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Raiders ready to go for CCC Championships in Herminston

ASHLAND — The Cascade Conference Track and Field Championships presented by U.S. Bank are back in Hermiston for the 24th annual meet on Friday and Saturday, when the Southern Oregon University men are expected to be challenged for their third straight title while the Raider women could push for their first since 2002.

Eastern Oregon is hosting at Hermiston High for the second time in three years. Events begin at 2 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, and a complete schedule can be found at the link above.

The Raider men hope to pick up their 10th overall championship and fifth in the last six years. They blew out the field last year in Ashland with 189.5 points — 45.5 more than second-place Eastern Oregon — after edging EOU by two points in 2016 at Hermiston. EOU was the most recent team other than SOU to win it, claiming the closest three-time finish in meet history three years ago, and the Mountaineers are expected to contend again along with Oregon Tech, which is looking for its first team win.

Last year, the Raider women notched their first second-place showing since 2005 with 176.5 points, the most for any runner-up since ‘08. College of Idaho has won five consecutive championships, but SOU’s expected dominance in the track events could put that streak in jeopardy. During the Yotes’ run, their average margin of victory over the runner-up is 44 points.

SOU MEN’S OUTLOOK

SPRINTS: The Raiders leaned on their dominance in the sprints last year, scoring 92 of their 189.5 points in the 100 meters, 200, 400 and relays. Seven different Raiders have won the 100 in the last nine years, and Rey Vega (10.65) hopes to become the eighth as the No. 1 seed while Eli Chapman (10.82) will try to improve upon his fifth-place finish of a year ago as the No. 4. Chapman is also the No. 2 seed in the 200, already touting an NAIA ‘B’ mark (21.59). SOU has four of the top-eight seeds in the 100 and six entries in the 200, but Will Gross (49.91) is their only representative in the 400.

MID-DISTANCE: Tristan Carpenter will be in the 800 for SOU as the No. 9 seed (1:58.06) after placing seventh last season. He’s one of three Raiders in the 1,500 — No. 2 seed Ryan Alexander (3:56.40) and No. 7 Noah Oberriter (4:01.05) being the others. Alexander needs to cut three seconds off for an NAIA ‘A’ standard, and Oberriter is a returning fourth-place finisher in a race that will include all three 2017 All-CCC performers. In the 3K steeplechase, two-time All-American Kevin Poteracke is the top seed (9:06.91) after placing second a year ago and third in 2016, and he’s one of three automatic qualifiers for the NAIA Championships in the event. SOU also has the No. 4 seed, Kevin VanDyke (9:44.84), as it goes for its first steeple win in six years.

DISTANCE: The CCC features 12 individuals who own NAIA Championship provisional-qualifying times in the 5,000 (compared to four at this time last year) and four of them are Raiders: Poteracke (14:50.42), Oberriter (14:50.59), Ray Schireman (14:53.57) and Alexander (14:57.45), all hoping to get under the NAIA auto standard of 14:45. A Raider had won the 5K four years in a row until 2017, but defending champ Garrett Kraal of Northwest Christian enters as the No. 13 seed. SOU will put three in Friday night’s 10K, too: No. 2 Schireman (32:40.67), No. 11 Caleb Diaz (33:29.02) and No. 13 Brandon Kelsey (33:35.90). Schireman is the returning runner-up, vying for SOU’s first title in four years.

RELAYS: SOU has won seven of the conference’s last eight 4x100-meter relay titles, and its team of Jeremiah Emershy, Aidan Tank, Chapman and Vega enters the weekend with a CCC-best time of 41.63 seconds - a tenth of a second off the NAIA ‘A’ standard. The Raiders will be the No. 5 seed in the 4x400, which they won last year for the first time since 2005, and their qualifying time of 3:22.33 is about 3.5 off of top-seeded Oregon Tech’s.

