The Oregon cross-country teams will race to on Friday, Nov. 10, in Seattle at the Jefferson Golf Course to qualify for the NCAA Championship meet later this month. The women’s race will go first at 10:30 a.m., and the men will start at 11:30 a.m.
The top two teams from each race automatically qualify for nationals, but the NCAA will select more teams from the field.
Even if the Ducks do not automatically qualify, their performances from this season should be enough points for the NCAA to grant them entry.
Last season, Stanford swept both the men’s and women’s fields. The women came in fourth place, with Alli Cash as the top Oregon runner, finishing in fifth place. The men also got fourth, and it was Edward Cheserek who took first place, with then-sophomore Matthew Maton coming in third.
Katie Rainsberger should improve her position dramatically from last year in Sacramento when she placed 11th. She should be inside the top five based on her results this season.
“This is a business trip,” junior transfer Carmela Cardama Baez said. “We have to get it done.”
Senior Alli Cash and junior Matthew Maton, both of whom have yet to race the season and were late scratches for the Pac-12 Championship, are entered to race. The men will enter ten, but only seven are allowed to race. While they don’t have to race, both must be entered if they want to race at all in the national competition.
This is the first race of the year where the men will race 10 kilometers instead of eight. The Men of Oregon have some serious competition to face, as the West Region is loaded with three of the top 10 teams in the NCAA. The teams are Stanford (4), Portland (6) and UCLA (10), and Oregon is ranked N0. 13. Head coach Robert Johnson expects there to be many western teams in top spots at nationals.
For the Women, they are the top ranked team in the west. The next western teams they need to look out for are No. 4 San Francisco and No. 7 Stanford. They have gotten several huge performances from Lilli Burdon and Jessica Hull, their solid second and third runners.
“What Lilli and Jess Hull are doing is absolutely fantastic,” Johnson said.
The women’s depth this year has really stood out, with Rainsberger’s speed up front and solid races from the second and fifth spot, Oregon will definitely be in the mix for the top two spots.
“We are all excited. I think it will be a fun course, just really muddy,” said Baez.
The course will be similar to the Pac-12 meet, a soft and muddy golf course. Except this time, it will be longer.
“Once we get to 7k and we are all feeling good, and in position, that’s when you pull it back,” senior Travis Neuman said. “Everyone is a little slower off the line, a little more conservative.”
It’s a tough situation to balance, because both teams want to run fast enough to qualify, yet not overexert themselves and not have enough left in the tank for nationals.
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Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august