By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- The Willamette University cross country teams are ready to compete at the 2018 Northwest Conference Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Oct. 27 at Milo McIver State Park in Estacada, Oregon. Action gets underway with the women's 6-kilometer race at 11 a.m. (PDT). The men's 8-kilometer race will follow at 12 p.m.
Team and individual NWC titles will be on the line, but the Bearcats also will focus on taking in the environment of a championship meet.
"We expect the kids to have fun and enjoy the experience," Willamette Head Coach Matt McGuirk said.
In men's cross county, the last six NWC championships have been won by the Bearcats. A closely contested race is quite possible with several teams battling for the title. Leading Willamette's efforts will be Keith Carlson (Sr., Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS) and Michael Montague (Jr., San Diego, CA/Canyon Crest Academy). During last year's championship win for the Bearcats, Carlson placed second in 25:27.1 and Montague was fourth in 25:43.9. McGuirk was chosen as the NWC Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year for the sixth year in a row and the 13th time since 2001.
Early this fall, Carlson finshed third at the Ash Creek Preserve Invitational and was fifth at the Augsburg Invitational. Later, Carlson was 10th out of 176 runners in the Men's Cardinal 8-kilometer race at the 44th Annual Charles Bowles Willamette Invitational. He placed 16th out of 344 runners in the Men's 8k Pre-National race at the UW-Oshkosh Kollege Town Sports Invitational in Winneconne, Wisconsin, two weeks ago. Montague was fourth at Ash Creek, 15th at the Augsburg meet, 13th at the Charles Bowles Willamette Invitational and 44th at the UW-Oshkosh meet.
Willamette was listed at #7 in the most recent West Region men's rankings. Other NWC teams ranked in the West Region were George Fox University at #5, Pacific Lutheran University at #8, and Whitworth University at #10.
Brad Hodkinson from Pacific Lutheran won the NWC men's individual title for the second year in a row. His winning time in 2017 was 25:13.4. He has since transferred from PLU. Carlson and Montague are the only runners returning this season from last year's top five finishers in the NWC men's race.
This weekend, the Willamette women's team will be led by Hazel Carr (Sr., Seattle, WA/The Northwest School). Carr has put together a solid season that includes winning the Ash Creek Preserve Invitational. She was 38th at the Augsburg Invitational, took 49th out of 197 runners in the Women's Cardinal 5-kilometer race at the 44th Annual Charles Bowles Willamette Invitational, and was third out of 328 competitors in the Women's 6k Pre-National Open race at the UW-Oshkosh meet. She was one of the top NCAA Division III finishers in the Women's Cardinal race at the Willamette Invitational.
At the UW-Oshkosh meet, Maggie Chapin (Jr., Buffalo, WY/Buffalo HS) was 24th and Emily Evans (Sr., Anchorage, AK/South Anchorage HS) was 36th. Kyla Shade (Jr., Snohomish, WA/Snohomish HS) placed 94th.
Last year's NWC women's individual title went to Kayla Leland from Whitworth University in 21:56.0 over the 6-kilometer course. Whitworth won the women's team championship. Leland was a senior last fall. Kaelia Neal from Linfield College, who took second place a year ago, Hannah Swanson ('18) of Willamette, who placed third, and Bailey Scott of Whitworth, who finished fifth, also graduated. The top returning runner is Courtney Beard of Linfield, who was fourth last year.
In the current women's West Region rankings, Willamette held the #9 position. Whitworth owned the #7 ranking and Pacific University was ranked #8.