Nov. 15, 2009
Senior Tommy Betterbed came up big for a young Portland Pilots cross country squad on Saturday at the NCAA West Regional meet held at Springfield Country Club. Betterbed finished fifth individually to lead the Pilots to an automatic NCAA Championships bid with a second-place finish. He was the only upperclassmen of seven Portland runners, all of which finished among the top 76 individually. The No. 8 Pilots scored 84 points, trailing only No. 1 Stanford (27), while beating out No. 3 Oregon by 25 points to match the second highest regional finish in school history.
Head coach Rob Conner raced five freshmen, a sophomore and Betterbed as his lone senior. Joining Betterbed with all-region honors were freshmen Joash Osoro (8th place) and Trevor Dunbar (12th place). Sophomore Alfred Kipchumba, Portland's usual top runner, finished 22nd.
"The guys did a nice job of executing our race plan and finishing hard over the last half of the race," Conner said. "The fact that we have five freshmen and a sophomore going made it even more impressive. Usually it's hard to get the younger guys to be patient. Tommy really came through with a nice race today. He was 52nd at nationals last year, so he still has some unfinished business remaining."
Loyola Marymount finished 13th (387) led by Sterling Lockert (60th, 32:13.46 ), followed by Santa Clara in 16h (465), who was paced by WCC runner up Robbie Reid (52nd, 5:09.3). San Francisco (19th, 522), Pepperdine (22nd, 698), St. Mary's (25th, 713), and San Diego (26th, 741) rounded out the remaining WCC team participating in the meet.
The Pilots will now set their sights on the national meet, scheduled for Monday, Nov. 23 at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind. Last year, Portland matched its best ever team finish at nationals by finishing seventh overall. Conner and the Pilots are hoping for a trophy this year, which would be fourth or better.
After being honored with the school's first female Rhodes Scholar last year, the women's cross country team has another HUGE first as junior Stephanie Wilson (San Jose, Calif./Archbiship Mitty) qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championship today with her sixth place finish at the NCAA West Regional. Wilson's finish, in very muddy conditions in Oregon, was the best ever by a Bronco as well and she was the top finisher in the state of California as well.
Wilson ran a 21:01.30 finish sixth overall - one place ahead of two-time All-American Katie Follett from UW. Only three runners from No. 1 Washington - the defending national champion - and two runners from No. 5 Oregon finished ahead of her. Washington won the region and Oregon was second.
"I felt really good. It felt like we went out really slow in the first mile - almost like a tempo run. We picked it up in the second mile and much more so in the third mile. It was really fun," said Wilson, who won the WCC title two weeks ago. "I got passed in the final 20 yards, but I was so excited with my finish and so honored to qualify now for the NCAA Championship."
Asked if Wilson expected to qualify for the NCAA Championship when the season started in August, she laughed and said `no way' with a big smile. "It was something I was shooting for next year, but as the season went on this year, I thought I had a chance. I've never been to Indiana and honestly, I can't wait. The race is on a Monday so we'll have to change up my training a bit, but Tom and I are already working on that. I'm just so honored."
Bronco head coach Tom Service was practically speechless after the race - which was attended by many Bronco supporters. "What an unbelievable performance by an unbelievable girl," said Service. "She was running tough with All-Americans the whole way. She executed the race plan perfectly and she was fearless. We thought she should start out in the top 20 and then move up to the top 10, but because of the conditions, the first pack had 40 or so. She is tough and ran so well."
WCC Freshman of the Year Sheree Shea paced the Lions (23rd, 21:33.90) to a 13th (334) place, while San Francisco (10th, 304) was led by Heather Zytkewicz (40th, 22:00.95). Portland (16th, 420), San Diego (22nd, 616), and Pepperdine (25th, 742) rounded out the rest of the WCC field.