FIELD EVENTS: Junior All-American Zach Beltz is the Raider to watch in the field, coming in with the top long jump seed (7.26m) and the No. 2 triple jump seed (14.37m) — making him an auto NAIA Championship qualifier in the former discipline and a provisional qualifier in the latter. Last year, he became the first individual to win both disciplines at the same meet. This year, he’ll try to become the first individual to win the long jump three years in a row. Justin Turner is the Raiders’ top entry in the vertical events as the No. 2 seed in the high jump (1.95m) and No. 4 in the pole vault (4.45m), in which SOU has three among the top seven. They’ll rely on Kevin Tunnell in the throws: He’s No. 1 in the shot put at 15.53m, No. 3 in the discus at 45.19, and No. 7 in the hammer at 44.42.

SOU WOMEN’S OUTLOOK

SPRINTS: The Raiders’ title hopes likely depend on running up the score in the sprints: They have six of the top eight seeds in the 100, five of the top seven in the 200, and three of the top five in the 400. Sophomore Arianna Daniel was All-CCC in each event last year — first in the 400, second in the 200 and third in the 100 — and enters as the top seed in the 200 (24.72) and 400 (56.70), with NAIA ‘A’ marks in both, and the No. 2 seed in the 100 (12.20). Margot Hamman is a returning All-CCC runner in the 100 and the No. 3 seed (12.30) now, while Savannah Greenwade is the No. 2 seed in the 200 (25.26) and the No. 4 seed in the 400 (57.91). Loghan Sprauer will be among the other Raiders in the mix after already contributing 10 points last month with their first decathlon title since 2001 at the CCC Multi-Event Championships. She’s also one of SOU’s three top-five seeds in the 100 hurdles along with Erika Soderstrom (15.48) and Tara Crosswhite (15.53), and Crosswhite will look to improve on her NAIA ‘B’ time in the 400 hurdles (1:04.47) as a No. 3 seed.

MID-DISTANCE: Four of the top-eight entries in the 1,500 are Raiders, headlined, of course, by senior Jessa Perkinson — the defending champion and top seed by a margin of 12 seconds (4:30.65). Freshmen Shayla Potratz, Lauren Fillipow and Jamie Chelberg are the others in the mix for SOU. Bree Weber, along with being SOU’s only representative in the 800 as the No. 8 seed (2:25.56), will attempt to capture SOU’s first-ever steeplechase title, having already clocked a school record and NAIA ‘A’ time of 11:13.54. She’s the No. 2 seed, and Jenna Storms, who has a ‘B’ of 11:21.27, is No. 4 in a tight field.

DISTANCE: Perkinson is also the heavy favorite in the 5K after winning the title the last two years — last year with a meet record time of 16:37.47 — and running the fastest NAIA time in nine years at 16:13.79 earlier this season. She’s attempting to pull off the CCC’s first-ever three-peat in the race and has the No. 1 seed by a margin of a minute, while Storms (17:58.12), Potratz (18:42.74) and Fillipow (18:49.88) are among the top nine. Sydney Nunamaker will run the 10K for the Raiders as a wild card entry.

RELAYS: SOU attained its first titles since 2006 in the 4x100 and the 4x400 and is favored to repeat in both. Its 4x1 team set a meet record of 47.07, and three members from that team are back: Daniel, Greenwade and Hamman, who are now joined by Lindsey Bonney and already have an NAIA ‘A’ time of 47.40. Their 4x4 team, which will feature Daniel with freshmen Bonney, Carson and Crosswhite, is the top seed by more than 10 seconds and has the sixth-fastest time in the NAIA (3:50.78).

FIELD EVENTS: Senior Lauren McGowne collected her second long jump title last year and will go for her third as the No. 2 seed (5.53m). She’s also the top seed in the high jump (1.62), where the Raiders will need points from her and No. 3-seeded Sprauer (1.59). In the pole vault, sophomore Madison Kansala turned in a second-place effort last year after coming in with the conference’s fifth-best mark, and she’ll come into this meet as the No. 6 seed (2.95).