SEASON PREVIEW: Eagles Open Cross Country Season At Clash Of The Inland Northwest

SEASON PREVIEW: Eagles Open Cross Country Season At Clash Of The Inland Northwest

EWU Cross Country comes together as a family for the first race of the season in Colfax

Cheney, Wash. – New head coach Chris Shane is eager to see what the Eastern Washington University cross country team can accomplish this season as the Eagles will compete in their first meet of the season on Tuesday (Sept. 1) at the Clash of the Inland Northwest at the Colfax Golf Club in Colfax, Wash. Teams appearing in the Clash of the INW include host Washington State, Gonzaga, Idaho, Whitworth, and Lewis-Clark State. The men's 6,000-meter race begins at 6 p.m. with the women's 4,000-meter race to follow at 6:30 p.m.

With the first two weeks of practice in the past, Shane hopes the cross country team continues to come together and become stronger as the season progresses.

"I am very happy about what we have been able to accomplish in our first two weeks together as a team," Shane said. "This is a team that has been plagued by injuries over the years and I am pleased with the effort spent over the summer by our student-athletes to come back healthy and ready to train."

One of Shane's main coaching tactics is coming together as a family to support one another on and off the race course.

"My coaching philosophy and team program is all about team family, communication, and enjoying the journey," Shane explains. "In order to compete at the highest level we must stay healthy, and in order to do that, we must listen to what our bodies are communicating to us and then relay that information to the coach. I also believe in absolute positivity. We can't have a positive outlook on our training or athletic performance unless we have a strong bond with our team family, eliminate negative self-talk and truly enjoy what we are doing. We will come closest to realizing our goals if we do these things."

Last year at the Big Sky Cross Country Championships, the women's team finished in fourth place with 136 points, just six points behind the third place finisher. Teams finishing ahead of the women's team were Montana State (third), Weber State (second), and Northern Arizona (first). The men's team finished sixth place with 147 points, just three points away from placing fifth. Teams finishing ahead of the men's team were Montana State (fifth), Idaho (fourth), Weber State (third), Southern Utah (second), and Northern Arizona (first).

The Eagles return many strong runners, including junior Sarah Reiter, who was last year's Big Sky Champion in Bozeman, Mont. Returning team captains for the women's side include senior Berenice Penaloza (ninth place finish at Big Sky Championships) and senior Katie Mahoney (22nd).

Among the other returners for the women's team are seniors Catie Arrigoni and Mayra Chavez, as well as juniors Katie Lynch, Kari Scharnhorst, Keeley Davidson, Michaela Chucka, and Paula Gil-Echevarria. Newcomers include junior Jami Klicker, and freshmen Chelsea Ribeiro and Bri Gibson, all new faces to collegiate running.

On the men's side, Shane said returning athletes – including team captains senior Aaron Brenton and junior Isaac Kitzan -- have made huge improvements from last season. Predicted to lead the team up front are returning juniors Alex Kimsey (30th place finish at Big Sky Championships) and Stephen Bottoms (28th).

Other returning athletes on the men's side include junior Dallas Snider, and sophomores Austin Oser, Daniel Sanchez, and Nik Taylor.

Newcomers for the men include juniors Daniel Schofield, Logan Stahl, and Zebulon Klemke, who have all ran for junior colleges previous to joining Eastern's team.

With a roster full of new and returning potential, Shane hopes to discover just how good his athletes can be.

"That will always be the goal for the athletes I coach -- find out how good you can be," said Shane. "In addition to that we want to be better each year than we were before. We have never finished better than fourth in the Conference and have never taken a team to the NCAA Championship in Cross Country.  Those are goals that will eventually happen at EWU."

Carrying high hopes for a top finishing team by the end of the season, Shane shares similar goals for the men's and women's team in order for them to keep improving throughout the season.

"This year, on the women's side, the Big Sky is absolutely loaded. It will be the most tightly contested battle for the team title in conference history with five teams that all have a chance to win.  We will be in the mix, but our focus is on being better than we were last year and showing up with the best team we've ever had," said Shane.

"The men's team goals are very similar," he continued. "We lose some depth and have a young team, but we feel we can be better this year than last. How much better? That is the question I ask of them every practice."

"I'm looking forward to watching it all shake out," said Shane.

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