EOU SEEKS NATIONAL X-C BERTHS
By Joe Sova
Rested and ready, both physically and mentally, Eastern Oregon University cross country athletes head into their most important meet so far this season Saturday. That is the combined NAIA Region I and Cascade Collegiate Conference Championships in Portland.
The women leave the starting line at 10:15 a.m. at Lent's Park, followed by the men's race at 11 a.m.
EOU coach Ben Welch said the region meet and conference championships will be scored separately. The winning team in men's and women's divisions qualifies for the NAIA Cross Country Championships Nov. 20 in Louisville, Ky. In addition, 14 at-large teams nationwide qualify.
The top five individuals in each race who are not on a national qualifying team also move on to nationals.
EOU men's team has moved back up to eighth in the NAIA poll released Thursday, and the Mountaineer women are 20th.
EOU has won 11 consecutive conference championships, and the Mountaineers are back to full strength so they can contend again.
Back in the lineup are EOU's top three harriers Eric Griffiths, Alex McGladrey and Ian Schroeder. Josh Ego runs No. 4 and Daniel Sipko at No. 5. Troy Blackburn has been running sixth. Battling for the seventh spot are Sam Wambugu, Ben Carpenter and Jake Peterson.
"We'll have to race very well to beat Simon Fraser," Welch said. "Southern Oregon is really coming on. They've been nipping at our heels."
Welch said the EOU women must fare well against Northwest College and Lewis-Clark State College to be successful.
"The goal all year has been to get LCSC. We'll have to run very well to beat them," the coach said.
The EOU women qualified for nationals last year, and Welch hopes they can return.
"If we beat a team that's ranked ahead of us we'll get an at-large berth ahead of them," explained Welch.
Stephanie Colkitt has been EOU's top runner. Jessyca Barker has been running second. Rian Finney and Shawna Muchow have been vying for the No. 3 spot. Jessica Johnson, Nicole Woitovich and Chelsee Harmon round out the top six.