2009 NCAA Division III West Region Cross Country Meet Preview
SANTA CRUZ, CA -- Team and Individual berths to the National meet will be up for grabs November 14 at the NCAA Division III West Regional Cross Country Championships at the campus course at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in Claremont, California.
The women's 6000 meter (3.7 mile) race will begin at 9am, and the men's 8000 meter (5 mile) race starts at 9:45am. The course starts on Pomona College's soccer field and tours through the campus's athletic and Wash areas before finishing on the track. Runners from twenty West Region institutions in California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado will travel to warm and sunny Southern California to compete.
The West Regional meet is one of eight Regional qualifying meets for the NCAA Division III National Championships to be held a week later on Saturday, November 21 at Highland Golf Course in Cleveland, Ohio, hosted by Baldwin Wallace College and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.
Two teams per region automatically qualify to the National meet, with an NCAA Committee a day later selecting 16 additional at-large teams based on Regional meet performance, late season performance and other criteria. Seven individuals per region (not on a qualifying team) also earn berths to the National meet.
Willamette University holds the top team ranking in the West Region, and handily won the Northwest Conference men's title with an impressive 32 points on the McIver Park course. The Bearcat top five finished 2-3-4-8-15. Willamette is currently ranked 12th nationally. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps is ranked second in the region and 21st nationally, and won the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title with 33 points at Prado Park – just ahead of the region's #3 team, Pomona-Pitzer (39 points). Pomona-Pitzer is ranked 33rd nationally. In that conference final, CMS Stag runners finished 2-4-7-9-11, while Pomona-Pitzer Sagehen runners finished 3-6-8-10-12 in what some wags termed a cross-campus dual meet. Whitworth is ranked fourth in the region and 34th nationally; the Pirates finished second in the NWC race with 71 points. Colorado College won the SCAC Championships and is tied for fifth in the region with Linfield (3rd at the NWC Champs). Colorado runners finished 1-4-9-10-21 on the Georgia International Horse Park course. The West Region Top-10 men's rankings are rounded out with Whitman, (4th at the NWC Champs), Lewis & Clark (5th at the NWC Champs), Puget Sound (6th at the NWC Champs), and Occidental (3rd at the SCIAC Champs).
Individually, a number of West Region standouts – including three conference winners – will vie for the individual regional title. Whitworth's Nick Gallagher, a junior, is the defending regional champion, but has been slowed slightly by both sickness and injury this season. Puget Sound's Francis Reynolds, a senior, won the NWC crown at 25:00 over Willamette sophomore Leo Castillo at 25:21. Reynolds finished second at the Regional meet last year. Willamette's duo of Matt Parker (25:24) and Stefan Redfield (25:35), plus Lewis and Clark's Karl Dickman (25:39) completed the NWC top five, with Linfield senior Shawn Fisher also in the mix. Last year's fourth-place finisher, Occidental sophomore Eric Kleinsasser won the SCIAC individual title in 25:24 over CMS junior Kramer Straube at 25:43. Pomona-Pitzer senior Brian Gillis took third (25:46), followed by CMS junior Brian Kopczynski (25:49) and Cal Lutheran junior Ray Ostrander (25:56). Colorado College sophomore Jackson Brainerd won the SCAC title in a quick 24:29 and will definitely be a factor after finishing tenth at Regionals last season.
Two eastern Washington teams dominate the women's region rankings. Whitworth stands atop the West Region rankings, with Whitman close behind. Whitworth is ranked 17th nationally, while Whitman is ranked 23rd. Whitworth won the NWC team title with 37 points on the McIver course to finish just ahead of Whitman's 43. Whitworth women ran 2-3-8-10-14 to finish ahead of Whitman's 4-7-9-11-12. The region's #3 team Occidental is also ranked 31st nationally, and won the SCIAC team title at Prado Park with 44 points to finish ahead of #4 Pomona-Pitzer, 44-59. Occidental harriers finished 3-6-8-12-15 to win the title, while Pomona-Pitzer runners went 1-5-10-20-23. Linfield is ranked fifth in the region; the Wildcats took third in the NWC race with 83 points. The West Region Top-10 Women's rankings are rounded out with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (3rd at the SCIAC Champs), Lewis & Clark (4th at the NWC Champs), Willamette (5th at the NWC Champs), UC Santa Cruz, which competes as an independent, and Redlands (4th at the SCIAC Champs).
Individually, UC Santa Cruz junior Mikayla Murphy is the highest-finishing returner after taking second in the 2008 West Region meet. Murphy recently clocked a sparkling 17:56 for 5000 meters at the Shoreline Open and will be a force to reckon with. Pomona-Pitzer senior Alicia Freese won the SCIAC individual title in 22:42; she was third last year at Regionals. Freese was followed in the SCIAC meet by CMS sophomore Jennifer Tavé (22:53), Occidental frosh Phoebe Merritt (23:30), Whittier sophomore Michele Callaway (23:44) – 4th last year – and Pomona-Pitzer senior Rose Haag (23:50). After finishing 13th at Regionals last fall, Linfield senior Marci Klimek took the NWC crown in 21:50 to defeat the Whitworth duo of sophomore Dana Misterek (22:12) and frosh Joy Shufeldt (22:15), with Whitman junior Kristen Ballinger (22:26) – eighth last year – and Puget Sound junior Hayley Walker (22:27) rounding out the top five.