Pac-12 primed for success at NCAA Cross Country Championships

Chris Hook

NCAA MEET CENTRAL | PAC-12 NCAA RELEASE (PDF) | PAC-12 NCAA HISTORY (PDF)

SAN FRANCISCO - With a national-best six teams in both fields and a runner on the cusp of history in his final collegiate race in the sport, the Pac-12 is poised for success at this weekend's NCAA Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships.

2016 NCAA DIVISION I MEN'S & WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Saturday, November 19, 2016 - Terre Haute, Ind.
Wabash Valley Family Sports Center - LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course

RACE SCHEDULE
Women’s 6K race: 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT
Men’s 10K race: 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT

LIVE COVERAGE
Live stream: NCAA.com and flotrack.com
Live results: via Record Timing at NCAA.com
2016 Meet Central

COURSE DESCRIPTION
It marks the 12th time the LaVern Gibson Course will play host to the NCAA Division I Championships. Much of the course’s popularity is due to its challenging, yet manageable, mix of uphill and downhill sections and its simple straightaway start that stretches for nearly the first kilometer before a turn. For spectators, no other course matches in LaVern Gibson’s ability to see nearly the entire race from the right perch.

COURSE RECORDS
Women’s 6K: 19:28.1 - Sally Kipyego, Texas Tech, 2008 NCAA Championships
Men’s 10K: 28:41.3 - Samuel Chelanga, Liberty, 2009 NCAA Championships

NCAA MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP - PAC-12 PREVIEW

PAC-12 TEAM AUTOMATIC QUALIFIERS
Colorado - NCAA Mountain Regional Runners-up
Stanford - NCAA West Regional Champions

PAC-12 TEAM AT-LARGE QUALIFIERS (Regional finish)
California (5th), Oregon (4th), UCLA (3rd), Washington State (6th)

PAC-12 INDIVIDUAL QUALIFIERS
Fred Huxham, Washington (3rd at West Regional)

The major question entering the 78th staging of the NCAA Men’s Cross Country Championship is whether any teams or runners can catch the favorites?

In the individual race, OREGON senior Edward Cheserek is seeking to cement his legacy as the greatest athlete in NCAA Division I Cross Country history with an unprecedented fourth national title.

No male or female has accomplished the feat of four individual Division I national crowns, with the current mark of three held by five athletes, four of whom represent the Conference of Champions:
Edward Cheserek, OREGON (2013-15)
Sally Kipyego, Texas Tech (2006-08)
Henry Rono, WASHINGTON STATE (1976-77, 1979)
Steve Prefontaine, OREGON (1970-71, 1973)
Gerry Lindgren, WASHINGTON STATE (1966-67, 1969)

The last person to achieve the three-peat did so in course-record time on the LaVern Gibson Course - Kipyego in 2008. Only one other NCAA Cross Country athlete has won four individual titles - Abilene Christian’s Nicodemus Naimadu in Division II from 2004-07.

Cheserek has already made history as the first man to win four Pac-12 individual titles with his 14-second triumph in Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 28, eclipsing the old mark of three he shared with Rono and Prefontaine. His Pac-12 win also garnered him his fourth straight Pac-12 Athlete of the Year award, again unprecedented in league history. Last weekend, he became the first Ducks runner to win three West Regional titles.

On the team side, the Pac-12 will have a national-best six squads competing in the NCAA Men’s Championship, with the next closest conference with three entries. However, all of the 31 teams in the field will be looking to keep pace with No. 1 nationally ranked Northern Arizona, which is undefeated on the season, including a 16-point win (60-76) over No. 2 COLORADO at last weekend’s West Regional meet in Logan, Utah.

If CU or the other five Pac-12 entrants, led by West Region champion No. 3 STANFORD, No. 10 UCLA and No. 13 OREGON, can take down NAU, it would mark the 17th NCAA team title for current Conference members. Most recently, CU won the 2013 and 2014 titles.

Since the turn of the century, current Pac-12 members have accounted for nine of the 16 national team titles, including all five of COLORADO’s crowns. The Pac-12’s 16 titles are second only to the Big Ten’s 19, all but two of which were won between 1938-88.

NCAA WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP - PAC-12 PREVIEW

PAC-12 TEAM AUTOMATIC QUALIFIERS
Colorado - NCAA Mountain Regional Champions
Stanford - NCAA West Regional Champions
Washington - NCAA West Regional Runners-up

PAC-12 TEAM AT-LARGE QUALIFIERS (Regional finish)
Oregon (4th), UCLA (6th), Utah (4th)

PAC-12 INDIVIDUAL QUALIFIERS
Bethan Knights, California (8th at West Regional)

The 36th annual NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championship will feature a national-best six Pac-12 teams, marking the eighth conseutive year that at least five league member schools have earned NCAA bids.

No. 1 ranked COLORADO has steadily climbed into favorite status over the final few weeks of the season, supplanting Providence atop the national poll in mid-October following a 61-point win at Pre-Nationals. The Buffaloes subsequently cruised to titles at the Pac-12 and NCAA West Regional Championships by 41 and 74 points, respectively, to maintain the top spot. It marked the second straight Conference title and fourth consecutive West Region crown for CU.

No. 4 STANFORD and No. 7 WASHINGTON have swapped finishes in a pair of postseason meets. Buoyed by junior Amy-Eloise Neale’s individual title, the Huskies edged the Cardinal by nine points (74-83) at the Pac-12 Championship on Oct. 28, while the Cardinal placed five in the top-20 to beat out the Huskies by 17 points (71-88) at last weekend’s West Regional.

Neale will be gunning for a postseason individual trifecta after capturing the titles at both the Pac-12 and West Regional meets within the past three weeks.

Like STANFORD and WASHINGTON, No. 12 OREGON has lurked equally as close in a pair of fourth-place showings at Pac-12’s and West Regionals, finishing five and 19 points off of third place at each event.

If any of those four teams, or No. 27 UTAH and No. 30 UCLA, can stake their claim to this year’s NCAA title, it would mark the 12th women’s national championship among current Conference members.

Current Pac-12 members have combined for a total of 11 NCAA team titles, including eight of the 16 awarded since the turn of the century, most recently OREGON in 2012.

Should one the league’s six entrants emerge victorious in this year’s team race, the Pac-12 would tie the Big East for the most national titles by a conference. The Big East has won 12 women’s national titles, eight of which came between 1989-98.

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