Eagles to compete amongst talented field of 36 regional teams and over 500 athletes
Coming off a fifth and seventh-place finish at the Big Sky Championships, the Eastern Washington University men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel south to Sacramento, Calif., for the NCAA West Regional Championships on Friday (Nov. 15). The meet will be hosted by Big Sky opponent Sacramento State and held at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex.
“This is a huge meet from a competition standpoint as some of the best schools in the country will be there,” said head coach Chris Zeller. “It’s an incredibly deep and powerful meet and it will be a great environment for our athletes to be a part of.”
The Eagles will face off against some of the top teams in the West Region, including schools from the Pac-12, WAC, West Coast, Big West and Mountain West conferences.
Competing for the men will be Stephen Bottoms, Alex Kimsey, Isaac Kitzan, Steven Kutsch, Quin Olivas and Chris Schroll. Schroll has been the top finisher for the Eagles in three different meets this season, including a 14th-place finish at the Big Sky Championships.
The women’s team will include Catie Arrigoni, Keeley Davidson, Paula Gil-Echevarria, Katie Lynch, Katie Mahoney, Berenice Penaloza and Sarah Reiter.
Zeller will rest sophomore Vince Hamilton, who has been the top male finisher for Eastern in two meets but has been battling achilles tendinitis. Sophomore Mayra Chavez, who has fought through an ankle injury sustained at the Notre Dame Invitational back in early October, will sit out the meet as well.
There are nine regional meets where the top two teams automatically qualify for the NCAA Division I Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 23. After those 18 teams, 13 at-large teams are selected based on how well they’ve competed against the automatic qualifiers. For an individual to make it, they must be one of the first four individual runners to place, and finish in the top 25 overall in their region. The last Eagle to qualify for nationals as an individual was current EWU assistant coach Paul Limpf in 2008 – he finished 11th overall and was the top individual in the region.
“We will certainly have a number of athletes trying to get those individual spots for Nationals whether it’s this year or in the future,” said Zeller.
After competing in the conference championships at a high elevation of nearly 5,000 feet in Bozeman, Mont., the team will compete at sea-level this weekend, something Zeller believes will be a relief and play to Eastern’s advantage.
“Going to Sacramento at sea-level and being on a course that’s really flat and fast will be a very different situation. Our athletes are really looking forward to it,” said Zeller.
The men’s 10,000-meter race will begin at 10:30 a.m. and the women’s 6,000 will follow at 11:45.
“Experience is always a big deal at a meet like this with such a young squad,” said Zeller. “As a team, we want to try to establish we’re at now and try to climb from there in years to come. It will be a good starting point and give them a sense of where they’re at within the region.”