With five natives in tow and a 2009 All-American as well, Santa Clara's Cross Country teams head to Oregon this weekend to compete in the NCAA West Regional Championship on Sat., Nov. 13 at the Springfield Country Club near Eugene, Ore. The women's race, a 6K, will begin at 9:45 am. The men's race, a 10K, will start at 10:45 am. Each of the more than 30 teams on each side will be vying for a spot at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. on Mon., Nov. 22.
Santa Clara's cross country teams feature five native Oregonians: Ben Demaree (Portland), Austin Jones (Portland), Kevin Oliver (Tualatin), Hayley Ney (Portland) and Allie Sibole (Eugene). Demaree and Jones were All-WCC honorable mention after finishing 11th and 13th, respectively in Crystal Springs two weeks ago.
In addition to the group from Oregon, the Broncos also feature 2009 All-American Stephanie Wilson. Wilson, who was sixth last year at the West Championship, and followed up 10 days later with a 28th finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Wilson, who was seventh at the WCC Championships on Oct. 29 after winning the title in 2009, has been out much of the season with injuries, but Bronco head coach Tom Service is looking for a very fit Wilson to run at the West Region Championships. "It's been Stephanie's goal since we left Terre Haute last November to return to Nationals this November to run," said Service. "She is right on the cusp of running in championship form and we are confident this could be the week. Based on her workouts this week, she is running faster than she was last year. If she feels good on Saturday, she will be with the leaders."
The men, who finished third at the WCC Championships last weekend, will run in the toughest field yet this weekend after finishing 16th last season. Stanford is No. 2 in the country on the men's side, Oregon is No. 3, WCC member Portland is No. 13 and Cal is No. 22. "This is one of the strongest, if not the strongest region, in the country every year," said Bronco associate head coach Felipe Montoro.
The 10K will be the longest race the Bronco men have run this year. The men will run freshmen Ben Demaree, Moises Venegas and Luca Signore; sophomores Marcos Hinojosa and Kevin Oliver; and juniors Austin Jones and Matt Savage. Matt Wagner, a redshirt-sophomore, will serve as the alternate.
"If they all run to their potential, we could be competing for a top 15 finish. But this field is so competitive that we could run well and still be competing for 20th. There is little room for error," said Montoro, who coaches the men. "Ben has had an outstanding freshman year and will do fine this weekend. Austin Jones has had a break out junior year and Kevin Oliver has also been one of our leaders every race this season."
"It will be the most challenging race we will have all year and hopefully we are the most prepared we have been all year so that we can execute the race plan," said Montoro.
The women's team will feature Wilson, a senior, and freshmen Erin Hicks and Allie Sibole; sophomores Hayley Ney, and Carey Parker; and juniors Nicole Giove and Erin McCarthy. The alternates are junior Meghan McNamara and sophomore Mary Reynolds. Hicks was 17th at the WCC Championships and McCarthy was 26th.
The women have finished 19th the past 2 years at the Regional Championship. The team feels very good about improving on those finishes. The women were fourth at the WCC Championship two weeks ago.
Talk about competitive! The Pac-10 has four of the top 11 teams in the nation racing in Oregon this weekend. Those in the top 27 who will be running in Oregon include No. 4, Stanford, No. 6 Arizona, No. 7 Oregon, No. 11 Washington, No. 26 Cal and No. 27 USF.
"Our team is ready physically," said Service, who coaches the women. "It's a huge challenge like Felipe said because the competition is so outstanding.
Service pointed out the challenge for coaches in races like this is to convince some of the newcomers that they could be in 75th place and be having the race of their life. "In cross country, unlike track where you race the clock many times, you are racing people and point totals."
"We are really excited for this weekend. This is a culmination of several months of hard work," said Service. "We are respectful of the top 25 teams but we aren't intimidated by them. If we run both tough and smart, we are going to be competitive in both races."