Willamette to Host NCAA Cross Country Regional on Nov. 15

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University will host the NCAA Division III West Region Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 15 at Bush's Pasture Park in Salem, Ore. The Regional will feature an 8-kilometer men's race at 10 a.m. (PST), followed by a 6-kilometer women's race at 11 a.m.

The West Region has several men's team and several women's teams with enough talent to challenge for first or second place finishes and earn automatic bids into the NCAA National Championships. The top two teams men's teams and the top two women's squads from each of eight Regionals are guaranteed to advance.

Teams placing third through fifth at each Regional will be considered for the 16 at-large bids the NCAA will fill for the National Championships. The top seven runners in each Regional who are not affiliated with one of the selected teams also advance to the National Championships, set for Nov. 22 at the Lloyd Ayres Complex in Hanover, Ind.

In the men's race, six teams appear ready to battle for the title. The top-ranked team in the West Region is Whitworth University, with Willamette at #2, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps ranked #3, Occidental College at #4, Lewis & Clark College list #5 and Pomona-Pitzer ranked #6. In the USTFCCCA National Poll for NCAA Division III released on Nov. 5, Whitworth is ranked #29 and Willamette is #33.

The women's race features five teams that should contend for the championship. Willamette is ranked first in the West Region, with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps ranked #2 and Whitworth listed #3. Whitman College is #4 in the Region and Lewis & Clark College is #5. The NCAA Division III Poll has Willamette ranked #20, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps ranked #27 and Whitworth ranked #30.

"This year, there are several contending teams and it should be a good meet on both sides (men's and women's)," said Willamette Head Coach Matt McGuirk. "Most of the top teams have won and lost head to head battles against each other earlier in the season. That fact puts the two automatic qualifying spots in both races up for grabs."

Several runners from throughout the West Region are expected to challenge for the individual championship. On the women's side, Maddie Coffman (Sr., Boise, ID/Boise HS) of Willamette has been one of the Region's best runners throughout the season. She won the Northwest Conference individual title on Nov. 1 with time of 21:31.27 over the 6-kilometer course at the Veteran's Memorial Golf Course in Walla Walla, Wash.

Also expected to be a top runner is Mikayla Murphy from the University of California-Santa Cruz. Murphy took second place at the Charles Bowles Invitational hosted by Willamette on Oct. 4. She finished just under four seconds behind Coffman.

Joining Coffman as contenders in the women's race from the NWC are Jena Winger (Sr., Bonney Lake, WA/Sumner HS) of Willamette, Marci Klimek (Jr.) of Linfield College and Kelsey Owens (Sr.) of Pacific University. Winger completed the NWC course in 21:36.93 and trailed only Coffman with a second place finish. Klimek was third in the NWC at 21:40.85 and Owens placed fourth with a time of 21:53.48.

The top women's runner at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Meet was Anna Scharfen (Sr.) from Pomona-Pitzer. She took first place with a time of 23:00.63. Evelyn Ross (Sr.) of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps was second in 23:16.17 and was the winner of the SCIAC Multi-Dual Meet with a time of 22:15.86. Michele Callaway (Fr.) from Whittier College placed third in the SCIAC meet in 23:28.67 and Julia Rigby (Fr.) of C-M-S was second in the Multi-Dual after clocking in at 22:20.42.

Heading the list of contenders in the men's race is NWC individual champion Frances Reynolds (Jr.) from the University of Puget Sound. Reynolds took first place at the NWC Championships by 51.50 seconds, as he crossed the finish line in the 8K race in 24.35.24. Nick Gallagher (So.) from Whitworth University placed second in 25:26.74.

The NWC has several other runners who are expected to battle at the top of the West Region race. They are Shawn Fisher (Jr.) from Linfield, Dusty Caseria (Jr.) from Whitworth and Josh Clough (Sr., Auburn, WA/Auburn Riverside HS) of Willamette. Fisher placed third in the NWC at 25:30.70, while Caseria was fourth in 25:39.58 and Clough took fifth in 25:45.01.

At the top of the men's race at the SCIAC Championships was Eric Kleinsasser (Fr.) of Occidental. He won the event in 25:43.15. Florian Scheulen (Jr.) of C-M-S was second with a time of 25:46.78 and Keith Blumenfeld (Sr.) of Occidental was third at 25:51.99.

Kleinsasser also won the SCIAC Multi-Dual Meet with a time of 26:11.26. Torrey Olson (Sr.) of Pomona-Pitzer was second at the Multi-Dual in 26:16.14 and was fourth at the SCIAC Championships in 25:58.04.

Fans should have a chance to see some great runners in competitive races. It's important for fans to remain clear of the race course.

"The course utilizes all areas of the park," McGuirk said. "Spectators should be aware of course monitors' directions and stay clear of where runners are going on the course."

Runners for the Bearcats will be selected from the team's official list of 10 athletes for each race (7 entrants and 3 alternates). Willamette's list of runners for the men's race includes Clough, Leo Castillo (Fr.), Ben Donovan (Fr.), Kyle Jackson (Fr.), Tristan Knutson-Lombardo (Sr.), Kyle Kotaich (Jr.), Ryan McLaughlin (So.), Chris Platano (Jr.), Nick Rebol (So.) and Stefan Redfield (So.).

WU's entries in the women's will be filled by seven of the following runners: Coffman, Winger, Megan Horning (So.), Molly Lewis (Jr.), Ali Maki (Sr.), Sarah McSweeney (Fr.), Tina Patel (So.), Edith Polanco (Sr.), Phoebe Tollefson (Fr.) and Hannah Vietmeier (Jr.).

Willamette will have the advantage of running on its home course. The Bearcats have won six consecutive NCAA West Region championships in men's cross country and five consecutive West Region titles in women's cross country. Both WU teams claimed titles the last time the 'Cats hosted the West Region Championships in 2005.

"This is the only time since the 2005 NCAA West Regional that we have run a women's 6K on our home course (instead of the normal 5K distance)," McGuirk said. "Only a select few seniors may have run this course three years ago."

Admission is free to the West Region Championships. Both races will start near the southeast corner of the park and will conclude at the Charles Bowles Track at McCulloch Stadium. For additional meet information, as well as links to other NCAA Division III Regionals go to D3XC.com.

Maddie Coffman of Willamette won the NWC Championship and helped the Bearcats claim the NWC women's team title.

Maddie Coffman of Willamette won the NWC Championship and helped the Bearcats claim the NWC women's team title.