The west's best distance runners gathered this weekend in Colfax to compete in the Pac-12 Championships on Oct. 30. Both the men and women ran Friday at the Colfax Golf club in two races that were won by Colorado.
The Cougar men were led by junior John Whelan, who finished in 9th place with a time of 23:26.3 in the 8000m race. Sophomore Michael Williams finished just behind Whelan in 12th place with a time of 23:29.2. Whelan and Williams' performances, along with four other scorers for WSU, helped the Cougars finish 6th with 137 points.
"We were looking for big performances from John and Michael and they absolutely did not disappoint," WSU Director of Cross Country/Track & Field Wayne Phipps said. "Last night John and I talked about him finishing in the top 10 and for him to get ninth is absolutely amazing. For Michael Williams, who wasn't in our top seven last year, to finish 12th today is amazing. We were relying on our freshmen and that can be a good thing or a bad thing sometimes. It is great experience and I thought they performed well."
The other scorers for the promising Cougs were all either freshmen or sophomores. After the race Friday, Whelan talked about hopefully having another top 15 performance at the NCAA West Regionals. If the Cougs can step up and get a low enough score they will be able to move on to the NCAA Championships, as a team, from there.
WSU finished ahead of three teams, including No. 21 California, who finished with 167 points. Every team that finished ahead of WSU is ranked. Coming in first was defending national champion and the nation's top ranked team, Colorado. The Buffs won their fifth straight team title with 47 points. The individual reigning national champion, Edward Cheserek of Oregon, won his third consecutive conference title with a time of 23:06.3.
The women finished in 10th out of 11 teams and were led by senior CharLee Linton, who finished in 36th place. Also scoring for WSU were Devon Bortfield, Morgan Wilson, Steffie Pavey, and Emily Dwyer. Phipps wasn't as excited about the women's performance.
"The women were a little behind where we wanted to be today," Phipps said. "CharLee was pretty sick going into this race and being the trooper that she is, she gutted it out and ran really well. Her being shifted back (in the field) set the tone for our women's team and resulted in us being a couple of spots lower than we had hoped."
The third ranked Buffaloes took home the team title in the women's race as well, finishing with 45 points. That was enough to hold off No. 5 Oregon and No. 10 Stanford for the conference crown. The teams will run again at the NCAA West Regional Nov. 13 at Jefferson Park Golf Course in Seattle.
The women's soccer team rebounded after losing three straight to beat Oregon and Oregon St. over the weekend. The wins bumped WSU up to fifth place in the conference standings with a 6-4 record in Pac-12 play. All four of the Cougs' conference losses have come to the teams ahead of them in the standings.
WSU will conclude regular season play tonight with a game against UW. The Huskies are lurking one game behind the Cougars in the conference standings, so more than just bragging rights are at stake in this year's rendition of the rivalry game. You can watch the game live, as kick off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Pac-12 Network Washington.
As the season winds to an end, WSU appears to be in good position to make the upcoming NCAA tournament. They are currently tied for 26th in the NSCAA coaches poll, and are ranked 30th in the Women's soccer RPI. Last season the Pac-12 sent nine teams to the tournament, so with the Cougs currently the fifth best team in the conference, they should have a spot in the field regardless of the result Thursday.
Cougar volleyball's losing streak drug on over the weekend but not without a fight. Thursday, WSU (14-10, 3-9 Pac-12) fell to No. 8 UCLA in four sets before taking No. 1 USC to five sets before faltering late on Sunday. The schedule doesn't get much easier for the Cougs as they travel to Arizona this weekend to take on a pair of ranked teams.