By Lev Rourke
Photos by Kim Spir
In a hectic weekend of cross country qualifying across the country, the Oregon men’s and women’s teams both picked off automatic berths in the NCAA Division I championships and put themselves in position to compete for spots on the podium a week from now, when the finals will be held in Terre Haute, Ind.
The University of Portland, pictured left, who have surprised the Ducks’ men’s team in recent years, found itself hoping for an at-large spot after a so-so- 4th-place finish in the West Regional race on Saturday morning in Springfield. Thanks in part to its No. 13 national ranking, it was one of the 13 at-large selections and will also be making a return trip to Nationals. Its star sophomore from Alaska, Trevor Dunbar, pulled off a big upset, winning the individual Regional race with a mad sprint through the mud in the home straight to beat Stephen Sambu of Arizona by six-hundredths of a second.
But because of the ineligibility of fellow-soph Joash Osoro and the recent injuries to its previous ace, Alfred Kipchumba, the Pilots do not expect to be challengers this year at Nationals.
The high school teams made their way east to Boise on Saturday for the Northwest Regional NXN race, with the first two teams qualifying automatically to the nationals, which will be held in three weeks at Portland Meadows. Despite a 5th-runner problem, the Jesuit girls finished first, beating Bozeman (Mont.) by just 3 points, 91-94. Annamarie Maag led the way, finishing 3rd.
Washington teams finished 1-2 in the boys, setting up another anticipated rout by the teams from north of the Columbia in Sunday’s Border Clash at the Nike campus in Beaverton. The top 40 boys and girls from each state will face off Sunday morning in that annual test of wills.
In NCAA Div. III, the Willamette men finished 1st in the West Regional, held in Salem, to advance to Saturday’s final, which will be held at Wartburg College in Iowa. Stefan Redfield led the way, finishing 2nd. In the women’s Regional, Lewis & Clark College finished 4th, failing to qualify, but L&C and Willamette both advanced two individuals each – Emily Thomas and Illana Livstrom for the Portland school, Kimber Mattox and Theresa Edwards for the host school.
One college national championship meet will be held locally. The NAIA nationals return to Fort Vancouver on Saturday, with a strong showing expected from the host Concordia women and from the Southern Oregon men.
NCAA Div. I
Oregon’s men surprised Stanford, winning by 2 points, 63-65, after being handled easily by the Californians in the Pac-10 Championships two weeks ago in Seattle. The Stanford threesome of Chris Derrick, Elliott Heath and Jake Riley – who finished 1-2-3 at conference – appeared to run easily this time and finished comfortably at 7-8-9. Two Ducks, Luke Puskedra (4th) and Matthew Centrowitz (6th) finished ahead of them, to give the Ducks the win. The first two teams qualified automatically for the NCAA.
Cal ran a great race and got a solid 3rd place and a trip to Nationals, with 78, well ahead of Portland’s 113. Michael Coe, in 3rd, led the Bears.
Stanford had slipped from its No. 1 national ranking in recent weeks, behind the defending national champions from Oklahoma State, but those rankings were thrown topsy turvy when the Cowboys were shocked by their in-state rivals, Oklahoma, in Saturday’s Midwest Regional, 43-50. Okie State had been ranked No. 1, Stanford No. 2 and Oregon No. 3. In the final in-season rankings of the year, Stanford was returned to No. 1, displacing Oklahoma State, while the Ducks remained No. 3 and U of P was slotted at 19th.
Wisconsin had an impressive win in the Great Lakes Region, scoring just 32. With the return of its ace, Mohammed Ahmed, the Badgers showed they are a threat at Nationals. Wisconsin lost narrowly to the Ducks at the Dellinger Invitational last month in Eugene, running without Ahmed. The Badgers moved up one spot to 5th in the 4th in the final poll.
