to date, and has been a steady presence at the front of the Bearcat Pack. Earlier this year, he was runner-up at the Sundodger Invitational that included 311 runners. Nick has been as high as 7th (2004) at the conference meet, and will be one of the individual favorites this weekend. Symmonds, a 5-time national champion in track (800 & 1500), can provide strong influence on and off the course with his nationals experience, and we look to have that from him this weekend and beyond. Nick is a bio-chemistry major with plans to graduate this spring.

Carlos Ruiz-SR., Salem, OR (McKay HS)

Carlos Ruiz has been a true delight over the past four and a half years. As a first generation American, Carlos has been a standout student in addition to being one of our better runners. As a Latin American Studies major, Carlos has been a several time Academic All-American and will be entering the MAT program next fall. Carlos finished 9th at last year’s NWC meet and was 80th at the national meet, helping the men to a 5th place team finish. His steady leadership and calming presence will be sorely missed after this year, so we will look forward to him racing well over the next several weeks. Carlos will graduate this winter with a bachelor of arts.

Travis Harris-SR., Bellingham, WA (Sehome HS)

Travis enters this year’s conference championship with a little bit to prove. After finishing 4th at last year’s meet, and running as the 2nd man on last year’s 5th place national team, he has had inconsistent training due to problems with his orthotics. He will be running in only his third race of the year. Over the past several weeks, Travis has ran his way back into the pack, and will be someone to watch in the front of the race. Travis is a senior majoring in physics, with plans of graduating in the fall.

Joshua Edson-SR., Salem, OR (McKay HS)

Josh Edson will be running in his first Northwest Conference cross-country championships as a senior. As an underclassman, Josh admittedly did not commit himself to all the things necessary to be a successful runner. However, over the past year, we could not have asked more from Josh in his training and in his leadership. Running in our top ten all season long has been a testament of that, and he will be looking to race to all-conference status this weekend. Josh is a senior rhetoric major who will graduate after this fall semester.

Wyatt Boyd-JR., Olympia, WA (Olympia HS)

Wyatt is quite frankly the most improved runner on our team. After running his first two years nowhere near our conference squad, he has joined our top group of men with a devotion to becoming a better runner every day. After running as our 5th man two weeks ago at Clackamas Community College, Boyd will be looking to mix it up with our top group, which will most likely be at the very front of the race. Boyd is an economics major.

Julio Vieyra-JR., Salem, OR (McKay HS)

Julio is the 2005 NWC Outdoor Track & Field 1500m champion and is enjoying the steadiest season of his Willamette career. With a solid base of training, Vieyra has been as high as our 6th man, finishing 26th (311 total runners) at The Sundodger Invitational. Julio has looked good in recent workouts and will certainly be looking at a top 10 finish this weekend. He is a junior studying economics.

Ian Batch-SO., Boise, ID (Boise HS)

Ian goes into this weekend with chances of being a contender for the individual title. As a freshman, Ian was 4th at the conference meet, 10th at the NCAA Division III West Region Championships, and had the 3 rd highest finish of all freshmen at last year’s national championships. Running in our top 3 all season, Ian recently was our #1 runner two weekends ago. His approach to training and racing is something that is infectious among his teammates and it will be of benefit this weekend as he will be instrumental in a team effort. Ian is a sophomore currently studying rhetoric.

Tristan Knutson-Lombardo-FR., Juneau, AK (Juneau-Douglas HS)

Tristan has had an outstanding freshman season up to this point, and we expect it to continue this weekend. He has been a steady presence in our top 5, and has been as high as our second runner. As a prep standout in Alaska, Tristan won 1600m and 3200m state championships in high school, so he is no stranger to running well in championship races. Look for Tristan to continue a steady progression this weekend and beyond. Tristan is an undeclared major.

Joshua Clough-FR., Auburn, WA (Auburn-Riverside HS)

Josh enters this weekend with his sights set on making an impact in our top 5 once again. A standout runner from Washington, Clough will look to build upon a solid freshman campaign that has seen him improve week by week. He has done an outstanding job of adapting to the training and doing all the little things asked of him by his coaches. We are confident this will pay dividends for him this weekend. Josh intends to study political science and sociology.