By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- The Willamette University cross country teams will begin the 2019 season by running at the Ash Creek Invitational on Friday, Sept. 6. Action will get underway at the Ash Creek Preserve in Monmouth, Oregon, at 5 p.m. (PDT) with the women's 4-kilometer race. The men's 6-kilometer race will follow.
Willamette is one of 14 universities and colleges participating at the meet. Also competing will be Clackamas Community College, Chemeketa Community College, Clark College (Wash.; juco), Concordia University (Ore.), Lane Community College, Linfield College, Mulnomah University, Northwest Christian University (Ore.), University of Oregon, Umpqua Community College, Walla Walla University (Wash.), Warner Pacific University (Ore.), and Western Oregon University.
Michael Montague (Sr., San Diego, CA/Canyon Crest Academy) is the top returning runner for the Bearcat men's cross country team. In 2018, Montague placed third at the Northwest Conference Championships, earned fifth place at the NCAA West Regional, and finished 124th out of 280 runners at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.
Other key experienced runners on the Willamette men's team include Alex Matteson (So., Seattle, WA/Nathan Hale HS), Kellen Bulger (Sr., Spokane, WA/Ferris HS), Carson Herrick (So., Newberg, OR/Newberg HS), and Matt Ihling (So., Boise, ID/Capital HS). At the NCAA West Reigonal last season Matteson was the Bearcats' fourth scoring finisher.
The Willamette women's cross country team enters the season listed at #6 in the West Region Preseason Rankings for NCAA Division III. The Bearcats won the 2018 Northwest Conference women's team title, and four of WU's top seven finishers from last year's NWC meet are back.
Kyla Shade (Sr., Snohomish, WA/Snohomish HS) earned First Team All-NWC honors by placing sixth at last year's NWC Championships, while Audrey Piacsek (So., Ellensburg, WA/Ellensburg HS) took 15th place. Also returning from WU's top seven scorers are Jamie Smith (Sr., Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) and Risa Shutz (Jr., Redmond, WA/Redmond HS).
Willamette placed fifth at the 2018 West Region Championships. Shade earned All-West Region honors after grabbing 20th place. Piacsek finished in 38th place.