EWU Opens Cross Country Season Sept. 6

Sept. 2, 2008

The Eastern Washington University men’s and women’s cross country teams will begin their seasons this Saturday (Sept. 6) when the Eagles host the Clash of the Inland Northwest in Spokane, Wash.

The event will take place at Mead High School with EWU competing against Gonzaga, Idaho and Washington State. The women’s race starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time and the men’s race begins at 10:30 a.m.

In this year’s Big Sky Conference preseason polls recently released, Eastern’s women’s team ranked fifth and the men’s team was tied for fifth place with Sacramento State. Northern Arizona’s team was picked to sweep both men’s and women’s titles.

On the women’s side, Northern Arizona ranked first with 80 points, followed by Weber State with 70 points. Rounding out the list were Montana (65), Montana State (48), EWU (39), Sacramento State (34), Idaho State (30), Portland State (27) and Northern Colorado (12).

On the men’s side, Northern Arizona was picked first with 79 points and was followed by Weber State with 73. Montana State (63), Montana (47), EWU and Sacramento State (39), Idaho State (35), Portland State (19) and Northern Colorado (11) round out the list.

"I like the fact that we weren't ranked real high as the target won't be on our backs and we can surprise some people," said head cross country coach Chris Zeller. "NAU, Weber, and MSU are going to be really tough this year. Weber has five returners who finished in the top 21 last season at the conference championships. MSU returns their top five and adds Patrick Casey, the Montana State Champion and Junior National Champion."

Eastern returns several key performers from last year’s teams. The men’s roster includes seven returning runners and five newcomers, while the women have five returning and eight newcomers. The women had a best-ever placing of fourth in the Big Sky in 2007 while the men were seventh.

The lone senior is Amber Nickelson (Lake Stevens, Wash.), who finished 26th at the 2007 Big Sky Conference Championships. Joining Nickelson will be returners Lauren Matthews (Sammamish, Wash.), Amanda Weaver (Marysville, Wash.) and Brittney Williams (Colville, Wash.).

Among their new teammates are Kelly Downey (Omak, Wash.), Laura Friese (Lebam, Wash.), Stephanie Dye (Chatteroy, Wash.) and Tera Klein (Kalispell, Mont.).

"The women are coming off their best finish since going to NCAA Division I," said Zeller. "However, we only return one runner from that squad’s top five in Amber Nickelson. She has already proven herself to be a great leader on this year’s team. She put in a great summer and would like to do some neat things this fall in her final cross country season.

"Joining her are a fun group of freshmen: Brittney Williams, Stephanie Dye, Kelly Downey, and Tera Klein," added Zeller. "They will be a great nucleus to form the team around as they develop into the fine runners they will become. The future is bright for this group."

The Eagle men return Paul Limpf (Vancouver, Wash.), who was All-BSC with his fifth-place finish at the conference championship last season. Joining Limpf will be returners Cody Bradwell (Kingston, Wash.), Calvin Clark (Prosser, Wash.), Bowe Ebding (Walla Walla, Wash.), Tyler Justice (Ridgefield, Wash.), Alex Smyth (Sequim, Wash.) and Graham Vaux (Yakima, Wash.).

Other newcomers include Kyle King (Coupeville, Wash.) and Isaac Kuula (Spokane, Wash.).

"The men finished seventh last season, just two measly points from fifth place," said Zeller. "We return our top five from that team and add a gem in freshman Kyle King. Everyone comes into the season healthy and hungry. This is an incredible group of guys."

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