Willamette Women’s Cross Country Team Moves Up to 12th, Men Remain 15th, in NCAA Division III National Rankings

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University women’s cross country team moved up one spot to #12 in the NCAA Division III National Rankings conducted by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). The Willamette men’s cross country team remained #15 for the second consecutive week.

WU’s new ranking followed a successful weekend for the Bearcat women’s team. Willamette hosted the 32nd Annual Charles Bowles Invitational at Bush’s Pasture Park in Salem, Ore., and the women’s squad responded by taking second place in the Women’s 5K Cardinal Race. Sarah Zerzan (Jr., San Carlos, CA/Notre Dame HS) led the way by winning the individual title with a school record time of 17:11.0 to take first place by over 40 yards in an overall field of 298 competitors. Four other WU runners finished in the Top 40.

Zerzan, who broke the old 5-kilometer school record of 17:27.0, set by Kara Crisifulli in 1985, is a strong contender in NCAA Division III. She earned All-America honors last fall, when she earned 25th place at the NCAA Division III Championships.

The Willamette men’s team took sixth place at the Charles Bowles Invitational. Junior runner Ian Batch was the top finisher for the Bearcats. He claimed 11th place with a time of 24:54.05 in the Men’s 8K Cardinal Race. The Cardinal Races featured runners from NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and the NAIA. The invitational also included two Gold Races, which included runners from NCAA Division I, junior colleges and club teams, plus unattached runners.

Willamette has an outstanding history in men’s and women’s cross country. Last year, the Bearcats placed 14th in the women’s race and 16th in the men’s race at the NCAA Division III National Championships. Both Willamette teams won NCAA Division III West Region championships in 2005.

In this week’s rankings, the #1 men’s team continues to be Calvin College (Mich.). The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse remained #2, while the University of Wisconson-Oshkosh moved up from #7 to #3. In the women’s rankings, the State University of New York at Geneseo retained the #1 spot. Amherst College (Mass.) and Washington University (Mo.) remained #2 and #3, respectively.

Willamette is the only men’s team from the Northwest Conference listed in this week’s Top 35. In the women’s rankings, the NWC is represented by Willamette and the University of Puget Sound, which also improved one spot to #25 this week.

Northwest Conference teams will meet at the Pacific Lutheran University Golf Course in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday, Oct. 28, for the NWC Championships. The 2006 NCAA Division III West Regional Championships are set for Saturday, Nov. 11 at Prado Park in Chino, Calif., and will be hosted by Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The 2006 NCAA Division III National Championships are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Voice of America Park in West Chester, Ohio, and will be hosted by Wilmington College.