Lutes Look To NWC Championship
THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran competes at the Northwest Conference Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Willamette Mission State Park in Brooks, Ore. The women's 6000-meter race is scheduled for an 10 a.m. start and will be followed by the men's 8000-meter event at 11 a.m.
2010 CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS
MEN: Whitworth won the 2010 conference title, placing four of the top seven on the way to 33 points. Willamette was second with 36 points, followed by Lewis & Clark with 66. Rounding out the team scoring were Linfield 116, George Fox 160, Whitman 162, Pacific 185, Puget Sound 202 and PLU 240. Willamette's Leo Castillo won the race with a time of 25:18.66, and he will be back this year to defend his title.
WOMEN: Lewis & Clark won the 2010 conference title, scoring 43 points to pull away from Whitworth with 73 and Willamette with 93. Rounding out the scores were Whitman 100, Linfield 113, PLU 137, Puget Sound 194, Pacific 216, and George Fox 224. Willamette's Kimber Mattox won the individual championship with a 22:09.52 over the 6000-meter Ft. Steilacoom Park course in Lakewood. She will be back to defend her title.
TEAMS TO BEAT: There are five Northwest Conference Men's teams currently ranked in the West Region of the cross country coaches poll, and the top two are considered favorites to win this year's conference title. Willamette is No. 4 in the West Region poll, followed one spot back by defending conference champion Whitworth. Linfield is No. 6 in the poll, while Lewis & Clark is No. 8 and Whitman is No. 9. The women are also facing tough competition, with five Northwest Conference teams currently ranked in the West Region of the cross country coaches poll, led by No. 2 Lewis & Clark and No. 3 Whitman. Both teams have been impressive during the 2011 season. In fact, L&C is ranked No. 18 and Whitman No. 25 in this week's national poll. Other regionally ranked women's teams are No. 5 Willamette, No. 6 Linfield and No. 8 Whitworth.
BEEN THERE BEFORE: Pacific Lutheran has run at Willamette Mission State Park, the site of this Saturday's NWC meet, and getting familiar with the course was the reason that PLU head coach Heather Kreier chose to run at the Sept. 24 Linfield Preview. Sophomore Alan DenAdel took first place in the men's portion of the Linfield Preview, clocking 26:07.51 over 8000 meters and beating runner-up Arian Anderson from Linfield by almost nine full seconds. Linfield Men's team won that meet with 26 points, followed by Pacific with 44, PLU with 62 and George Fox with 120. Those were the only NWC teams competing that day. On the women's side at the Linfield Preview, Katie Gebert and Suzy Olsen placed fifth and sixth, respectively, to lead Pacific Lutheran to a second-place finish. The host Linfield Wildcats placed all five runners in the top eight - top seven if not counting unattached race winner Kelsey Owens - to score 19 points. PLU tallied 44 points, well ahead of Pacific with 75 and George Fox with 100 in the four-team competition.
MEN LOOKING FOR MAJOR IMPROVEMENT: You would have to go all the way back to the 2001 season to find a Pacific Lutheran men's team that finished in the upper half at the Northwest Conference championship meet, and that team placed fourth. That is the goal of this year's team at Saturday's race. With nine teams in the conference, an upper-half finish would mean fourth or better. That would be a major improvement over a year ago when the Lutes struggled at the championship race and finished ninth. What would make an upper-half finish even more impressive is that this year's team has only one newcomer to the team (freshman Nathan Brewster), in addition to the fact that PLU's top finisher from a year ago, senior John Phillips, has finished his collegiate eligibility. What gives the team so much hope is the strong running of sophomore Alan DenAdel, who sets the team pace as one of the top runners in the conference, plus some solid performances by other members of the team during several of this year's five races. Racing for the Lutes on Saturday, in addition to DenAdel, are seniors Sean Andrascik, Alex Martin and Barrett Bollen, junior Kolter Grigsby, and sophomores Kyle Smith and Eric Herde.
WOMEN LOOKING TO MOVE UP: After a sixth-place finish in 2010, the Lutes are looking to move up this season. "(The) women (are) forecast at seventh place with the potential of earning as high as fifth if all athletes are on point at the same time," says head coach Heather Kreier. Entering the meet, senior Katie Gebert is ranked 20th and is shooting for a top 14 finish, which would earn her all-conference accord. She just missed the honor last year, placing 16th at the conference meet. Junior Suzy Olsen placed 13th in 2010 to earn second team all-conference honors "and she, too, is ready to bring it on race day," Kreier says. "The women are rested and healthy leading into the championships." Other PLU runners will be senior Erica Johnson, junior Rebecca Ford, sophomores Erinn Kuest, Allison Young and Alyssa Rowland, and frosh Jennifer Arbaugh, Michelle Domini and Maggie De La Vergne.
COACH HEATHER KREIER SAYS: "The men (are) forecast at seventh place with the potential of earning as high as fourth if all athletes are on point at the same time. Alan DenAdel is ranked top three in (the) NWC and has a good chance at hitting second or better at the NWC Championships. (The) team is rested and excited to race."
MORE MEN'S RACE HISTORY: Willamette has won eight of the last 10 conference championships, but Whitworth has been victorious in two of the last three (2008 and 2010). Pacific Lutheran last won a NWC men's cross country crown in 1997 when Ryan Pauling led his team with a first-place individual finish, but PLU has not finished in the top three since 1999. PLU was the dominant men's program in the Northwest Conference in the 1980s and early 90s, winning nine straight championships between 1984 and 1992.
PLU'S NWC WOMEN'S HISTORY: Pacific Lutheran last won a Northwest Conference women's cross country championship in 1995, and it has been since the 2001 season that PLU finished in the upper half (fourth-or-better) at the conference meet. That 2001 team placed third. Since then, the best that the Pacific Lutheran women have done is place fifth on three occasions (2002, 2004 and 2007). PLU dominated Northwest Conference women's cross country throughout the 1980s and into the early 90s, winning 12 straight conference titles from 1981 through 1992. The last PLU runner to win an individual NWC crown was Lia Ossiander in 2000.
MORE RACE HISTORY: Since 2000, Willamette has won eight Northwest Conference women's team championships, including seven consecutive from 2002-08. Puget Sound, Whitworth and Lewis & Clark have each won one team title during that time.
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