Oct. 27, 2003
The Santa Clara University men's and women's cross country teams will be competing this weekend at the annual West Coast Conference Championships in Belmont, Calif. The meet will begin at 9 a.m. at Crystal Springs Cross Country Course, the site of the annual Bronco Invitational. Both Bronco squads finished as league runners-up last season, while the women's squad will be looking to reclaim the trophy after winning in the championship in 2001.
SantaClaraBroncos.com: Who will be your top seven runners at the WCC Championships?
Maloney: "Chris Doerhoff, Ben Gauen, Pat Green, Taylor Graham, Michael Neumann and John Paul Thyken. Right now, John Hinman is questionable and Rickey Brackett will not be available due to injury. If John is unable to perform, freshman Nick Arcelona will step in."
SantaClaraBroncos.com: How do you see your team's progress heading into the WCC championships?
Maloney: "Our progress has been both good and bad. The bad is Ricky Brackett's back injury and John Hinman's shins. Ricky is cross training and hasn't run in three weeks while John's training has been limited the last three weeks. Two other guys are nursing injuries and another is sick so they have had to take extra time off to heal. But, we are excited for the last two meets. Our training has put us in a position that we will be racing our best in November. The lads' training hasn't suffered with the loss of Ricky and John among their ranks. The guys who ran well at Shoreline have given us the expectation that the top seven will also run well for the last two meets. Hopefully we will have enough time to get Ricky back for the West Region to give us another boost."
Service: "The team has continued to run well during the entire 2003 campaign. As we approach the Championship part of our season, we are changing very little. This is what got us here, so our plan is to ride it home. For the most part, we are healthy so, other than overcoming a lack of experience from some of our freshmen. But, they haven't been hesitant or shown any lack of determination during the season so I don't expect that to be a factor now.
SantaClaraBroncos.com: Which team should be the favorite to win the WCC Championship and which should be considered a darkhorse challenger?
Maloney: "Portland's 'B' team could win the championship. They are that good and that deep this year. Right now, they don't have any competition in the WCC with either their A or B teams. I think Gonzaga might have a leg up on second and we've not shown anything this season to dispute that. But, our lads are going to the WCC meet and West Region Championship expecting to run well and see how well we have narrowed the difference from our August 30 encounter against them. After us, USF, Pepperdine, LMU will tightly contest for 4th with USD and SMC rounding out the field."
Service: "As the defending champions, Portland should be the definite favorite for the WCC crown. They were the pre-season pick and have done nothing to change that ranking. They returned their 2002 championship team intact and actually picked up an outstanding transfer who has led their team throughout the season. In terms of which team has the best chance to unseat the Pilots? I think we have a good chance to compete for the title if everyone runs to their capabilities."
SantaClaraBroncos.com: Who is the individual favorite for the league title? Who is going to be the top challenger?
Maloney: "Anyone Portland runs could win the title. Gonzaga's Ryan Anderson showed in August that he could run top five, but has been beaten twice in a row by teammate Joe Miller. So, potentially Manning has risen to top five status. Chad Trammel of Pepperdine and Ben Gauen of Santa Clara are top 10 potential. Andrew Parsel of SMC has shown top 10 potential except head-to-head against Santa Clara where he missed the race at Stanford and fell off pace at Santa Clara Invite."
Service: "Portland transfer Ashleigh Vincent is probably the favorite for the individual title. She has had a solid season for the Pilots after transferring from Western Washington. She sould be challenged by Tiffany Marley of San Diego and Shannon Bell, who has really competed well for us as a freshman this year."
SantaClaraBroncos.com: Normally the Bronco Invitational is conducted two weeks prior to the WCC's. Will not having competed at Crystal Springs since August affect your team's performance?
Maloney: "Yes. I think it will have an affect in a very positive manner. Our guys have raced the course under heavy mileage and are looking forward to racing it with fresh legs. Also, by switching to a less punishing course two weeks prior to WCC, our guys have recovered much quicker this past week during their training."
Service: "Having not run Crystal for seven weeks is very positive both physically and mentally. The course is very demanding and the previous two-week gap wasn't really a good situation for us. The girls ran their first meet of the year there on Aug. 30 against some really top-flight competition and they are really anxious to give the course another shot."
SantaClaraBroncos.com: Are there any other factors heading into this week's race that will affect your team's performance?
Maloney: "Injuries have hurt us with Brackett not racing and Hinman, if he races, being less than full speed. But Pat Green and Taylor Graham have run very well this past month in training and have kept everyone optimistic about a good team showing at the WCC and West Region Championships. This is also senior Ben Gauen's last WCC meet and fifth year senior Michael Neumann's first WCC meet. These guys are keeping their teammates fired up. Ben hasn't finished on a team lower than second and Michael stuck with training for five seasons to have a chance to make a difference. These guys will keep us focused over the last three weeks of the season."
Service: "We are in a pretty good place right now in terms of training, health, mental prepration... all the things that are really crucial to having success in our sport. The only thing we'll face is a lack of experience in championship competition. Milena Basile, Robin Bell Katie Hansen and Cara Payne have all run at the WCC's before so they know what to expect. Shannon Bell and Lauren Swigart have both run like veterans this season so I really don't suspect either will really have any problems."
SantaClaraBroncos.com: There is generally a pretty big Bronco contingent of fans at the WCC Championships. How will having a somewhat "home" crowd affect your team's performance?
Maloney: "Having support makes a great difference. Cross country is a sport that thrives on year round training to race a handful of days a year. To have people cheering you on because you are wearing a Santa Clara singlet fires you up and validates the August Sunday 'deuces' and track workouts in rainstorms in March. It is a great emotional boost to have support and provide the extra motivation to reach a higher level."
Service: "Most other team sports take their home crowd for granted. We can't do that since we generally run in places away from campus on Saturday mornings while the students are generally getting their rest! We love the crowd and the fan support we have enjoyed the last few years at Crystal Springs. Having the whole course lined with Bronco supporters makes a huge difference and gives us a better chance to win."