Bearcats Bring Top Contenders, Strength in Numbers, to NWC Championships

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

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University track and field teams have an outstanding history of team and individual success. WU has won 21 conference team titles in men's track and field and 12 conference team titles in women's track and field. The Bearcats look to continue their success at the Northwest Conference Championships in Spokane, Wash., on Friday, April 23 and Saturday, April 24.

Willamette's runners, throwers and jumpers know that winning will not be easy. There are many talented athletes on other NWC teams and several teams hope to contend for the overall titles. Even so, Willamette will be represented by large groups in the men's and women's competition, as the Bearcats go after their ninth consecutive NWC women's championship and their seventh men's title in the past nine years.

It looks like this year's meet will feature two teams contending for the women's title, plus two teams battling for the men's title. Willamette and George Fox University appear to have the strongest women's teams, while Willamette and Whitworth University appear to have men's teams capable of winning the championship. Other top teams are the Whitworth women and the Linfield men.

If Willamette has an edge, it is in the combination of top challengers in a number of events, plus exceptional depth throughout the meet.

The Bearcats have at least one athlete ranked among the top five results in the NWC this spring in 15 of 18 women's events and 13 of 18 men's events (other than relays) to be held this weekend. At the NWC Championships, the Bearcats will have multiple contenders for points in a number of events.

In three events --- the men's 1,500-meter run, the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase and the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase -- Willamette has three of the top five times recorded by NWC athletes in 2010. WU also is represented by three or more top performers in the men's 200-meter dash, 5,000-meter dash and hammer throw, as well as the women's 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash and 800-meter run.

Kimber Mattox (So., Bend, OR/Bend HS/Cornell Univ.), who was chosen Women's Athlete of the Meet at last year's NWC Championships, returns for the Bearcats. Her top times this spring rank first in the NWC in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 5,000-meter run. She is second in the NWC in the 1,500-meter run.

And the Bearcats have a significant number of athletes in virtually every event who have the ability to contribute to the team score.

Among the other overall title contenders, the George Fox women's team is particularly strong in the long jump, triple jump and 100-meter hurdles. The Whitworth men's team has significant quality depth in the shot put, discus and hammer throw.

Results from the NWC Multi-Event Championships, held April 11-12 at Pacific University, have already been added to the team scoring for this weekend. In the men's competition, Willamette and Linfield are tied for the lead with 10 points, while George Fox follows with nine. For the women, George Fox has 13 points and the University of Puget Sound has 10.

Last year, Willamette athletes contributed quality efforts throughout the meet, which led to quality results. Those results added to the team score, ultimately leading to the Bearcats winning the men's and women's team titles. This year, the Bearcats look for additional quality performances. Top efforts from Willamette's large contingent of athletes should lead to successful results, which will allow the Bearcats to battle for this year's team championships.

Kimber Mattox has an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 10:48.71 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase this spring.

Kimber Mattox has an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 10:48.71 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase this spring.

Stefan Redfield owns a time of 3:55.66 in the 1,500-meter run this spring.

Stefan Redfield owns a time of 3:55.66 in the 1,500-meter run this spring.

Jennifer Luecht is among the conference leaders in the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes.

Jennifer Luecht is among the conference leaders in the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes.