Bearcats Ready to Battle for Titles at NWC Championships

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

SPOKANE, WASH. -- Willamette University and all of its Northwest Conference rivals will be at the Downriver Golf Course in Spokane, Wash., on Saturday, Nov. 2 for the 2013 NWC Cross Country Championships. Action will get underway with the women's 6-kilometer race at 11 a.m. (PDT), with the men's 8-kilometer race to follow at 12 p.m.

The Willamette men's and women's teams are both among the contenders for the team championships this season. The Bearcat men are the defending NWC Champions, are currently ranked #3 in the West Region of NCAA Division III and have received votes for the national rankings but are not in the Top 35.

Parker Bennett (Sr., Sisters, OR/Sisters HS) of Willamette is the defending men's champion. Michaela Freeby (Jr., Milwaukie, OR/Rex Putnam HS) of the Bearcats placed third in last year's women's race.

Willamette's women placed second at last year's NWC meet. The Bearcats are tied for #26 in the most recent NCAA Division III national rankings released by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) and are #2 in the West Region.

In addition, the Bearcat women's team placed third at the Charles Bowles Invitational in Salem, Ore., and was eighth at the Brooks Invitational in Winneconne, Wis. -- two of the top meets in the nation. The Willamette men's team also took third place at the Charles Bowles Invitational. The men finished 12th at the Brooks Invitational.

The Willamette men have won 20 NWC team titles, including nine championships since 2001. The WU women's team has achieved the NWC title eight times since 2000.

Four of the top five finishes in the NWC women's race last season are back, except for the winner, Emily Thomas of Lewis & Clark College, who was a senior last year.

Melissa Newton-Mora of L&C, who took second place, and Freeby of WU, who took third, highlight the list of returning runners. Also returning are Emily Fagan of L&C and Elisabeth Spencer from Whitworth University, who placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in 2012.

The battle for first place in the women's team standings will likely be between Willamette, Whitworth and defending champion Lewis & Clark. Whitworth is ranked #3 in the West Region, while L&C is ranked #5.

Freeby leads the talented Bearcat women's roster. Other top runners for Willamette are Taylor Ostrander (So., Soldotna, AK/Kenai Central HS), Annette Marinello (Jr., Corvallis, OR/Philomath HS) and Olivia Mancl (Fr., Seattle, WA/Roosevelt HS). Several additional athletes could contribute to the team score.

In the men's race on Saturday, four of last year's top five runners will be involved. Bennett will defend his title, while last year's runner-up, Alan DenAdel from Pacific Lutheran University, will try to move up to the top spot. Nathan Conrad (So., Bothell, WA/Bothell HS) of Willamette, who placed fourth a year ago, and Joseph Pia from George Fox University, who took fifth, also return.

In addition, Tyler Shipley from Pacific University, who placed ninth last year and finished fifth at this year's Charles Bowles Invitational, is a strong contender in the men's race.

Willamette's top challengers in the men's team competition are likely to be Whitman College, ranked #5 in the West Region, and the University of Puget Sound, ranked #6. Whitworth, currently #8 in the West Region, won the 2011 NWC title.

Bennett is the top runner on a solid Willamette men's squad. Kit Kingstad (Sr., Beaverton, OR/Beaverton HS), Jacob Shafi (So., Pleasanton, CA/Amador Valley HS), Conrad and Yonny Castillo (So., Parkdale, OR/Hood River Valley) are among Willamette's top runners. Castillo placed eighth at last year's NWC meet.

Following the NWC Championships, the next competition for the Bearcats will be at the NCAA Division III West Regional on Saturday, Nov. 16 in Claremont, Calif.

NWC CHAMPIONSHIPS WEBSITE

Northwest Conference
Cross Country Championships
Nov. 2, 2013
Downriver Golf Course
Spokane, Wash.

Parker Bennett is the defending NWC Champion in men's cross country.

Parker Bennett is the defending NWC Champion in men's cross country.