The Oregon women lost narrowly to Washington, (team pictured right) 73-77, as both teams turned the tables on the schools they had lost to at Pac-10, Stanford and Arizona. Those two finished 3-4 here, and all four advanced to Nationals. Washington actually had the lowest national ranking coming in (11th) of the four but was buoyed by the rapid improvement of a redshirt freshman, Canadian Justine Johnson, who came in as the Huskies’ No. 2 finisher here, just behind her fellow frosh, Katie Flood. Johnson had never even been a scorer previously for the Dawgs.
Oregon’s Jordan Hasay pulled away in the final 300 yards for a convincing victory, while Alex Kosinski ran a solid 3rd for the Ducks.
The national favorites and defending champions, Villanova, won as expected in the Mid-Atlantic Region, but not without a fight from second-place Georgetown, which put four runners in the top 10 and showed it is a threat to the Hoyas, their Big East rivals. ‘Nova won the Regional by just 11, 29-40. The Big East also qualified women’s teams from Notre Dame, Syracuse and Providence, while the ACC women advanced from Boston College, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State.
Individually, Hasay could be a threat at Nationals, along with Villanova’s Sheila Reid and Stony Brook’s Lucy Van Dalen. The men’s individual favorites are the defending champion, Samuel Chelanga of Liberty, and David McNeill of Northern Arizona.
In the final in-season poll, Villanova received all of the 1st-place votes. Florida State was a surprise 2nd, followed by Georgetown, Washington, New Mexico, Oregon and Stanford.
The top-ranked teams are the Middlebury women, winners of the New England Regional, and the North Central College men, the defending champions and winners over the weekend in the Midwest.
The individual champions both return and both hail from New York colleges – Wendy Pavlus of St. Lawrence, last year’s runnerup team, and Peter Kosgei of Hamilton College. Kosgei, however, was only 4th over the weekend.
The North Central (Spokane) boys won the Northwest Regional for the fourth year in a row. NC won the national championship in 2008. They were led over the weekend by the junior Vince Hamilton, who finished 2nd to fellow Spokane runner Kenji Bierig, of Lewis & Clark, who beat Hamilton by a second, 15:35-15:36.
L&C (which goes by the name South Central for the purposes of the NXN) finished 2nd in the team scoring, losing 76-103, to upset a third Washington school, Eisenhower (114) of Yakima, for the guaranteed second spot at Nationals. Eisenhower had beaten Lewis & Clark for the Washington 4A state championship a week earlier.
The top Oregon finisher in the boys’ race was Crater, 4th with 161. Crater’s Max Runia finished 7th, likely giving him a spot at NXN as a an individual entrant. Individually after Bierig and Hamilton were two other Washingtonians, Kenny Krotzer (Auburn-Riverside) and Anthony Armstrong (Kamiakin-Kennewick).
The girls’ individual winner was also from North Central – the sophomore Katie Knight, daughter of the head coach, Jon Knight. Knight came from behind to upset Amy-Eloise Neale, her fellow sophomore, from Glacier Peak, Wash. Knight ran 17:34, breaking the course record by 23 seconds. Neale had narrowly defeated Knight at the Washington 3A state meet. Maag ran 17:53, eight seconds behind Neale and also under the course record.
She was followed by fellow Crusaders Payton Schutte (11th), Amira Joseph (20th), Adrienne Demaree (24th), and, well back in 63rd, Genevieve Reaume. Jesuit had been ranked 10th nationally.
Bozeman, which had been unranked, was led by 4th-place Caroline Hardin and by Heidi Turner, 14th. Turner, former 3-time Montana state champion, had not run this fall because of injury.
The Axemen of South Eugene, led by Paige Kouba (19th), finished 6th with 181 points, and Rose City, led by the freshman Paige Rice (13th) and Ellen Patterson (17th), were 7th with 190.
Megan Fristoe of Summit finished 12th.
Glacier Peak, which had been ranked 16th nationally, was a close 3rd in the scoring with 115 points and will have a shot at one of the at-large berths. However, the national picture is dominated by the New York teams. This year, Fayetteville-Manlius is ranked No. 1 and fellow New Yorkers Saratoga Springs No. 2. The women’s race has been won only by Empire State schools in the NXN’s six-year existence.