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A strong Pac-12 contingent is headed to Terre Haute, Ind., to compete for the 2011 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Cross Country national championships on Monday, Nov. 21. Three men’s and seven women’s teams will represent the Conference at the championships.
On the men’s side, Pac-12 Champion COLORADO, NCAA West Regional Champion STANFORD and WASHINGTON STATE have all secured a spot in the field. A Pac-12 team claimed eight national championships from 2001-08, but have not lifted the trophy since Oregon won back-to-back crowns in 2007 and 2008.
The Buffs and Cardinal have a recent history of winning it all. Colorado was champion in 2001, 2004 and 2006. Stanford won in 1996 and 1998, and in back-to-back seasons in 2002 and 2003. After placing fourth at the west region race, the Cougars make a trip to the national championship meet for the first time since 2006.
The Cardinal and Buffs rank in the top 10 in the nation. Seniors Richard Media and Andy Wacker have been the frontrunners for the Buffs, each posting top-10 finishes at the league and Mountain Regional meets. For the Cardinal, a pair of seniors also pave the way, with Chris Derrick and Jake Reilly in front. The pair led the Cardinal to claim the west region crown and finished just seven points behind the Pac-12 Champions.
Though placing sixth at the Pac-12 Championship, the Cougars came in fourth place at the NCAA West Regional to earn an at-large bid. Ranked 27th heading into the national meet, WSU was ranked as high as 20th this season after posting a fifth-place finish at the prestigous Notre Dame Invitational in September. WSU will be looking to senior Jono Lafler and junior Andrew Kimpel to take the lead.
Individually, ARIZONA’s Lawi Lalang has been impressive this season, earning an invitation. The 2011 USTFCCCA West Region Male Athlete of the Year as a freshman, he won the Pac-12 and NCAA West Region meets, also claiming top honors at the prestigious Roy Griak & Wisconsin adidas Invitationals, setting course records at both.
Oregon’s Luke Puskedra, a senior who his looking to cap a standout career, is running individually, as well. The Ducks’ top finisher at the west regional, he was sixth at the race and fifth at the Pac-12 meet.
The Pac-12 sends representation to the NCAA Women’s Championships. Six teams of the seven teams invited to the NCAA Championships are ranked in the top 25 in the nation heading into the national meet.
The women’s teams also bring a history of recent success at the national meet. Stanford captured four women’s titles from 2003-2007, Colorado was the national champion in 2000 and 2003, and WASHINGTON hoisted the trophy as recently as 2008.
Ranked fourth in the nation, UW continues to become a stronger contender as the cross country season winds down. After placing second at the Pac-12 Championships, the Huskies won the NCAA West Regional race. Though Washington had to concede the Pac-12 team title, the individual Conference champion was a Husky, with sophomore Katie Flood crossing the finish line first. After being ranked in the 20s, the Huskies jumped to as high as No. 2 in the nation after tying for first at the Wisconsin adidas invitational.
Colorado’s “welcome party” included a Pac-12 crown after placing four runners in the top 15. The Buffs followed up with a tie for first at the Mountain Regional race. Shalaya Kipp and Emma Coburn each had top-five finishes at the Mountain Regional. Colorado has been ranked in the top 10 in the nation all season.
Oregon earned an at-large berth, coming in fourth place at the West Regional. Junior Jordan Hasay, the USTFCCCA West Region Female Athlete of the Year, won the race for the second-straight year.
Stanford’s Kathy Kroeger was second at the Pac-12 Championships for the second-straight year, then followed up with a seventh-place showing at the NCAA West Regional on the Cardinal’s home course. Stanford matched its Conference showing at the regional, coming in third place at both meets.
Arizona had a break out season last year and continues to build on that wave of success.With Elvin Kibet and Jennifer Bergman keeping pace, the Wilcats placed second at the West Regional.
ARIZONA STATE makes a return to the championships for the first time since 2009. The Sun Devils earned an at-large bid, running a strong race at the West Regional. Led by senior Deborah Maier, the first-ever Golden Bear to earn All-America status in the sport, will lead her squad at the NCAA Championships. CALIFORNIA was fifth at the west regional with a strong performance, bouncing back from a seventh-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships. Maier was unavailable to run at the Pac-12 event.
UTAH’s Amanda Mergaert was extended an invitation to compete as an individual. She was ninth at the mountain region race. She was also a top-10 finisher at the Pac-12 Championships.
Pac-12 teams appear to be coming on strong as the season concludes on Monday, Nov. 21. With so much talent on the men’s and women’s side, this could be the year the Pac-12 stands atop the podium for the first time since 2008.