2015 Pac-12 Cross Country Championships

Event: Oct. 30 | Colfax, WA
TV: Nov. 2 at 6 PM PT / 7 PM MT
on Pac-12 Networks

2015 Pac-12 cross country preview-Women's race

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The Pac-12’s 30th-annual women’s cross country championship features another strong field with five of the 12 teams ranked in the top 19 in the nation. COLORADO and OREGON are at the head of the pack, making this week’s Pac-12 Championships one of the most competitive in the nation. Ranked No. 3 and No. 5, respectively, the Ducks are looking to defend their title while the Buffs are looking to regain the title they won the first year they joined the league in 2011.

It will hardly be a two-team race with No. 10 STANFORD and No. 12 WASHINGTON looking to make their way to the podium, as well. The Cardinal won 12 in a row from 1996-2007 before the Huskies won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009, then the Cardinal was back on top in 2010. Since 2009, five different Pac-12 teams have claimed the women’s crown.

The Buffs have been in the top five all season and have recorded strong results, including a second-place showing at the Pre-NCAA Invitational in Louisville, Ky. Though Colorado finished behind Michigan, it defeated Conference-foe Oregon, 151-175. Erin Clark has been undefeated this season winning the Pre-NCAA Invite, as well as the Rocky Mountain Shootout. She was also fourth at last year’s Pac-12 race.

The Ducks return all five scoring runners from last year’s championship squad. It includes familiar faces in Frida Berge, Waverly Neer, Molly Grabill, Alli Cash and Maggie Schmaedick, and still have redshirt-freshman Sarah Baxter who was one of the top recruits in the nation last year and has improved at every race this season.

The Cardinal will not have 2014 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Elise Cranny who was the second-place finisher last year. She has been battling through injuries this season, but the team will welcome back Aisling Cuffe, the 2013 individual winner. Cuffe missed the 2014 campaign because of injury. Stanford will also look to the rest of its veteran squad to make a run for the title.

The Huskies also have plenty of depth and are posting faster times than last year. Eighth at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, senior Maddie Meyers, and All-American and All-Pac-12 honoree, has led the team in nine-consecutive races, dating back to last season.

UTAH is having one of its best seasons, earning a No. 19 national ranking on Oct. 20, the first time in the history of the program the Utes have earned a national ranking. The Utes have a pair of talented sophomores that both finished in the top-10 twice at big races, including the Notre Dame Invitational and Pre-NCAA Invitational. The Utes have not finished better than seventh since joining the Conference and with a new long-term focus for the program, they look to improve on that and eventually vie for the Pac-12 crown.

It has been a transformation season this year for ARIZONA STATE who is without Shelby Houlihan, the first Sun Devil to win the individual Conference crown in a decade. But ASU will field a strong team that placed 24th at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational and has had several runners lead the team, but brings a contingency that did not run at the 2014 championship.

CALIFORNIA, who is receiving votes in the latest USTFCCCA poll, has just two seniors on the squad, including Kelsey Santisteban. In 2013, she was the highest-ever finisher in Golden Bears history at the NCAA Championships, placing 10th overall. She did not run at last year’s Pac-12 Championships, but is expected to run this week. Also looking to help the Bears improve upon their finish from a year ago is talented sophomore Bethan Knights who was third overall last year, just 13 seconds behind last year’s Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Elise Cranny, then went on to place 25th at the NCAA Championships.

ARIZONA will be looking to improve from an eighth-place showing and has reliable talent leading the way. Senior Molly Callahan appears to be peaking at the right time and has been one of UA’s top-two finisher at the last couple of meets. Sophomore Claire Green ran last year as a freshman and continues to put up good results, while redshirt freshman Addi Zerrenner was the top Wildcat at three meets.

Swedish native Caroline Johnson has jumped onto the scene for UCLA, leading the Bruins in her first-collegiate meet at the Wisconsin Invitational. She clocked a 20:15 at the competitive meet to finish 26th overall. UCLA was fifth last year at the Championship, its best showing since 2006. The team returns three runners from that team.

OREGON STATE continues to build its program and has a strong runner in junior Holly Cavalluzzo who set the school record for a 6k race at the Washington Invitational earlier this month (20:30).  She has been the top OSU finisher at every meet and will have help from Kristiane Width, Juliana Mount and Samantha Lewis, who all entered the top-20 records at OSU.

USC has a young squad with seven freshmen on the roster. Katerina Berdousi, one of just three seniors on the squad, has led the team this season, posting the top Trojan time. Fellow senior Jenna Tong appears to be running in better form after setbacks and is running strong.

WASHINGTON STATE’s CharLee Linton was a freshman walk-on and has transformed herself into the team leader. She has been the top finisher for the team all season, steadily improving her times along the way.

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