Oregon men go 1-2 at cross country West Regionals, await at-large bid for NCAA Championships
After the Ducks fizzled in the scorching heat of the Pac-12 Championships at Arizona, both the men’s and women’s teams bounced back to place fourth at the NCAA West Regionals on Friday morning at Haggin Oaks Golf Course in Sacramento, California.
Edward Cheserek won his third regional title in a time of 29 minutes, 23.7 seconds over the 10,000-meter course. This is the first time that the men have contested the 10,000 meters this season.
Oregon sophomore Matthew Maton stepped up to take second in his regionals debut, crossing the line 21 seconds after Cheserek.
Though Alli Cash had a late start to the season due to a strain in her hip flexor, she came back strong in just her third race this year to lead the women with her fifth place finish in a time of 18:32 over the 6,000-meter race.
Only the top two teams at regionals, however, are guaranteed spots in next week’s NCAA Championships. Only 31 teams across the nation are accepted into the championship, with 18 of them having already automatically qualified. Oregon will find out tomorrow by noon if the NCAA has granted it a berth in next week’s nationals.
“Great job by Edward and Matthew on the one-two finish,” associate head coach Andy Powell said in a press release from GoDucks.com. “Obviously we would have liked to get an automatic bid, but we’re optimistic about our chances to make the NCAAs. We’ll make a few adjustments and look to improve on today’s performance.”
At-large bids are awarded based on the team’s performance during its regular-season competition, with a priority on their regional position. During the regular season, if a team has more head-to-head wins than another battling for the same spot, they are more likely to be selected to the NCAA Championships.
Last year, the Oregon men finished third at regionals, and were granted a berth in the NCAA Championships, where Cheserek went on to win his third national title.
The Oregon men tallied a fourth place finish with their total of 122 points, just 10 points behind No. 8 UCLA.
Contributing to the team score were Tanner Anderson (32nd), Tim Gorman (43rd) and Jake Leingang (46th). The rest of the team included Travis Neuman (50th) and Levi Thomet (78th).
Stanford scored automatic qualifiers for both the men and women with its sweep of the West Regional titles. The No. 4 Washington women and Portland men are also nationals-bound with their runner-up finishes.
The women, who rank 11th in the nation, were unable to keep up their Regionals winning streak from 2014. Throughout the race, Oregon was locked in battle with No. 16 San Francisco for the top three positions, but the latter ultimately edged out the Ducks by just six points. Oregon had to settle for fourth with 107 points.
The women’s team scorers were Cash (5th), Samantha Nadel (12th), Katie Rainsberger (15th), Jessica Hull (37th) and Ashley Maton (41st). Rainsberger emerged as the top freshman in the West region after securing similar honors in the Pac-12.
“We ran hard and I was pretty happy with Alli (Cash), Katie (Rainsberger) and Sam (Nadel) being a great one-two-three,” assistant coach Maurica Powell said. “They were better than our top three at this meet last year – and those were three all-Americans – so I think that’s encouraging as we look toward NCAAs.”
Rounding off the traveling team were Maggie Schmaedick (44th) and Emma Abrahamson (64th).
Washington’s Amy-Eloise Neal continued her dominant streak this season, taking the win in 18:21.
“I think we took some good steps forward from the Pac-12 meet, and I think we’re in pretty good shape for an at-large bid,” Powell said. “Our region is so tough. There could be six teams that get in from the West.”
If the Ducks get the nod from the NCAA tomorrow, they will be headed to the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Nov 19, where Edward Cheserek will seek to become the first man to win four NCAA titles.
Follow Romaine Soh on Twitter @mainetainpls
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