Bearcats Look to Defend Track and Field Titles At NWC Championships in Salem Friday and Saturday

MCCULLOCH STADIUM - If the Willamette University track and field teams are to win the Northwest Conference championship for the fifth straight time this weekend, a lot of things are going to have to go right for the defending champions. Willamette will enjoy home field advantage, as this year's conference championships will be held at the Charles Bowles Track at McCulloch Stadium Friday and Saturday.

On the women's side, while Willamette looks likely to repeat, Linfield is the most likely team to challenge the Bearcats' hold on the conference crown. On the men's side, look for one of the closest competitions in years, with the University of Puget Sound and Linfield battling the Bearcats for NWC supremacy.

At last week's NWC Multi-Event championships, Pacific's Brooke Barker repeated as heptathlon champ, followed by Linfield's Riley Bernard and Willamette's Roseanne Kassebaum. Linfield scored 11 points overall; the Bearcats and Pacific both finished with ten points each to take into this weekend's competition.

On the women's side, a host of winners from 2005 return to defend their titles. Pacific's Brooke Barker won the 200 and 400 last year, but three runners - including Willamette's Andrea May - have posted better times than Barker this year.

May was the 100 champ a year ago and her 12.61 is the best time in the NWC this year. Whitworth's Kristi Dickey won the 10,000 a year ago and finished second in the 5,000. But she'll face tough competition this year from Willamette's Sarah Zerzan and Tamma Carleton of Lewis & Clark.

Colleen Godfrey from UPS is back looking to repeat as the winner of the 5,000 and the steeplechase. Carly Killam of Willamette, the defending champ in the 1500, will be unable to race due to a recent injury.

Willamette's Lindsey Patterson is back to defend her title in the long jump; GFU's Whitney Kolb looks to repeat in the triple jump; and Linfield's Joni Claypool attempts to win for the second straight year in the shot put. GFU's Lindsey Blankenship was last year's winner in the hammer throw.

On the men's side, GFU's Seth Harris won the decathlon last week. The Bruins also finished fourth and fifth in the event to take a healthy 19 points in the weekend competition. PLU's Erik Jensen finished second and Burch Greene of UPS finished third. PLU scored eight points and UPS six coming into the Friday/Saturday competition.

Returning champions on the men's side include Willamette's Nick Symmonds, a five-time NCAA champ in the 800 and 1500. Last year, Symmonds won the 400 and the 800, while teammate Julio Vierya took home the 1500 title.

Puget Sound's Pete Van Sant returns to defend his title in the 200 and the long jump, while teammate Frank Prince is back after winning last year's 10,000-meter race. Brian Kramer, also of UPS, returns to defend his title in the triple jump.

Admission to the two-day event is $5; $3 for children and seniors; and free to Northwest Conference students with a valid ID. For more information, check the Willamette University website at , and click on the NWC Track and filed Championship logo.