With High Hopes, Eagles Head For NCAA West Regional Meet in Seattle

With High Hopes, Eagles Head For NCAA West Regional Meet in Seattle

After program best finishes at the Big Sky Championships, the Eagles hope to continue their success at the NCAA West Regional Championships this Friday, Nov. 13

National Results Wall: http://www.ustfccca.org/2015/11/featured/di-regional-previews-hub

Live Results: http://www.rtspt.com/events/ncaa/d1westxc15/

Cheney, Wash. – Coming off of the best finishes in program history at the Big Sky Championships, the Eastern Washington University cross country teams will travel to Seattle to face the top ranked schools in the West Region at the NCAA West Regional Championships this Friday, Nov. 13. The meet will be hosted by the University of Washington at the Jefferson Park Golf Course.

The women's team will race first over a 6,000 meter course, starting at noon. The men will follow, racing a 10,000 meter course, and starting at 1 p.m. The Eagles will race against over 30 men's and women's teams, including the top teams in the West Region from the Pac-12, WAC, Mountain West, West Coast, and Big West conferences.

The Eagles had a best ever second-place finish during the Big Sky Conference Championships (Oct. 31), in Cedar City, Utah, and in the process finished above four other regionally ranked teams from the Mountain Region. The Eagles placed behind Weber State, which is currently ranked fourth in the Mountain Region and 25th nationally.

"After some tough racing at altitude in our conference meet, we are looking forward to cashing in on that racing stimulus at the NCAA West Regional in Seattle this week," said Head Coach Chris Shane. "We are pleased but not satisfied with our performance at Big Sky Championships and are motivated to get more at Regionals."

The top four teams in the West Regional women's rankings are Oregon, Boise State, Stanford, and Washington. The Eagles rank just behind No. 5 Gonzaga, which is also 30th in the national rankings. Previously, Eastern ranked ahead of the West Coast Conference school in the regional rankings.

There are nine regional meets where the top two teams automatically qualify for the NCAA Division I Championships in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 21. After those 18 teams are determined, 13 at-large teams are selected based on how well they've competed against the automatic qualifiers. For an individual to advance, they must be one of the first four individual runners not on a qualifying team, and finish in the top 25 overall in their region.

"For our men, it is a chance to be regionally ranked for the first time," Shane commented. "I think we have just started to hit our stride and will have another big performance by tweaking our race plan just slightly."

"For the women there is more at stake," Shane continued. "We are in a rare position and have an outside chance at qualifying for Nationals.  A lot of things would have to go our way but we have put ourselves in the conversation for an at-large selection if some of the teams we were able to beat at Pre Nationals end up finishing high in their regions." 

The top finishers for the men's and women's team at the Big Sky Championships were juniors Stephen Bottoms and Sarah Reiter. Bottoms finished in 12th place with a time of 26:13.2 on the men's 8,000 meter course. Reiter, who was last year's Big Sky Champion, finished eighth this year with a time of 18:25.8 on the women's 5,000 meter course. Eastern's other top five finishers for the men's team were juniors Alex Kimsey (20th, 26:38.6), Isaac Kitzan (33rd, 26:58.7), and Daniel Schofield (38th, 27:11.7), and sophomore Austin Oser (17th, 26:29.6). Other top five finishers for the women's team were seniors Catie Arrigoni (ninth, 18:36.2), Berenice Penaloza (12th, 18:46.7), and Mayra Chavez (18th, 19:00.5), and junior Paula Gil-Echevarria (28th, 19:12.5).

Rounding out the men's squad in Seattle are Bottoms, Oser, Kimsey, Kitzan, Schofield, Aaron Brenton, and Dallas Snider. For the women are Reiter, Arrigoni, Penaloza, Chavez, Gil-Echevarria, Katie Mahoney, and Chelsea Ribeiro.  

Eastern has never had a team advance to the NCAA Division I Championships, but in 1982 the team won the NCAA Division II title. The last Eagle to qualify for nationals as an individual was Paul Limpf in 2008 when he finished 73rd. He finished 11th overall and was the top individual in the region. The last female to advance to the NCAA Championships was Mattie Bridgmon, who placed 34th in 2007. She finished 20th overall at the Regional Championships that year.

"In order for a dream scenario to play out, we still need to run our best race of the year when it matters most and I am confident that we will do that," said Shane. "Running on a flat course at sea level is going to feel like cheating compared to what we just raced on at the Big Sky Championships."

"All in all, our motivation is high and our training is looking perfect.  I expect to come away with a great result."

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