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Karlee Coffey (34) leads a group of Eastern Oregon runners from the starting line during Saturday’s conference championship meet in Portland. The team finished second, edging seventh-ranked Northwest Christian, 71 to 72. MADDISON STAPLETON photo
PORTLAND — Senior Karlee Coffey’s second place individual finish sparked the Eastern Oregon University women’s cross country team to a surprising second place team finish at the Cascade Collegiate Conference Championships here Saturday.
The ladies finished 71 points to the 72 of No. 7 ranked Northwest Christian.
The College of Idaho claimed the women’s team title with 39 points.
“Our ladies ran the race of the season,” said EOU Head Coach Ben Welch. “It is one of the best conference meets that we have run in the past five or six years.”
The Eastern women entered the meet as the number three team in the conference, but ran with a mission from the start over the 5,000-meter course, according to the coach.
Coffey paced the way for Eastern as she battled College of Idaho’s Hillary Holt from the start. The duo ran together through the entire race, with Holt finally pulling away in the last mile. Coffey ran 17:05.38 to Holt’s 16:52.11.
Following Coffey across the line was junior Jodine Steemers, who went out with Coffey and Holt at the beginning.
Steemers had company from Concordia’s Mikel Elliott for much of the race before gaining an advantage of up to 15 meters late in the race.
A strong kick by Elliott allowed her to just nip Steemers at the finish. Steemers finished in 18.06.80, an almost 30 second improvement on her season best.
Senior Leigh Anne MacCarthy, who missed the Mountaineers volleyball win last night over Oregon Tech to prepare for today’s meet, ran her lifetime best to finish 13th.
MacCarthy started conservatively but continued to move up in the field throughout the race. She broke into the top 15 by the end of the first mile and ran strong to the finish. She ran 18:41.71.
Senior Talissa Baldovino gave the Mounties their fourth lady inside the top 25, finishing 22nd. Baldovino ran in the top 30 most of the race and used a strong finishing mile to move into her finish spot. Her time of 18:56.23 was a personal best by 15 seconds.
Eastern’s top five was rounded out by junior Cristal Delgado.
She started in the middle of the pack and continually moved her way up through the field to earn a 33rd place finish in 19:39.39.
“The top five ladies ran real well. Four them ran personal best races,” said Welch.
Freshman Kailey Wilson and senior Jessianne Heley rounded out the Mountaineers’ top seven runners finishing 48th (20:15.38) and 60th (20:42.67) respectively.
Freshman Hailee Hollingsworth, 68th (21:26.70) and sophomore Audrey Love, 73rd (23:26.55) rounded out the Eastern squad.
The finish by the women puts them in a good spot to collect an at-large bid to the NAIA National Cross Country Championships on Nov. 17 in Fort Vancouver, Wash.
The Mountaineers will have to wait until tonight to find out their fate.
If the women do not collect an at-large berth, Coffey and Steemers will go as individuals.