With 2009 WCC champion Stephanie Wilson in tow, Santa Clara will travel to Crystal Springs, Calif. for the WCC Cross Country Championship on Sat., Oct. 30. The women's race, a 6K, begins at 9 am. The men's race, an 8K, begins at 9:45 am.
Bronco head coach Tom Service said this is the strongest field ever on both sides. "We are fit and sharp and now it's time to go out and do it on race day. If we do our best, good things will happen," said Service. "The women keep saying 'It's Show Time!' The field is outrageous. It's an extremely competitive field."
Bronco associate head coach Felipe Montoro said he is looking for the men to follow the race plan. "If we run with consistency and execute as we have this season, we will be fine."
"It's time to tow the line," said assistant coach Priscilla Bayley. "In my six years of coaching this is the first time I've been 100 percent confident with the abilities of the athletes. It's time to race and have no regrets."
The Bronco women's WCC Championship team includes: one senior, Wilson; two juniors, Meghan McNamara and Erin McCarthy; two sophomores, Mary Reynolds and Carey Parker; and two freshmen, Erin Hicks and Allie Sibole. Reynolds finished seventh last year in the championship, garnering All-WCC honors. The women's alternates are Hayley Ney and Nicole Giove. Service said the team was tough to pick this year because 'all nine are running well.'
The Bronco men's WCC Championship team includes no seniors: one junior, Austin Jones; four sophomores, Evan Hennessey, Marcos Hinojosa, Kevin Oliver and Matthew Wagner; and two freshmen: Ben Demaree and Luca Signore. Santa Clara's two All-WCC runners in 2009, Robbie Reid and Chris Sampson, who finished second and seventh, respectively, are being red-shirted this year. The men's alternate is Matt Savage.
On the women's side, Service said with three teams ranked in the top 15 regionally including USF ranked No. 26 nationally, it will be as competitive as a race as it's ever been. The last three WCC champions are running in the race: Wilson, who won by 31 seconds in 2009, Tara Erdmann of LMU won in 2008 and Dana Morgan of Portland won in 2007. Jana Stolting and Eva Krchova of USF, Lauren Lodge and Chelsea Wishard of Pepperdine and Sheree Shea of LMU are all considered legitimate contenders for the title. "Erdmann is the favorite after taking fourth at the Pre-Nat meet a couple weeks ago," said Service.
"Stephanie is really fit. A lot of people might look at her race at Bronco and be disappointed, but she ran exactly what Felipe and I talked to her about. She has her sites set on the NCAA Regional meet in two weeks, not that she isn't going to run a great race this weekend, but she still has her sites set on qualifying for the NCAA Championships again. This is always part of the process," said Service.
Service said Hicks and Sibole, both freshmen, are also very fit and have surpassed about every goal set for them this season. "Erin is confident because she ran at Crystal Springs in high school and always performed really well. Allie has PRed by an average of 45 seconds per race this year. She was mostly a middle distance runner in high school, even though she won the 3000m at the state meet in high school. With the extra mileage this year, she has really blossomed. She comes off the pace and this is definitely that kind of course in the last mile. She runs a really strong last third of the race."
Service said Reynolds has been running very well lately and McCarthy is returning from a foot injury in the summer after setting the school record in the 800m during track season.
On the men's side, with its top two runners being redshirted, Montoro still believes the men's team has a shot at a top-half finish. Four of the seven runners for Santa Clara haven't run at this meet before. "We are excited to see if the team can translate our regular season success to the post season."
Portland, ranked No. 15 nationally after spending time in the top 10 earlier this season, is gunning for its 32nd straight WCC title. "Portland and USF have separated themselves from the rest of the pack this season," said Montoro. "But, third – fifth places will be very competitive with our men, LMU and Gonzaga running for those places."
"Kevin Oliver has been first or second for us all season and is looking great," continued Montoro. "Ben Demaree has had the best freshman season ever for a Bronco and he is running with a lot of confidence with this course playing to his strengths. Honestly, we are young, but every one of our guys has had a break-out year. We have a lot of fresh faces up front and they have responded really well. In an 8K race the men need to stay disciplined."
Weather is always an issue around the country during cross country season. Service said forecasters are calling for rain in the area on Friday, but they are only expecting some showers on Saturday at best. "The only thing mud effects is time. The race places won't be effected as much. It might slow down a team that is stocked with middle distance kids more so than long distance kids and that actually works to our advantage on both sides."