Spokane, Wash. – The Whitworth University men's and women's cross country season gets underway this weekend with the Preview Sprint Meet, which will be held just north of Whitworth's campus at Mead High School.
Last fall, the men's team earned its third Northwest Conference Championship title in the last four years, while the women's team finished sixth at the NWC Championships. Both teams competed at Regionals, but neither team was able to advance to the NCAA Championships.
The men's team lost five runners from the 2011 team, including graduating seniors Aaron Jenkins, Tyler Dudley, Mark Davis and Shane Polley, but return sophomores Trent Dudley and Taylor Steele, both of whom ran at the NCAA Regionals last fall. Of the 14 runners for the men, nine are newcomers.
"The men are young and relatively inexperienced," Pirates head coach Toby Schwarz said. "The unique quality of the guys' team is that there is a lot of symmetry. There is not a huge difference between the guys so there will be a lot of competition in practice which should translate to the meets."
On the women's side, senior Joy Shufeldt returns for the Pirates after making her third appearance at the NCAA Cross Country Championships last fall. The women's team also has several new faces, with 10 of the 18 women on the roster being freshmen.
"The talent and potential is very high amongst this group," Coach Schwarz said. "The ability and attitude definitely exist for a successful season. Joy brings an immeasurable amount of experience and leadership ability which will greatly increase the probability that good things will happen this year."
More than half of the 32 runners for this season are new to the team; however, Coach Schwarz has not changed his goals for the season.
"The goal is always to win the NWC title," Coach Schwarz said. "This will be a very difficult goal this year but a goal worth pursuing."
The Preview Sprint Meet is a short course run, which gives the Pirates the opportunity to race against local NCAA Division I competition, Gonzaga University and Eastern Washington University.
After Saturday's meet, the Pirates travel to Seattle for the Sundodger Invitational on September 15.