WU Men's Cross Country is Ranked #24 in National Preseason Poll

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

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University men's cross country team enters the 2009 season ranked #24 in the nation, according to the NCAA Division III Preseason Poll released by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Willamette's men also hold the #2 ranking in the NCAA West Region. The WU women's cross country squad is ranked #5 in the West Region.

At the top of the NCAA Division III Men's Preseason Poll is North Central College (Illinois), which received six first place votes and 278 total points. NCC is followed by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, ranked #2, with 270 points. Cortland State (N.Y.) was ranked #3 with 267 points, Williams College (Mass.) was fourth with 256 points and Geneseo State (N.Y.) was fifth with 248 points.

Three teams from the West Region were included in the Men's Preseason Poll. Whitworth University (Wash.) was listed at #22 in the nation after receiving West Region's #1 ranking. Willamette was just two spots back in the Preseason Poll at #24, while Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.) was 30th. CMS was ranked #3 in the West Region.

Last year, Willamette finished third at the West Region Championships and went on to place 27th at the NCAA National Championships. It was the top finish for a West Region men's team in 2008. The Bearcats return six of seven runners who earned All-West Region honors last fall, including senior Kyle Kotaich (Florence, OR/Siuslaw HS), who placed 15th at the Regional Meet.

Other returning All-West Region runners for the Bearcats are Nick Rebol (Jr., Cottonwood, CA/Red Bluff Union HS), Stefan Redfield (Jr., Sisters, OR/Sisters HS), Leo Castillo (So., Parkdale, OR/Hood River Valley HS), Ryan McLaughlin (Jr., Milwaukie, OR/Milwaukie HS) and Kyle Jackson (So., Springfield, OR/Marist HS). Josh Clough, who took eighth at the Regional Meet in 2008, graduated earlier this year.

The NCAA Division III Women's Preseason Poll features a tie for the #1 ranking between Calvin College (Mich.) and Middlebury College (Vt.), both with 275 points. Middlebury received five of eight first place votes. Calvin received three first place votes.

Washington University (Mo.) was ranked #3 with 265 points. Wartburg College (Iowa) followed at #4 with 257 points. Johns Hopkins University (Md.) was #5 with 238 points. Representing the West Region were Whitman College (Wash.) at #20, Whitworth at #25 and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at #29.

In the West Region Rankings, Whitman was #1, with Whitworth at #2 and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at #3. Occidental College (Calif.) was ranked #4 and Willamette was #5.

Last fall, Willamette placed third at the West Region Championships and took 15th place at the NCAA National Championships. It was the highest finish for a West Region team in 2008.

This year, Willamette returns Tina Patel (Jr., Bend, OR/Summit HS), who finished 16th at the Regional Meet last season and was one of four All-West Region runners for the 'Cats. Three of WU's All-West Region selections, Maddie Coffman, Molly Lewis and Edith Polanco, graduated in 2008-09.

Willamette will begin the season on Friday, Sept. 18, when the Bearcats will host the WU Grass Course Meet at Bush's Pasture Park in Salem, Ore., starting at 5 p.m. (PDT). Just over two weeks later, the 'Cats will host the 35th Annual Charles Bowles Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 3 at Bush's Pasture Park.

The Charles Bowles Invitational is one of the largest collegiate cross country meets each season. The first race is set to get underway at 9:30 a.m. (PDT).

Kyle Kotaich earned Second Team All-NWC and First Team All-West Region honors last season.

Kyle Kotaich earned Second Team All-NWC and First Team All-West Region honors last season.