Eastern Cross Country Teams Head to Southern Utah for Big Sky Championships

Sarah Reiter defends her individual women’s title, as Eagle men and women set their sights on high finishes

With defending Big Sky Conference women’s champion Sarah Reiter leading the way, the Eastern Washington University men’s and women’s cross country teams head for Cedar City, Utah, for the 2015 Big Sky Conference Championships this Saturday (Oct. 31).

The women’s 5,000-meter race starts at 9 a.m. Pacific time, followed by the men’s 8,000-meter competition at 10 a.m. Both races take place at the Cedar Ridge Golf Course in Cedar City. Eastern’s best-ever finishes for the women were fourth last year and in 2007. The men finished a best-ever third in 2008.

“The Big Sky Conference is loaded with talent each and every year and this year is no exception,” said Eastern head coach Chris Shane. “We have yet to have our best team race of the season and I feel that this is our week.”

Reiter, a junior from Renton, Wash., won the title in 2014 with a time of 17:05.2 on a 5,000-meter course in Grand Forks, N.D. She is coming off a 16th-place finish on Oct. 17 at the Division I Pre-Nationals in Louisville, Ky., with a time of 20:25.9 over 6,000 meters. For her efforts, she was the Big Sky Conference Athlete of the Week.

Besides Reiter, headed for Cedar City for the women will be seniors Catie Arrigoni, Katie Mahoney and Berenice Penaloza, as well as junior Paula Gil-Echevarria, senior Mayra Chavez, freshman Chelsea Ribeiro and freshman Bri Gibson.

The men’s contingent will include junior Stephen Bottoms, junior Isaac Kitzan, junior Daniel Schofield, junior Alex Kimsey, sophomore Austin Oser, senior Aaron Brenton, sophomore Daniel Sanchez and junior Dallas Snider.

 

A Look at the Regional Rankings . . .

Reiter leads a women’s team ranked sixth in the West Region rankings announced on Oct. 19. Eastern ranks only behind top-ranked Oregon, Boise State, Washington, Stanford and California, and are ahead of the likes of Gonzaga and Washington State. No other Big Sky schools are ranked in the West Region, but Weber State (fifth), Northern Arizona (sixth), Montana State (11th), Montana (12th) and Idaho State (15th) are among the top 15 teams in the Mountain Region. Weber State is ranked 27th in the nation.

The next rankings will be announced on Nov. 2 after the conference championships. At that time, head coach Chris Shane will have a better idea how his team will stack up for the West Region Championships on Nov. 13 in Seattle. That meet serves as the advancer for the NCAA Championships on Nov. 21 back in Louisville.

In Louisville on Oct. 17, the Eagles placed 13th overall against 45 other prestigious teams such as Michigan (now ranked second in the nation), Colorado (third), Oregon (fifth) and Stanford (10th), and other top 25 nationally-ranked teams. The Eagles were just two points behind 12th-place finisher Air Force and nine points behind 11th-place finisher California (now 31st nationally).

Eastern placed above other nationally-ranked teams such as Cornell (ranked 29th and finished 22nd) and Big Sky Conference foe Montana State (finished 42nd). Eastern was just 83 points away from Big Sky competitor Weber State, which finished eighth.

 

A Year Ago at the Big Sky Championships . . .

Last year at the Big Sky Cross Country Championships, the women's team equaled the top finish in school history with a  fourth-place finish. Eastern had 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 in 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).

Besides Reiter winning the title, Penaloza earned All-Big Sky Conference honors with a ninth-place finish. Mahoney was 22nd.

In the last year’s men’s race, Bottoms finished 28th and Kimsey was two places behind in 30th.

 
 

More Comments from Head Coach Chris Shane . . .

On Big Sky Championships: “There is always a lot of excitement surrounding conference championship weekend. This year is no exception. The key to the whole thing is to enjoy the process and realize that this is just another race.  Absolutely nothing changes for us this week -- the hay is in the barn so to speak and we have done all that we can to perform at our best.  No amount of hype, worry or emphasis will change our level of preparedness or our motivation to give it everything we have.”

On Team Races: “On the Men’s side, SUU looks like the clear favorite to take down NAU, the perennial national powerhouse. But NAU is well-coached and I suspect in a smaller meet format it will still be very close. The team battle for third appears to be a toss-up and within reach if we run well. On the women’s side we have our work cut out for us -- Weber State comes in ranked 27th in the country with NAU also receiving votes. Those are two very, VERY good teams. The team battle may very well come down to 10 points or less separating the top three teams -- that is the basketball equivalent of double-overtime with a game-winning shot at the buzzer from half court.  Pretty exciting stuff!”

On His Eagle Team: “I am proud of the commitment of our student-athletes. This season has been about change and overcoming adversity, both past present and future.  We’ve learned from past mistakes and made commitments to change our future. This Saturday the best Eastern Washington cross country teams in school history will toe the starting line. Given the obstacles we have already overcome as a program, we are perfectly prepared to overcome the ones that will stand in our way on Saturday.”

 
 
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