Women's Cross Country Ranked Fourth In Big Sky Conference Poll, Men Ranked Fifth

Women's Cross Country Ranked Fourth In Big Sky Conference Poll, Men Ranked Fifth

Idle this week, the women's team is also currently ranked 12th in the Northwest Region

Cheney, Wash. – The 2015 Big Sky Cross Country Coaches' Preseason Poll has projected the Eastern Washington cross country teams very highly this year, with the women's team ranking fourth and the men's team ranking fifth. With their returning depth, the women's team ranked 12th in the west region.

"I try not to put too much stock in the polls, preseason or otherwise," said head coach Chris Shane whose team races next Sept. 19, at the Erik Anderson Cross Country Invitational in Spokane, Wash. "It is nice to receive recognition for the hard work that is being done by our student-athletes but ultimately, the only poll that matters is the one at the end of the championship season." 

Shane is very excited to see what the team can do this year. Implementing a strong sense of family into his new team, he believes that with such a positive attitude, his athletes can accomplish anything.

"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. 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."

With the high number of returning athletes who have made appearances at the Big Sky Championships in years past, it is no wonder Shane feels like his team can live up to the projected rankings.

"I think we are ranked just right," said Shane. "Our women finished the season fourth in the conference last season. With all the talent coming back on each team, we have no business being ranked any higher in a preseason poll.  It was flattering to receive two first place votes from other coaches in the conference -- I see this as a show of respect and recognition of our talent from others.  Northern Arizona is the big favorite in the conference, followed closely by Weber State, Montana State and ourselves."

"We are certainly not satisfied with a fourth place finish and will be working hard to earn a top finish at the conference meet come late October," Shane continued. "We are a talented group and if we can stay healthy, we will have a memorable season."

What This Means For The Women's Team . . .

Returning on the women's side to help the team reach their seasonal goals is junior Sarah Reiter, who was the Big Sky Cross Country Champion last year in Bozeman, Mont. Other returning runners include senior Berenice Penaloza, who placed ninth for the Eagles last year and received All-Conference honors. Senior Katie Mahoney and junior Paula Gil-Echeverria were also top finishers for Eastern at last year's conference championships, finishing 22nd and 34th, respectively.

Coming off of a redshirt season last year is senior Catie Arrigoni, who won the 3,000-meter steeplechase title in 2013 at the Big Sky Track and Field Championships. Arrigoni is already proving she is ready to race her hardest by finishing first for the women's team (Sept. 1) at the Clash of the Inland Northwest.

Other promising runners for the women's team include returning senior Mayra Chavez, and freshmen Chelsea Ribeiro and Bri Gibson.

"I was most pleased with Mayra Chavez, who is at the top of her game in her final season," said Shane after his team's season debut. "She will continue to improve as the season progresses. I was also very happy with the result of both of our freshmen. Neither Chelsea nor Bri were intimidated by their first collegiate race -- they can expect big things here at EWU during their career."

What This Means For The Men's Team . . .

On the men's side, there are a few returning student-athletes that Shane thinks will make a big impact on reaching this seasons goals. Junior Isaac Kitzan was the top finisher for the men's team during Tuesday's race. Also finishing well for the Eagles last Tuesday were sophomore Austin Oser, senior Aaron Brenton, and junior Stephen Bottoms. Each of these athletes made an appearance at last year's Cross Country Championships to help the men's team place sixth.

"Isaac Kitzan and Austin Oser ran very well for us (at the Clash of the Inland Northwest," said Shane. "They will both continue to make huge strides as we get deeper into our training plan this season.  Aaron Brenton and Stephen Bottoms were also very solid."

Although the men's team has lost top performers such as Vince Hamilton, Chris Schroll, and Quin Olivas, Shane is sure that the men will come together and finish higher than the preseason ranking.

"Our men lose some talent from last year's squad but return enough to field a competitive lineup," Shane said. "Our men have their sights set on coming together as a team and pushing the limits of what they are capable of.  None of them will be happy with a fifth place finish at conference, but then again, we only have control of what we do.  We will continue to focus on bringing our best to practice each and every day and doing all that we can. In the end we are confident that will get us a superior result that we can be proud of."

What's Next . . .

The Eagles will race at the Erik Anderson Cross Country Invitational next Saturday, Sept. 19, at Plantes Ferry in Spokane, Wash. The men's team will race at 9 a.m. with the women's race to follow at 9:45 a.m.

"The first rankings of the year bring excitement to all -- It marks the start of the competitive season and gets us all fired up a bit," said Shane. "However, we need to keep a tight grip on the here-and-now and realize that they don't etch names on trophies in week one.  We will definitely bring it when it matters, you can be sure of that."

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