Women's Cross Country Wins, Men Third At West Coast Preview
PORTLAND, Ore. - Gonzaga University's women's cross country team may have sent a message to the West Coast Conference while the Bulldog men gained some confidence with their performance at the West Coast Preview meet Saturday at Fernhill Park.
The Bulldog women had five runners in the top 10 to win their race, while the Bulldog men finished third but left with the confidence they need when they return in six weeks for the West Coast Conference Championship on this same course.
The veterans paced the women with Emily Thomas (21.12.00) leading a three-four-five finish over the 6K layout for the Bulldogs as she was followed across the line by Lindsey Drake (21:22.69) and Maggie Jones (21:22.96), respectively. Lauren Bergam (21:33.43) was eighth and freshman Amelia Evans (21:38.28) was ninth. Caroline Austin of Washington State University was first in 21:03.97.
"There was a 25-second spread among our top five. Things played out pretty well today and that that crowd within 25 seconds of each other will pay off down the road and hopefully we'll even tighten it up a little more," assistant coach Patty Ley said of the women's effort.
The women also won the season-opening Clash of the Inland Northwest over the 4.2-mile course at Spokane's Mead High.
The men finished third out of six teams. Host University of Portland won the meet with 22 points, followed by NCAA Division II power Chico State University with 63 points and Gonzaga with 73. The Bulldogs were 20 points ahead of WCC foe Loyola Marymount University and well ahead of Saint Mary's College (32) and Santa Clara University (147).
Tate Kelly paced the men in 12th place in 23:39.5 for the 8K, Brent Felnagle was 16th in 23:50.86, Willie Milam was 17th in 23:51.28, Robert Walgren finished 19th in 23:52.81 and Chris Boyle was 24th in 24:01.65 to account for Gonzaga's top five finishers. Freshman Conor McCandless was the sixth Bulldog across the line, five seconds behind Boyle in 28th in 24:06.87. Portland's Scott Fauble won the race in 23:15.09.
"Think anytime you get to run over the course and get a rough draft six weeks before game day is a good thing," head coach Pat Tyson said of competing on the same course that will host the WCC Championship. "When we send nine down here in six weeks they will be well prepared."
The third-place finish was also encouraging to Tyson. Portland is a perennial WCC power, losing the WCC Championship for the first time ever when WCC newcomer BYU ended the Pilots run last season. Portland and BYU are in the top 10 nationally.
"If we get top three we think we win," Tyson said of the WCC Championship. "Everybody is chasing Portland and BYU for the third spot. San Francisco wasn't here today and they are pretty good, LMU will be similar to us and we beat Santa Clara today for the first time in my era."
Ley also talked about the confidence factor.
"Today went pretty much like we hoped it would. It is good for them to realize they can run pretty doggone well. Our freshmen ran well today for their first effort at 6K and a lot of people are wanting more. This is a nice place to be for September 15. I think we can build on it and can run well together. They are gaining confidence in each other and can depend on others around them. Plus, it was great to see the course we'll be running on for the WCC's."
Tyson said being right there with Chico State was encouraging.
"Chico State is a lot like us. They are a good team. They are ranked third in division two right now and they finished fourth in their national meet a year ago," Tyson said.
Tyson said the top five were "within 22 seconds of each other. The gap was better today but we need our two, three, four and five guys to be with Kelly to get to the next level. Kelly closed strong and was within 10 seconds of the top five, so he was right there."
Tyson said the top 10 men from Saturday will go to the Bill Dellinger Invitational in two weeks, with the other two participants being determined next Saturday at the Erik Anderson Invitational at Spokane's Plantes Ferry.