November 13, 2003

Distance Squads Gear Up For Regionals

Nov. 13, 2003

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University men's and women's cross country teams will travel to Gresham, Ore. Saturday for the NCAA West Regional Championships at Blue Lake Park.

The meet, which will be hosted by West Coast Conference rival Portland, features Division I teams from throughout the West Coast and serves as the final qualifier for the Nov. 24 NCAA Championships in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The men's 10,000-meter race is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., while the women's 6,000-meter race is slated for a 12:15 p.m. start. The top two teams automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships on Mon., Nov. 24 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Additional teams from the regional are expected to also be invited to participate on an at-large basis.

"Our season so far has been incredibly successful," said Santa Clara women's head coach Tom Service. "There is only one more rung on the ladder to complete the most successful season in Santa Clara Women's Cross Country history and that is this weekend at the West Regionals."

The Bronco women, currently ranked ninth in the most recent Women's Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association regional poll, have made significant progress in the last few seasons. Under Service, in his third season at Santa Clara, the Broncos have finished either first or second in each WCC Championship race and moved from 23rd in the region in 2000 to a program-best 15th last season.

The program, led by a trio of freshmen, two juniors and two seniors, will be looking for their best finish ever as well as an opportunity to solidify its place in the region.

"On Saturday we have the opportunity to prove that we are worthy of our regional ranking," said Service. "With the highest finish ever by a Bronco team being 15th, I certainly expect it to be a record-setting day. We have received a great deal of respect for the progress we've made. This is a great opportunity for us to show that we've earned it."

The strength of the Broncos at each race throughout the season has been the tight pack of runners. That tactic was particularly evident at the WCC championships as the team's time differential was just :16 seconds between its numbers one and five runners. This, as well as the health of freshman Shannon Bell, will be important keys to the Broncos' success.

"Our ability to run together could prove incredibly important in a very large field of 200 runners on Saturday," said Service. "Freshman Shannon Bell, our number one runner, will return at full strength for the first time since Willamette six weeks ago and that will be huge for us. We look for her to give us a boost. Fellow freshman Lauren Swigart has been running second all season and has enjoyed a very consistent and outstanding year.

"Team captain Robin Bell has a history of outstanding 6k races and is coming off a great conference race. Fellow Junior Katie Hansen is "on fire" and sets personal bests in every race every week. Our 'little engine that could' freshman Blossom Marimpietri continues to amaze everyone with her outstanding season. Seniors Milena Basile and Cara Payne look to end their Bronco Careers with very strong performances."

Arizona, Oregon, Cal, Washington State, Idaho and conference rival Portland are the six squads the Broncos expect to provide the stiffest opposition to their ability to finish among the top-10 at the regional race.

On the men's side, the Broncos will be competing without the services of senior Ricky Brackett and freshman Taylor Graham, each who finished third on the squad in their last races. In addition to three returnees from last year's West Region squad in Ben Gauen, John Hinman, and Pat Green, the Broncos have four runners competing in their first regional race. John Paul Thyken, Chris Doerhoff, Michael Neumann and Nick Arcelona will be making their regional debut in Portland.

"We believe our depth and spirit is going to make a difference in keeping the Mission Harriers competitive," said men's head coach John Maloney. "Ricky Brackett has been unable to compete for the last several weeks and Taylor Graham was injured in the conference meet. Nick Arcelona is competing at that slot. Even though Nick did not compete at the conference meet, his training the last four weeks is showing that he is capable of being a top five runner on the team."

Gauen and Hinman are battle-tested and have each earned a great deal of experience during the Bronco careers. Gauen, the senior veteran, has been one of the program's top performers in each of the past four seasons. Hinman battled an illness prior to the conference meet and is returning to the form that helped him earn all-WCC honors as a freshman last season.

"Ben and Pat are capable of running their best races of the season, but John has put in more time cross training than running since the conference championship," said Maloney. "John's legs are healthier now than before conference. Ben has been training well the last month and is taking aim on improving his finish at the West Region Championship. Last season, he was our number two runner at the meet and I expect to finish his collegiate career with a bang."

The Mission Harriers have raced a number of teams that will be competing at the West Regionals, particularly in such top-class races as the Bronco Invitational, the Stanford Invitational and the Willamette Invitational. In fact, the season-opening home meet in August provided a West Region preview as Stanford and Cal Poly, the top two ranked teams in the region, finished in first and second places at the Bronco Invitational.

"Last season, our team took 14th at the West Region Championship," said Maloney. "With the loss of team MVP's Michael Helms and Thomas Chapman, our team has had a tough hole to climb out of this season. We are aiming to be top 20 this meet, but are hoping for nasty weather. With the world-famous Columbia Gorge winds howling and vertical rain blowing during the race, we hope to show our Mission Harrier character and rise to the occasion."