Pac-12 Cross-Country Championship Preview: Oregon men and women look to finish at the top

The Pac-12 Cross-Country Championships will be held at the Springfield Country Club this upcoming Friday, and the No. 1 ranked women and No. 8 men are in good position to earn the title. The women’s 6-kilometer race will start at 11 a.m. and the men will begin their 8k at …

The Pac-12 Cross-Country Championships will be held at the Springfield Country Club this upcoming Friday, and the No. 1 ranked women and No. 8 men are in good position to earn the title. The women’s 6-kilometer race will start at 11 a.m. and the men will begin their 8k at 12 p.m.

Sophomore Lilli Burdon, who finished seventh at Pre-Nationals last week, said the team has the same objective, to “better ourselves every day, and every practice. … Our whole team is trusting the process.”

Katie Rainsberger’s top competitor for first place will likely be Colorado’s Dani Jones, third at Pre-Nationals, and Amy-Eloise Neale of University of Washington, the defending Pac-12 Champion.

The women have had a stellar season thus far, winning both of their races, and the men have been in the top three. At Pre-Nationals, they finished right behind second place Colorado, the No. 1 team in the Pac-12.

The Men of Oregon have been receiving some unique training this year from Matthew Centrowitz Jr., the reigning Olympic champion in the 1500-meter and former Oregon athlete. He is a volunteer coach for the team while he finishes his Sociology degree.

Centrowitz is obviously a talented track athlete, he also was an accomplished cross-country athlete when he attended Oregon. In 2010 he ran 30 minutes, one second for 10K at the NCAA Championships.

“He can relate to us track guys, like me and Blake (Haney),” senior Sam Prakel said. During longer workouts, Centrowitz has helped those who believe they do better on the track.

“Convince yourself you are a cross-country runner, even though you’ve had success on the track,” is the mindset Prakel has taken away from those workouts.

The Pac-12 has some very deep teams, with six teams on the both sides ranked in the top 30 by the NCAA. Oregon will race against the very best of the Pac-12, and with no Edward Cheserek around, the individual title should be more closely contested. Stanford junior Grant Fisher was second last year to Cheserek, and he will most likely be Stanford’s top runner.

“I think this is the best conference in the country,” Johnson said.

He believes there are three or four teams on the mens and women’s side that could win the Pac-12 title.

Colorado will want to repeat their team title sweep, so look for the Ducks to continue their pack running strategy. Matthew Maton and Alli Cash, both of whom have missed the races so far due to injury, are entered to race on Friday.

For the first time ever, the race will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Network, giving recruits a chance to look at their potential teammates.

“The Pac-12 is really broadening and taking a lead up faith, and really pushing the whole live TV thing,” head coach Robert Johnson said.

“For them to host the Pac-12 championships last year (with track and field) and to continue that trend into cross country, we are totally thrilled,” Johnson added.

Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august


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