November 24, 2002 11:00 pm
Eastern's Jessyca Barker, left, and Kelsey  Jones , center, run at the national meet in Kenosha, Wis., Saturday. ().
Eastern's Jessyca Barker, left, and Kelsey Jones , center, run at the national meet in Kenosha, Wis., Saturday. ().

KENOSHA, Wis. — The Eastern men proved they are, and will continue to be, a force to be reckoned with. The Eastern women proved they should've been given a little more respect.

The Eastern Oregon cross country teams completed arguably their most successful season Saturday with top 10 finishes at the NAIA Cross Country National Champion-ships.

The men finished second with 144 points, behind champion Minot State University of North Dakota, which had 120 points. The Eastern men came into the race ranked No. 2 in the nation and proved worthy of that lofty rating.

The women came into the race ranked 15th nationally, but finished seventh with 223 points. Northwest College won the women's race in dominant fashion with 77 points.

The highest-ever finish for an EOU team before this season was third for the women at the 1999 nationals. The highest-ever men's finish before this year was sixth in 1993 and 2000.

This was the first year both the men and women's teams finished in the top 10. Eastern finished third in the nation for combined men and women's team results. Only Concordia University of Nebraska and Black Hills State University (S.D.) finished higher overall than the Mountaineers.

Eastern's best combined finish at nationals before this was 1998, when the women were ninth and the men 12th.

Eastern had more All-Americans this year — five — than in any previous year. Alex McGladrey (11th), Brian Crowl (13th), Michael Greenman (24th), Kelsey Jones (24th) and Jessyca Barker (27th) were all named All-Americans for finishing among the top 30.

Coach Ben Welch was named the Mondao/UST&F-NAIA West Region coach of the year.

Welch said that after the race, his runners went back to the hotel to celebrate and review race tape.

"They're licking their wounds and patting themselves on the back," he said.

About 20 Eastern parents and alumni came to the event.

Eastern Athletic Director Rob Cashell commented in a press statement, "I couldn't be more proud of the job our cross country teams have done this season. Coaches Ben Welch, April Brock and Pat McCurry are to be commended on this wonderful season."

Eastern men

Welch said his front four men "ran awesome." In fact, these front four runners — McGladrey, Crowl, Greenman and Dave Terry (39th) were tied with the top four runners from Minot State. The South Dakota school essentially won because its fifth-place runner had a better race than Eastern's fifth-place runner, Patrick Egelus.

"That proves the importance that (cross country) is an individual event to an extent, but that it's also a team battle," said Welch.

McGladrey said he was shooting for a top 15 finish and made his goal. "I'm ecstatic with that," he said.

The La Grande runners ran around Mount Emily and Mount Harris to prepare for the season, and McGladrey thinks the team's training regimen in elevation and mountainous terrain helped it this season.

Welch was especially proud of the job Greenman did, making All-American as a freshman.

"He's the highest finishing freshman I've ever had," said Welch. He said Greenman actually struggled at regionals because he kept slipping in the mud.

The conditions in Wisconsin were relatively mild, with temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s and clear skies. But, the course was muddy and boggy. Greenman learned his lesson at regionals, and switched from flat shoes to cleats.

"He had spikes on. He had long spikes," said Welch. "He had his fangs on today.

"That (wearing spikes) made a huge difference," said Greenman.

"I'm really proud of our team," Greenman said.

Eastern women

The Mountaineer women came in to the event with a bit of a chip on their shoulders because of the No. 15 ranking. They used that chip as a weapon to motivate themselves.

Welch said that while the women were motivated, he sensed there was a bit of doubt in the backs of their minds. "They ran a little hesitant. They were almost positive they were better than they were ranked," he said.

Jones said, "we went into the race knowing we had been under-ranked all year. We're very excited. People definitely know our name now."

Barker joined the women's team in late September and it wasn't a coincidence that the women starting coming on strong after that. Barker said she was talked into joining the team by Welch and one of her teammates, and she was glad she was.

"I'm so glad we were able to show Eastern really has something" in its cross country program, Barker said.

Neither EOU men nor women's teams will graduate many members. The men only graduate Jesse Petersen (102nd at nationals) and Terry. There are some very strong redshirt freshmen who will be running varsity next year.

"Next year we should be pretty impressive," said Welch.

Greenman said his teammates are already thinking about what they're going to do next year.

"I think everyone is really ready for next year. I'm excited for the years to come," Greenman said.

The Pacific Northwest was particularly strong in the women's race, with four regional teams — Northwest College (1st), Eastern Oregon (7th), Simon Fraser University (8th), and Lewis-Clark State University (9th) finishing in the top 10.

A Simon Fraser sophomore, Emilie Mondor, won the women's race in record time in 16 minutes, 43 seconds, beating the second-place runner by a staggering 1:26.

— Pierre LaBossire

2002 NAIA National Cross Country Championships

Team results, Men's 8000 meters

(Placement, school, points)

1, Minot State, 120; 2, Eastern Oregon, 144; 3, Malone College, 158; 4, Central Methodist, 175; 5, Black Hills State, 190; 6, Concordia (Neb.), 202; 7, Cumberland College, 216; 8, Southwestern, 251; 9, Azusa Pacific, 257; 10, MidAmerica Nazarene, 278; 11, Oklahoma Baptist, 333; 12, Northwood, 358; 13, University of Mary, 360; 14, Cal State San Marcos, 366; 15, Berry College, 400; 16, University of British Columbia, 421; 17, Warner Pacific, 425; 18, Aquinas College, 442; 19, Grace College, 448; 20, Siena Heights, 472; 21, William Jewell College, 479; 22, Dana College, 488; 23, Lyndon State College, 514; 24, Warner Southern, 531; 25, Berea College, 675; 27, Olivet Nazarene, 748; 28, Loyola (La.), 876; 29, Xavier (La.), 975.

Eastern men individual times

11, Alex McGladrey, 25:45; 13, Brian Crowl, 25:46; 24, Michael Greenman, 26:11; 39, David Terry, 26:31; 99, Patrick Egelus, 27:14; 102, Jesse Petersen, 27:15; 139, Nick Fikes, 27:45.

2002 NAIA Cross Country National Championships Team Results

Women's 5000 meters

(Placement, school, points)

1, Northwest College, 77; 2, Concordia (Neb.), 116; 3, Black Hills State, 136; 4, Cedarville, 168; 5, Azusa Pacific, 177; 6, Concordia (Calif.), 192; 7, Eastern Oregon, 223; 8, Simon Fraser, 225; 9, Lewis-Clark State, 241; 10, Indiana Wesleyan, 262; 11, Doane College, 284; 12, Oklahoma Baptist, 335; 13, Hastings College, 352; 14, St. Scholastica, 400; 15, University of Mary, 415; 16, Spring Arbor, 420; 17, Northwood, 422; 18, Roberts Wesleyan, 441; 19, Malone College, 443; 20, Cal State San Marcos, 543; 21, Baker University, 568; 22, Berry College, 611; 23, Huntington College, 617; 24, Olivet Nazarene, 648; 25, Cumberland College, 669; 26, Asbury College, 686; 27, Lyndon State College, 779; 28, Warner Southern, 789; 29, Xavier (La.), 964.

Eastern women individual times

24, Kelsey Jones, 19:09; 27, Jessyca Barker, 19:10; 58, Katlin Lafferty, 19:37; 86, Lisa Muilenburg, 19:59; 93, Rian Finney, 20:04; 165, Carri Jones, 20:56; 218, Shannon Edwards, 22:02.