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Pilot Harriers Prepare to Race in Elite Meets

Sept. 27, 2006

PORTLAND, Ore. - The University of Portland cross country teams will see plenty of action against top teams this weekend with both the men and women racing in two meets. The Pilot "A"-teams will travel to Eugene, Ore., for the Bill Dellinger Invitational on Friday, Sept. 29, while the rest of the harriers will travel to Salem, Ore., for the Willamette Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The Bill Dellinger Invitational - Men

It will be the first race of the season for Pilot All-American junior John Moore, who placed 30th at last season's NCAA Cross Country Championship while leading the Pilots to a ninth place finish. Also running his first race will be sophomore David Kinsella, who head coach Rob Conner expects, with Moore, to form one of the nation's best one-two punches. Four other championship meet veterans - junior Michael Kilburg and seniors Chuck McKenzie, Micah Rolfe and Matt Sheeks (pictured) - will also see their first action of the year.

The Pilots will be facing an elite national field at the 13-team meet, which features six other teams that placed top-30 in the 2005 NCAA Cross Country Championships - Texas (seventh), BYU (13th), Alabama (21st), Butler (25th), Washington (27th) and American (30th). Cal Poly, Duke, Oregon, UCLA, Utah State and Wake Forest will also compete.

In last week's preseason polls, the No. 7 Pilots were one of six top-30 ranked men's teams in Friday's field, and were joined by No. 5 Texas, No. 11 BYU, No. 15 Oregon, No. 19 Alabama and No. 30 American, while fellow entries Cal Poly and Washington also received votes.

Joining Moore and Kinsella among men's individuals to watch is BYU senior Josh Rohatinsky placed 13th in last year's championship meet. Two other potential entries are also NCAA All-Americans in '05 - Texas senior Joe Thorne (15th) and BYU junior Chandler Goodwin (36th) - while Butler senior Andy Rayner was also a top-50 NCAA finisher in '05. In the 2004 NCAA finale, Oregon sophomore Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott also scored All-America honors (14th), as well as Texas senior Andrew Middleton (30th) and Rohatinsky (32nd), while Butler graduate student Scott Overall also placed top 50 (41st).

The Bill Dellinger Invitational - Women

The women's "A"-team will race together as a unit for the first time this season, featuring senior Kristen Rohde, junior Bobeya Krishnek, sophomores Sifrash Ademe and Janel Sislow and freshmen Dana Morgen and Natalie Hemphill.

"This will be the toughest type of meet there is: a small, but highly competitive field," head coach Ian Solof said. "We will have our hands full, but it will be an excellent experience for our athletes and will help prepare us for the other meets on our schedule. I think our team is rather underrated and I look forward to some big performances later this season."

The 11-team women's field features five top-25 NCAA team finishers from 2005 - Duke (third), BYU (eighth), Wake Forest (17th), Arkansas (19th) and Butler (24th). Two other teams on hand - Oregon and Washington - ranked top-30 most of last season, and the race also includes two other top West Coast squads in UCLA and Utah State.

BYU perennially ranks among the nation's top teams and has won four of the past nine NCAA women's team titles and also finished second three times in that span, while Duke ranked first in the nation part of the '05 campaign.

The high-caliber field features three women's teams ranked top 10 nationally - No. 5 BYU, No. 7 Duke and No. 8 Arkansas - and other ranked teams include No. 21 Washington, No. 28 Wake Forest and No. 29 Indiana. Two other teams in the race field, Butler and UCLA, also received votes.

Among top potential women's individuals, UCLA senior Ashley Caldwell is the highest returning finisher from the '05 NCAA Championships in the field with a 16th-place finish and Indiana senior Jessica Gall was also tabbed an All-American after placing 32nd.

The Willamette Invitational

The 32nd annual Charles Bowles Invitational will feature a strong regional field and provides an opportunity for the entire Pilot teams to see some action. Leading the way for the Pilot men will be led by sophomores Colin Longmuir, Justin Houck and Mike Quackenbush, senior Brendan Robinson, freshman Tommy Betterbed and junior Steven Ault, all of whom ran strongly at the Pier Park Invitational on Sept. 8 while helping lead the Pilots to a second place finish.

On the women's side, sophomores Adrienne Nova and Stacy Holtman and freshman Megan Smith will aim to build upon their performance at the Sundodger Invitational on Sept. 16, where the Pilots finished seventh in a difficult national field.

"I am excited for this meet because we have a number of athletes who have improved tremendously since last year," Solof said. "This meet will show them how far they have come and it will give them a chance to be a scoring runner for our team."

Looking Ahead

Next up for the Pilot harriers is the NCAA Pre-National meet in Terre Haute, Ind., on Oct. 14, followed by the West Coast Conference Championships on Oct. 28.

The University of Portland then will host the West Region Championship on Nov. 11 at Blue Lake Park in Gresham, Ore.