by Andrew Goodwin, Sports Information Assistant
SPOKANE, Wash. – Underclassmen and newcomers dominate the Whitworth cross country roster in 2018, but expectations remain high for the Pirates as runners begin to arrive for preseason training.
Nine freshman join each Pirate team for the 2018 campaign, joining several experienced runners as the Bucs look to end this season as Northwest Conference champions.
For the Whitworth women, a conference championship would be their fourth straight. The Bucs won their third straight title last season and return two of their five All-West Region runners this year.
Krystal Roberts is one of the two returning all-conference runners from Whitworth's 2017 season. The sophomore finished 12th in the NWC and followed that performance with a 25th-place result at the West Region championships two weeks later. Her regional performance earned All-Region honors as well.
Marissa Mount joined Roberts as All-West Region runner last season, placing 33rd in the regional after finishing 13th at the conference championships two weeks prior. Mount is also coming off a stellar track and field season in 2018, which included a then-school record mark in the steeplechase at the Northwest Conference Championships.
A bevy of talented freshmen will join Roberts and Mount to defend Whitworth's conference title in 2018. The group includes Mary Neder, who finished in the top-20 of the Washington state 1B meet during her senior season, as well as Emma Bates, the fourth place finisher in the South Puget Sound League Championships last fall. Naomi Reyes, a four-time Washington state meet qualifier, also brings an accomplished cross country resume to Whitworth.
"The potential of the entire freshman group is very high," said head coach Toby Schwarz. "Any of them could be the top freshman, and several will step into impact roles this season."
On the men's side, the Pirates are looking to return to the top of the Northwest Conference for the first time since 2011. Whitworth finished last season in fourth place in the NWC.
The Bucs lost their lone all-region runner to graduation, but they return several sophomores and juniors from last year's regional alongside talented newcomers.
Gabriel Meek will be one of Whitworth's top returners after finishing 22nd in the NWC and 50th in the region last season. He is also one of only two returning upperclassmen on the men's team alongside Nathaniel Anderson, who finished 71st in last year's regional
The juniors will be joined by a pair of returning sophomores in William Glick and Jacob Clark, both of whom competed in the regional last season. Glick was the Bucs' final scorer in the meet, placing 57th.
"All six of our men's returners will be much improved from last year," Schwarz said. "Their track seasons were improvements over their cross country seasons and their summer training has been stellar."
Whitworth starts its cross country season on Friday, August 31 at the Clash of the Inland Northwest in Moscow, Idaho. The full cross country schedule is available here.