Bearcats Set to Host 38th Annual Charles Bowles Invitational

Meet Features nearly 950 entries and 15 Nationally Ranked Teams

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

SALEM, ORE. -- This weekend, Willamette University will host one of the largest college cross country meets on the West Coast for the 38th time since 1974. On Saturday, Sept. 29, the Charles Bowles Invitational will be held by the Bearcats at Bush's Pasture Park.

Although Charles Bowles passed away in 2005, this weekend's meet will continue his legacy of success, integrity and commitment to the sport. What was once known as the Willamette Invitational now bears his name.

In addition to this year's four races, the Charles Bowles Invitational will feature the dedication of a statue of Coach Bowles near the finish line of the track inside McCulloch Stadium.

The huge cross country meet has nearly 950 entrants representing teams from 10 states and one Canadian province. Competitors represent teams from Oregon, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Virginia, Washington and British Columbia.

Overall, the Charles Bowles Invitational will feature 37 four-year colleges and universities, six junior colleges, and three club teams, in addition to unattached athletes. Most of the colleges and universities are bringing men's and women's teams, with the exceptions of Oregon State University (women's team only) and Southern Oregon University (men's team only).

A total of 14 teams are nationally ranked and four others received votes in their respective national rankings this week.

Action on Saturday will open with the Men's Cardinal 8-kilometer race, featuring teams and runners from NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III, starting at 9:30 a.m. (PDT). The Women's Cardinal 5-kilometer race, also with runners from all three divisions of the NCAA, will follow at 10:15 a.m.

Nick Symmonds ('06), who won seven NCAA national championships in track and field at Willamette and competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics, will be the honorary starter for the Cardinal Races.

After the Women's Cardinal race concludes, the dedication of the Charles Bowles statue will take place near the finish line at approximately 10:45 a.m.

The Men's Gold 8-kilometer race, with runners from the NAIA, junior colleges and club teams, plus unattached runners, is scheduled to begin at 11:15 a.m. The Women's Gold 5-kilometer race, which also will include NAIA, junior college and non-collegiate runners, is set to get underway at 12:00 a.m.

In the first race of the day, the Men's Cardinal 8K, there will be four nationally ranked teams. The University of Portland is ranked #5 in NCAA Division I, San Francisco State University is ranked #28 in NCAA Division II, Seattle Pacific University is ranked #29 in Division II, and Willamette is ranked #33 in NCAA Division III.

Top returning runners for Willamette are Kevin Aubol (Sr., Ellensburg, WA/Ellensburg HS), Parker Bennett (Jr., Sisters, OR/Sisters HS) and Ben Beeler (So., San Francisco, CA/Archbishop Riordan HS). Aubol took eighth place at last year's Northwest Conference championships, while Bennett finished 14th and Beeler was 20th. Aubol ran at the NCAA Division III National Championships.

The Women’s Cardinal 5-kilometer race will include two nationally ranked teams. They are Seattle Pacific, ranked #21 in NCAA Division II, and the host Willamette Bearcats, ranked #33 in NCAA Division III.

Willamette's top returning runners on the women's team include Theresa Edwards (Sr., Lake Tapps, WA/Bonney Lake HS) and Michaela Freeby (So., Milwaukie, OR/Rex Putnam HS). Edward's finished second and Freeby claimed fifth place at the 2011 NWC Championships. Both runners competed for Willamette at the NCAA Championships and helped the Bearcats take 29th in the team standings.

The Men’s Gold 8-kilometer race will include five nationally ranked NAIA teams plus a pair of NAIA teams receiving votes in the national poll. The ranked teams are Southern Oregon at #1, the University of British Columbia at #5, Lewis-Clark State College (Idaho) at #6, Eastern Oregon University at #13 and Arizona Christian University at #20.

Teams running in the Men's Gold 8K that received votes but were not ranked in the latest NAIA Top 25 Poll are Concordia University (Ore.) and Vanguard University (Calif.).

Nationally ranked NAIA teams set to run in the Women's Gold 5-kilometer race are British Columbia at #1, Northwest Christian University (Ore.) at #7 and Lewis-Clark State at #11. Teams entered in the meet that received votes in this week's NAIA Poll but did not reach the Top 25 are Concordia (Ore.) and Vanguard.

Admission to the Charles Bowles Invitational is free. Spectators are asked to be cautious near the course and to avoid interfering with participants. Although most of the course will take runners throughout Bush's Pasture Park, all of the races will finish inside McCulloch Stadium.

38th Annual Charles Bowles Invitational
Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012
At Bush's Pasture Park, Salem, Ore.

Schedule of Events
9:30 a.m. - Men's Cardinal 8K Race, NCAA Divisions I, II, III
10:15 a.m. - Women's Cardinal 5K Race, NCAA Divisions I, II, III
10:45 a.m. - Charles Bowles Statue Dedication (finish line at the track)
11:15 a.m. - Men's Gold 8K Race, NAIA, Junior Colleges, Open
12:00 a.m. - Women's Gold 5K Race, NAIA, Junior Colleges, Open

Michaela Freeby from Willamette placed ninth at the NCAA West Regional as a freshman last season.

Michaela Freeby from Willamette placed ninth at the NCAA West Regional as a freshman last season.