Willamette Men's Cross Country is #22 in Preseason National Rankings

Bearcats Open Season at Pier Park Invitational on Sept. 10

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

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University men's cross country team, which won the West Region title and finished 23rd at the NCAA Championships last season, is ranked #22 in the nation in the 2011 NCAA Division III Preseason Poll released by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on Wednesday, Aug. 25. The Bearcat men's team also is ranked #1 in the West Region, while the WU women's cross country team is ranked #6 in the West Region.

At the top of the men's poll is North Central College (Ill.), which placed second at the 2010 NCAA Championships. North Central received seven of eight first place votes and a total of 279 points. Calvin College (Mich.) was listed at #2 with the remaining first place vote and 267 points.

St. Lawrence University (N.Y.) held the #3 position with 258 points. Haverford College (Pa.), the defending NCAA champion, was ranked #4 with 249 points. Washington University (Mo.) followed at #5 with 244 points and Dickinson College (Pa.) was #6 with 241 points.

Listed #7 in the Preseason Poll was Williams College (Mass.), which received 231 points. SUNY Geneseo (N.Y.) was #8 with 225 points. Completing the Top 10 were the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse at #9 with 220 points and Middlebury College (Vt.) at #10 with 195 points.

Willamette's men are the highest ranked West Region team in the poll. Also nationally ranked from the West Region are Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.) at #28 and Whitworth University at #32.

In the men's West Region Preseason Rankings, Willamette was #1, with Whitworth listed at #2 and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at #3. Colorado College held the #4 ranking, while Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.) was #5 and Occidental College (Calif.) was #6. Other Top 10 men's teams in the West were Linfield College (#7), University of La Verne (#8), George Fox University (#9) and Lewis & Clark College (#10).

Leo Castillo (Sr., Parkdale, OR/Hood River Valley HS) returns for the Bearcats after winning the Northwest Conference individual championship as a junior in 2010. Castillo also placed seventh at the NCAA West Regional to lead WU to the team title and placed 56th individually at the NCAA Championships. Kevin Aubol (Jr., Ellensburg, WA/Ellensburg HS) took eighth place at the West Regional last fall.

The #1 team in the women's West Region Preseason Rankings was Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Lewis & Clark was #2, while Whittier College (Calif.) was #3. Pomona-Pitzer was #4 and Linfield was #5. Willamette was listed at #6, with Occidental following at #7. Also ranked in the West were the women's teams from La Verne (#8), University of California - Santa Cruz (#9) and Whitman College (#10).

Leading the WU women's team will be Theresa Edwards (Jr., Lake Tapps, WA/Bonney Lake HS). In 2010, she finished 12th at the NWC Championships and was 13th at the NCAA Regional. Edwards and Kimber Mattox '11 represented the Willamette as individual competitors at the NCAA Championships.

Willamette's cross country teams will open the 2011 season at the Pier Park Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 10 in Portland, Ore. The event will be hosted by the University of Portland.

Leo Castillo won the Northwest Conference individual championship in 2010.

Leo Castillo won the Northwest Conference individual championship in 2010.