SEASON OPENER: After wrapping up a couple of weeks of serious preseason training, the Pacific Lutheran cross country starts its 2012 season on Saturday when it competes in the Whitman Invitational at Fort Walla Walla. The men's 8000-meter run starts at 10:30 a.m., followed by the women's 6000-meter run at 11:15 a.m.
A CHANGE OF PACE - OR LENGTH, ANYWAY: As is the case this year, Pacific Lutheran opened the 2008 and 2010 seasons at the Whitman Invitational, but in those events the race distances were 2,000 meters shorter than they are this year for both the men and the women. Most collegiate races - including championship competition - are 8000 meters for men and 6000 meters for women, so the PLU runners will get a good idea of where they stand from the outset.
FIVE MEN HAVE RUN AT WHITMAN: Five members of the PLU team - Alan DenAdel, Kolter Grigsby, Kyle Smith, Eric Herde and Matt Beal - ran the 6000-meter race at the 2010 Whitman Invitational. While the course is longer, the location - Fort Walla Walla - is the same. No current member of the PLU women's team has run at Whitman.
THE CANDIDATE: In addition to cross country running, junior Eric Herde (Tacoma, Wash. / Washington) will also be running his own state senate campaign during the fall. Herde, a democrat, is running for a Senate seat from the 25th District.
SEASON PREVIEW: Both Pacific Lutheran cross country teams enter the 2012 season without a lot of experience and needing young, unproven runners to develop quickly if they are to improve on last season's seventh-place finishes at the Northwest Conference championship meet. "We are under the radar this season and hope to surprise others and ourselves," seventh-year head coach Heather Kreier said.
MEN'S OUTLOOK: Alan DenAdel (Bow, Wash. / Burlington-Edison) leads the Pacific Lutheran men into the 2012 season after placing 209th at the 2011 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. DenAdel, a junior, became the first PLU runner since 2002 to compete at the national meet, qualifying by placing 12th at the regional meet in Claremont, Calif. Several weeks prior to that he earned first team all-conference honors with a fourth-place performance at the Northwest Conference Championships. Though hampered last spring and into the early summer by illness, DenAdel should round into shape and again be a candidate for a national meet appearance. The other top returning runner is senior Kolter Grigsby (Spokane, Wash. / Shadle Park), whose off-season workouts brought him into fall camp in excellent shape. He represented PLU at both the conference and regional meets and hopes to make big strides after placing 51st – fourth among PLU runners – at conference and 100th – fifth on the team – at regionals. "The front end of the men's team is strong and should yield a NWC champion if Alan and Kolter stay healthy, positive and happy," Kreier says. Junior Kyle Smith (Selah, Wash. / Selah) is the only other PLU returnee to race at both championships last season, finishing 71st at conference and 105th at regionals. Another veteran, the aforementioned Herde, placed 80th at conference. Junior Matt Beal (Gig Harbor, Wash. / Peninsula) has some cross country and track experience at PLU, and senior Jordan Steves (Puyallup, Wash. / Puyallup) will run cross country for the first time after running the steeplechase during the 2012 track season. The other members of the team are Joseph Mungai (Kent, Wash. / Christian Faith), a jumper on the track team, and freshman Andrew Jensen (Salem, Ore. / South Salem), who participated in the Oregon high school championships.
WOMEN'S OUTLOOK: The phrase "youth will be served" is apropos to the PLU women's team. There are only two returnees from last year's squad - sophomore Jennifer Arbaugh (Vista, Calif. / Vista del Lago) was the number three runner in 2011, placing 43rd at conference and 90th at regionals, while junior Alyssa Rowland (Happy Valley, Ore. / Clackamas) ended up in PLU's top six at both conference (60th overall) and regionals (96th). The only other veteran is Chiara Rose-Witt (Omak, Wash. / Omak), who last ran in 2010. Every other member of the team is untested at the college level. Among the top newcomers are freshmen Amanda Wilson (Port Orchard, Wash. / South Kitsap), Lauren Knebel (Mercer Island, Wash. / Mercer Island), and Madison Guscott (Olympia, Wash. / Capital). All three have state high school meet experience. Amanda Seely (Liberty Lake, Wash. / Central Valley) is a sophomore academically who will run cross country for the first time at PLU. Rounding out the team are freshmen Tara Glynn (Pilot Rock, Ore. / Pilot Rock) and Karissa Jackson (Juneau, Alaska / Juneau-Douglas) and senior Krystalynne Haskins (Puyallup, Wash. / Rogers). "(I am) excited to have a young women's team that is highly enthusiastic, coachable and talented," Kreier says.
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