November 13, 2009

Cross Country Prepares for NCAA West Region Championship

Nov. 13, 2009

WCC champion Stephanie Wilson, WCC runner-up Robbie Reid and the Bronco cross country teams are preparing this week for the NCAA West Region Cross Country Championship on Saturday with Wilson and Reid both looking for a historic first. Both are working to qualify for the NCAA Championship on Mon., Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind. - something no Bronco has ever done.

The NCAA West Region Championship on Saturday is being run in Springfield, Ore. and will be hosted by the University of Oregon. The men's race, a 10K, is run at 9:45 am. The women's race, a 6K, is run at 10:45 pm. Every team is invited to the NCAA West Region and of the 35 teams in the West Region, 28 teams are competing.

Wilson won the WCC Championship two weeks ago, tying the WCC Championship course record. Reid finished as the runner-up. Both were the highest finishes ever for a Bronco cross country runner. Moving forward, the highest-ever finish by a Bronco at the NCAA West Region Championship was then-senior Mike Helms who finished in 61st in 2002 and then-freshman Shannon Bell finished 31st in 2003.

Head coach Tom Service believes Wilson, based on her performances in her four previous races this season, has a very realistic chance of being Santa Clara's first-ever NCAA Championship qualifier. "She is incredibly fit, healthy and very confident without being overconfident. She is really looking forward to it and very excited."

As impressed as Service is with Wilson's level of fitness and physical sharpness he is even more impressed with her mental attitude. "She is running with the best runners on the West Coast and she isn't in awe of them. I think that's a harder jump to make than the physical preparation."

Bronco associate head coach Felipe Montoro feels Reid is one of many individuals who have a realistic chance of advancing to the NCAA Championship. "He is fit, he is confident, healthy and we'll see how it works out."

As far as Reid's mental preparation for the race, Montoro likes the way Reid approaches each race. "Robbie doesn't get very nervous. He is able to really focus on the things he can control and that's why he is so consistent in his performances."

The NCAA rule is that the individual has to be in the top 25 and the top four of a non-qualifying team at the regional meet to advance. If they do finish in the top 25, there is a chance Santa Clara will know on Saturday if either qualifies individually for the NCAA Championships, but most likely they will know when the NCAA publishes the official list of teams and individuals on Monday.

All-WCC performers freshman Mary Reynolds and junior Chris Sampson, who both finished in the top 10 at the WCC Championships, could also make some noise for the Broncos.

As far as team goals, Service said the ultimate goal for the women is to get SCU's best finish ever (13th in 2003), but pointed out the SCU women's team is very young this year - five of the seven Bronco runners are running in their first regional race. "That's a really lofty goal and everybody would have to have a real step up race. Going into WCC meet, we were very fit, really sharp and what you want to do is maintain that kind of edge. We aren't going to get a lot fitter or faster in the two weeks before the regional meet. You keep everything about your training the same and you cut down a little bit volume, but the regular workout days so the body thinks this is part of the game and we are continuing on."

Service knows there is a big difference between 16th and 21st place as a team at the regional meet - especially to this youthful Bronco team. "Staying focused the whole race could make that difference. Fifty-nine points decided last year's team finishers from ninth to 16th place. They are coming in at a rate of more than one a second so if you run 10 seconds faster you are talking about finishing 15 places higher individually."

Montoro said the men's team is ready and that physically all they've done is try to maintain. "We are really focused on running a smart race and running to our strengths and not getting out too fast or too hard to early. We've talked about a goal - not any specific place goal, but if I feel like if we can get five of the seven runners to run their best race or close to their best race, we'll be pleased with the results."

Service knows that a runner might be in 100th place and it's easy to pack it in with 4000 meters to go because the competition is so tough, but he hopes both teams give it their best effort. "We have to be mentally tough the whole time regardless of place."