Cross CountrySports

Top-3 finishes ensure NCAA berths

Blair Ryan

In an increasingly rare circumstance, the Oregon men’s cross country team found themselves on the outside looking in ­— at least, temporarily.

Pacific-10 Conference individual champion Chris Derrick of Stanford held court during the 10,000m men’s race to secure the individual win, and teammates Elliott Heath and Justin Marpole-Bird finished second and third, respectively, as the No. 1 Cardinal secured the NCAA West Regional team title with 27 points.

“We weren’t afraid to run hard; we just didn’t want to get too crazy before nationals,” Derrick said. “I just wanted to sit up front and not make any moves.”

Stanford is going as an automatic qualifier, along with No. 7 Portland (84 points), which edged out No. 3 Oregon (109) by placing three runners in the top 12. The Ducks will make an appearance at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Nov. 23 after receiving an at-large bid to attend, but their regional performance may become something of a wake-up call.

“I think we were asleep,” head coach Vin Lananna said of Oregon’s performance. “We went out pretty well, and I think that what happened was, at two miles, for whatever reason, they decided to press the pace.”

That strategy backfired in a hurry at the Springfield Country Club course, which was soft, muddy and slippery, leading to slow mile splits.

Oregon runners A.J. Acosta, Matthew Centrowitz and Kenny Klotz established themselves early in a lead pack of about 20 runners, including Stanford’s top three, but faded as the race progressed. Sophomore Luke Puskedra, hanging back early, challenged Derrick at the race’s halfway point but faded to a sixth-place finish (30:48.40).

“We were just out-manned out there,” Puskedra said. “They ran tough. We’re fit enough to do it, we’ve just got to have the mindset that we can do it. We’ve put in the work physically. We’ve just got to get the mental side down.”

Danny Mercado (14th, 31:02.80), Diego Mercado (28th, 31:25.08), Klotz (32nd, 31:32.37) and Acosta (33rd, 31:37.10) rounded out the Ducks’ scorers. Freshman Mac Fleet finished 49th in his regionals debut (31:58.69), and Centrowitz finished in 73rd place (32:29.80).
No. 17 Washington finished in fourth place with 120 points, while Cal Poly and No. 13 Arizona State tied for fifth place with 155 points.

Washington women take title

The women’s 6,000m course had already been chopped up, even more muddy and slow. No. 1 Washington, however, proved it could succeed in any manner by placing all five scoring runners in the top 10 to capture the team title with 25 points.

“The plan was just to run a complete cross country race. We were kind of out of sync a little bit (at Pac-10s),” Huskies head coach Greg Metcalf said. “Overall this was our most complete effort.”

Washington and No. 5 Oregon runners dominated the lead pack, with as many as nine from each team among the top 15 runners. In the last 1,000m, Huskies sophomore Kendra Schaaf overtook Oregon freshman Jordan Hasay to win the individual title in 20:41.70, with Hasay coming in second in 20:52.46.

“It was really, really slow,” Hasay said. “I’m not used to running in the mud.”
Senior Nicole Blood, the Pac-10 individual champion, finished in fifth place (21:01.00). Junior Alex Kosinski, last year’s West Regional individual champion, finished ninth in 21:07.25, while Lauren Zaludek (25th, 21:39.25) and Claire Michel (26th, 21:40.51) rounded out the Ducks’ scorers.

Zoe Buckman (42nd, 22:01.71) and Bronwyn Crossman (47th, 22:08.08) also
competed for Oregon.

The Ducks secured their automatic berth to the NCAA Championships with 66 points, just ahead of No. 14 Stanford (94 points). No. 16 Arizona State (119) and No. 24 Arizona (202) rounded out the top five.

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