The Whitworth men's and women's cross country teams return to action at the 2012 Northwestern Conference Cross Country Championships hosted by Pacific (Ore.) at the Sunset Grove Golf Course on Saturday, October 26th.
The men will run an 8,000 meter race that starts at 11:00 AM and the women will run a 6,000 meter race that will start at noon.
The Pirate Men: The Whitworth men's team has won the NWC Cross Country Championship the last two seasons, but the Willamette men's team is looking to challenge the Pirates this year. The Bucs lost their top five runners from last season and were unranked in the preseason poll. After a strong showing in their first few races, the Bucs entered the Regional rankings in week two and the team is currently ranked fifth in the USTFCCCA West Region Rankings.
This season the men's team has finished in the top ten in all but one of their races. Senior Tim Hill, junior Andrew Ryder and sophomore Taylor Steele return to the NWC Championships looking to improve on their performances at last year's race.
The Pirate Women: Whitworth's top runner from last year's meet, senior Joy Shufeldt, has been unable to compete this season and the Pirates have had to rely on other members of the roster to fill in the void. Sophomore Christina Anderson has stepped up as one of the top performers on the women's side as the season has progressed, finishing in the top 25 in three of her four races this year. After being unranked in the preseason poll, the women's team entered the Regional rankings in week two and is currently ranked seventh in the USTFCCCA West Region Rankings.
The women have finished in the top ten in all but one race this season. In addition to Anderson, top runners junior Elisabeth Spencer and senior Celeste Northcott will return to the NWC championships with the hopes of improving their times from last year's race, and freshman Kellyn Roiko will make her NWC Championship debut.
2012 NWC Preview: The Willamette Bearcats are the favorites to claim the conference championship on the men's side while the Lewis & Clark Pioneers are the front-runners for the women. Willamette hasn't won a men's championship since 2009, after finishing four points behind Whitworth at the 2011 championships. Lewis & Clark is looking to win its third consecutive conference championship, though Willamette stands as the top challenger.
Pacific Lutheran's Alan DenAdel is the top individual returner on the men's side, having placed fourth at last year's championship. On the women's side, the race is open to anyone, as defending champion and runner-up, Lewis & Clark's Illana Livstrom and Whitworth's Joy Shufeldt, have spent this season battling injuries.
2011 NWC Championship: The Whitworth men's team and the Lewis & Clark women's team were the winners at the 2011 NWC Championship. The Whitworth women's team finished sixth at last year's NWC championship.
Individually, Willamette's Leo Castillo finished first for the men, while Lewis & Clark's Illana Livstrom finished first on the women's side.
Pirates at NWC: An NWC Championship has been won by a Whitworth team for the last four years. The men's and women's teams have covered both sides, creating a streak that dates back to 2008.
The men's cross country team has won the NWC Championship three out of the last four years (2008, 2010, 2011), including a four-point victory over Willamette at last year's championships. The women's team won the NWC Championship in 2009.
Individually, the men have had three runners who have been the individual winner at the NWC Championship, with the most recent being Steve Sund at the 1992 Championship. On the women's side, Whitworth has not had an individual winner since the women began competing in 1977.