Sept. 12, 2006
The University of Portland men's cross country team has been ranked seventh in the US Track & Field Coaches Association poll, released Tuesday, Sept. 12. The ranking is the highest preseason ranking in school history. Portland is also ranked second in the western region, behind only perennial power Stanford and in front of programs such as Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon.
"This is a tremendous honor for our program," head coach Rob Conner said. "It shows that the rest of the country recognizes our team as one of the nation's elite."
Portland returns six runners from last year's team that placed ninth at the NCAA cross country championships and aim to continue the legacy of excellence of cross country on The Bluff. Conner knows that with the high ranking comes expectations, but he believes his team is ready to handle the pressure.
"The spotlight will definitely be on us all year," Conner said. "I think the team is looking forward to that."
The Pilots are lead by two-time All America junior John Moore and sophomore David Kinsella, but the strength of the team is its depth. All six of Portland's top runners have run between 28:43 and 29:39 for 10,000 on the track during the spring of 2006.
Moore, the school record holder at 10,000 meters, clocked in at 28:43, while Kinsella turned in a 29:19. Behind them is a quadrant of talented long distance runners: senior Micah Rolfe (29:19), senior Chuck McKenzie (29:36), junior Michael Kilburg (29:36) and senior Matt Sheeks (29:39). Competing for the seventh spot on the team is a collection of skilled runners, including junior Steven Ault, sophomores Justin Houck, Mike Quackenbush and Kevin Krohn, and redshirt freshmen Tommy Betterbed and Zuber Ahmed.
Defending national champions Wisconsin have been tabbed by the coaches as the favorite to repeat, followed by Arkansas, Colorado, Stanford and Texas. Rounding out the top ten are Iona, Portland, Arizona, Oklahoma State and Kansas.
In the west region, Stanford is ranked first, followed by Portland, Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon. Rounding out the regional top ten is Cal Poly, California, Washington, Washington State and UCLA.
Portland's next race is the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle, Wash., on Sept. 16, followed by the Oregon Invitational in Eugene, Ore., on Sept. 29.