Pac-12 to crown cross country champions this Friday in Riverside
SAN FRANCISCO - The Pac-12 will crown its first champions of the 2022-23 academic year this Friday, as USC hosts the 2022 Pac-12 Cross Country Championships at UC Riverside’s Agricultural Operations Course.
RACE SCHEDULE (All times PT)
6:30 a.m. - Venue/course opens
8:20 a.m. - Women called to Start
8:40 a.m. - Women’s 6k Championship Race
9:20 a.m. - Women called to Start
9:40 a.m. - Men’s 8k Championship Race
10:30 a.m. - Men's and women's awards ceremony
For the sixth consecutive year, the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships will be broadcast live on Friday, Oct. 28 beginning at 8:30 a.m. PT. Both races will air live nationally on Pac-12 Network as well as across all six Pac-12 regional channels. The events will also be available to stream live for authenticated subscribers via the Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com. On the call will be Jim Watson and Tom Feuer.
Spectators should be prepared to park in Lot 30 on the campus of UC Riverside.
UCR Ag Ops Course – Riverside, CA - UC Riverside's Agricultural Operations Course (Ag/Ops) is located adjacent to campus on the 420-acre Citrus Research Center and Agricultural Experiment Station (CRC-AES) on the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Canyon Crest Drive.
The course, which features a long loop that winds through groves of citrus trees and crosses over irrigation canals, has a wide running surface, allowing for a large field and outstanding racing. Developed for the 1979 NCAA Division II National Championships, it is also deceptive, appearing flat, fast and easy at first, but with a large difference in elevation from one end of the course to the other. The west end, at about the 2,400-meter mark, is 100 feet lower than the start/finish area, and runners tend to go out fast only to find the return home challenging.
Agricultural Operations is the field support department of the UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (CNAS) and has been active in research since 1907. The department administers activities on three experiment stations: the aforementioned CRC-AES, the Moreno Field Station, and the Coachella Valley Agricultural Research Station. The station has traditionally focused on production agriculture but has more recently expanded research efforts to include diverse aspects of agricultural production systems with consideration of ecological and environmental problems.
CHAMPIONSHIPS RETURN TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
The 54th staging of the men's event and 37th of the women's will be returning to Southern California for the first time since UCLA hosted at Robinson Ranch Golf Course in Santa Clarita in 2012. USC is serving as host for the first time since the event was held at Skylinks Golf Course in Long Beach in 2009.
Stanford, the nation's No. 1 team, is the odds on favorite to win its 16th Pac-12 title, which would tie Oregon for the most all-time. The Cardinal is led by a trio of All-Americans in Charles Hicks, Ky Robinson and Cole Sprout. Hicks and Robinson were All-Americans last season, while Hicks and Sprout earned the accolade in 2020. Stanford is one of four programs in the country that returned multiple 2021 All-Americans (Northern Arizona - 4; Oklahoma State - 3; Harvard - 2).
The defending individual champion, another victory for Hicks would make him the first back-to-back winner since the Cardinal's Grant Fisher in 2017 and 2018 and the 12th in Conference history to win consecutive individual Pac-12 titles.
Other ranked squads looking to push the Cardinal are No. 10 Colorado, No. 15 Oregon and No. 20 Washington. Either the Buffs or Cardinal have won each of the past 13 Pac-12 championships, with CU capturing eight and Stanford five. The defending Conference champion Buffs have won eight crowns in just their first 11 years in the league, while Stanford has won three of the past five Pac-12 meets (2020, 2018, 2017).
Oregon and Washington are also looking at halting lengthy team title droughts. Currently ranked 15th, the Ducks jmake a nine-spot jump in the most recent USTFCCCA national rankings, and are aiming for their first championship since 2008. No. 20 Washington spent three weeks at No. 8 and could capture its second league crown (1993).
The men’s individual race features seven of last season's top-10 finishers, including champion Charles Hicks (STAN), No. 4 Ky Robinson (STAN), No. 5 Aaron Bienenfeld (ORE), No. 6 Austin Vancil (COLO), No. 7 Andrew Kent (COLO), No. 8 Cole Sprout (STAN) and No. 9 Brian Fay (WASH).
This year, nine who have finished in the top 10 of previous Pac-12 meets are poised to make runs at the league title:
Aaron Bienenfeld, ORE - 2021 (5th)
Brian Fay, WASH - 2021 (9th)
Isaac Green, WASH - 2020 (7th)
Charles Hicks, STAN - 2021 (1st), 2020 (2nd)
Luke Houser, WASH - 2020 (10th)
Andrew Kent, COLO - 2021 (7th)
Ky Robinson, STAN - 2021 (4th), 2020 (8th)
Cole Sprout, STAN - 2021 (8th), 2020 (4th)
Austin Vancil, COLO - 2021 (6th)
Joining Stanford's All-America trio slated to compete, Bienenfeld and Fay earned All-America honors at the 2021 NCAA Championships.
A hotly contested women's field features a quartet of programs ranked in order in the USTFCCCA national rankings in No. 9 Stanford, No. 10 Utah, No. 11 Colorado and No. 12 Oregon. At the Nuttycombe Invitational two weeks ago, the teams finished in that order, with the Cardinal seventh, Utes eighth, Buffs ninth and Oregon 11th, with Georgetown in between.
The margins are so small, that were the Nuttycombe results from the six Conference teams in attendance turned into a Pac-12 race, Colorado would've scored 67, Utah 68 and Stanford 69. The slimmest margin of victory in meet history was in 2010, when Stanford totaled 62 points and Arizona 65.
Colorado has been as high as No. 3 in the rankings this season and Stanford No. 5, while Utah and Oregon have trended in the other direction. The Ducks have their best positioning in the polls since coming in at No. 9 on Sept. 25, 2019, while Utah has climbed nine spots in the past three polls and is in the top 10 entering the Pac-12 Championships for the second consecutive season.
The defending Conference champion, Colorado is going for back-to-back titles for the first time since it won three crowns in a row from 2015-17. Stanford is looking for its third title in four seasons (2020, 2019), Oregon its first since 2018 and Utah its first all-time.
Washington spent the majority of the season in the top 10, peaking at No. 6 on Sept. 20, and is currently 19th following a 16th-place effort at the Nuttycombe Invitational in Madison, Wis. A top-four team in every Conference meet since 2002, the Huskies are in search of their first crown since 2009.
No. 30 Oregon State is led by the dynamic duo of 2020 All-American Kaylee Mitchell and Grace Fetherstonhaugh, who were fourth and 14th at the Nuttycombe. The Beavers were one of four schools to have two individuals in the top 15 of that loaded field, along with No. 1 NC State, No. 2 New Mexico and No. 5 BYU.
Mitchell is slated to be one of five former top-10 finishers at prior Pac-12 meets in the field:
Emily Covert, COLO - 2021 (2nd)
Zofia Dudek, STAN - 2021 (10th), 2020 (3rd)
Haley Herberg, WASH - 2021 (8th), 2020 (1st)
Kaylee Mitchell, OSU - 2021 (6th), 2020 (7th)
Emily Venters, UTAH - 2021 (3rd)
Covert, who earned her first career All-America honors at the 2021 NCAA Championships, and Venters, who was an All-American in 2018 while at Boise State, join Mitchell as former All-Americans in the field.