Zag Men Program-Best 11th At Regional; Women Finish 17th
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gonzaga University’s men’s cross country team recorded its best finish ever at an NCAA West Regional Friday with 343 points to tie the University of California for 11th place at Haggin Oak Golf Course.
The Bulldogs women, who had their best-ever finish last season in 14th, finished 17th this year with 437 points, just 30 points out of 15th. Senior Lauren Bergam wrapped up her career in 64th in a 6K personal best 20:53. She placed 77th last season in 21:20.
Senior Willie Milam led the Bulldog contingent, finishing 30th in a 10K personal best of 30:35. He was the seventh finisher from a West Coast Conference school after finishing ninth in the WCC Championship two weeks ago. He finished 115th last year in 31:52 and 106th in 2011 in 31:41.0.
Junior Nick Roche finished 50th in 30:53 for a personal best. He placed 79th in 31:08 last season and 123rd in 31:55.0 in 2011.
Colin O’Neil was 77th in 31:29 for a PR after finishing 109th in 31:44 last season.
Gonzaga had four first-timers in the regional field. Matthew Crichlow placed 94th in 31:48 and Kyle Branch 95th in 31:50 to complete the Gonzaga scorers as the Bulldogs scored 343 points. Freshman Troy Fraley was 120th in 32:17 and Ian Goldizen was 123rd in 32:25 to round out the Gonzaga contingent.
Gonzaga was second among WCC schools behind the University of Portland, finished ahead of Loyola Marymount University (365 points, University of San Francisco (498), Santa Clara University (546) and Pepperdine University (865). Portland was the top WCC school with 92 points to finish third in the team chase.
Maggie Jones was the second Bulldog to cross the finish line in 75th place in 21:01. She was 94th last season in 21:32. Amelia Evans was 88th in 21:14. She finished 96th a year ago in 21:33. Alison Fraher was 101st in 21:25 and Katy Culver 109th in 21:31 to round out Gonzaga’s scorers. Taylor Cherry finished 137th in 21:49 and Lara Tuthill was 157th in 22:07. Tuthill placed 108th last season in 21:41.
By knotting Cal and finishing ahead of the University of Arizona (362), Gonzaga’s men defeated a Pacific-12 school for the first time in regional history.
Stanford University won the men’s team title with 53 points to edge the University of Oregon with 64. Edward Cheserek of Oregon claimed the individual title in 29:35 with Stanford’s Jim Rosa second in 29:43.
The University of Arizona won the women’s meet with 84 points with individual honors going to Emma Bates of Boise State University in 19:11 followed by Shelby Houlihan of Arizona State University in 19:14.
Gonzaga director of cross country and men’s head coach Pat Tyson said pleased with the best-ever showing by a Gonzaga team in the regional, but he still had some woulda, shoulda, coulda moments.
“Willie is not super pleased. He thought he could run better,” Tyson said. “He went out conservative and was about 65th and passed about 20 guys over the last half of the race. He beat a Loyola Marymount guy (Weston Strum) down the stretch and reeled him in.”
Tyson was also pleased with Nick Roche’s race.
“Roche started about 60th and moved up. That was great. He’s been steady for us all year.”
Tyson said this team was close to Washington State University (269 for eighth place) and the University of Washington (277 for ninth).
The Bulldogs have had some of their top runners shelved all season with injuries, and Tyson would have liked to have had a couple of them in the fray Friday.
“I’m pleased with the fact it is the best team finish ever by Gonzaga in a regional,” Tyson said. “Obviously, we didn’t close the gap between our second and third runner. We were so close to the Cougars and Huskies. We can finish in the top 10 in a regional. Even if we would have had a couple of guys back they probably could have finished in the top 30 and we’d have a chance for an NCAA at-large. What ifs.”
Gonzaga head women’s coach Patty Ley had her team aiming for 15th, but she was pleased with the overall result as the Zags were only 30 points from their goal.
“Actually it was a pretty good performance. Lauren’s disappointed and thought she probably had a little more in her. It wasn’t a horrible race, she just didn’t run optimally. She was off the front pack and wasn’t confident enough to get into the pack to get her into those high 30s low 40s. There was only a 20-second difference between her and the next pack which isn’t a ton. She felt she didn’t quite have the confidence in what she really had. She was a little frustrated."
Ley said there was 38 seconds between Bergam and Gonzaga’s fifth runner in Culver.
“They moved up well in the race, but we didn’t have that pack. That’s been the story of our year and that’s something we’ll talk about the next 365 days. We need to move that thing up 20 or 25 seconds. If we can just move it a tenth of a second a day that’s 36 seconds and that will take care of it,” Ley noted. “This group has a chance to build on this race in the future. We’ll start talking about that on the way home. The ladies ran well today.”
Tyson said the Bulldogs got some great experience, and with Milam the only departing senior the future is definitely bright.
“We had some young guys out there who had never been in a race like this; had never been in a race with more than 200 runners. They didn’t know how to handle the congestion. We need to take these guys to a big meet next year,” Tyson said.
Simulating it in practice isn’t the same, according to Tyson.
“Until you do it, it certainly is a different game. You have to experience it. You can tell them about it and do workouts where all seven are running tight together so they have to deal with crowdedness, but it’s not the same.”
Tyson said Boise State, fourth with 117 points, was probably the surprise team of the day, although the Zags drew some attention.
“Boise State put themselves in a nice position, but I’m not sure they will get an at-large,” Tyson said. “Some people were shocked by the performance from Gonzaga.”
Tyson wishes next season would start tomorrow, but he knows an indoor and outdoor track season come first.
“I can’t wait until next fall. The guys want it more within themselves. We’re excited and hoping some of our young guys back home are getting excited,” Tyson said.
Ley said Jones gave a solid effort as the number two Zag to cross the line.
“Maggie has been coming along. She had a little touch of something today, just enough to be a little off. But she’s ahead of where she had been the rest of the season in terms of strength. She pushed Lauren for awhile and lost ground the last little bit,” Ley noted.
Like Tyson, Ley is also optimistic about the future.
“Overall, it was a pretty good day. We’re not going backwards, holding static in that 14-15-16 range at regional. Now it’s time to take the next step up. We’re trying to knock off Oregon State and Washington State, but we’re closer than have been a couple of times. We were only 36 points behind WSU and 30 points behind OSU,” Ley said.