SOU cross country teams set for CCC meet
At the final meet of the regular season, Southern Oregon University’s cross country teams were able to confirm what has consistently held true in recent history: The Cascade Conference is as good in person as it is on paper, and still one of the best in the NAIA.
A year removed from a men’s and women’s combined team national championship, the Raiders will have to put their best feet forward as a new postseason begins on Friday morning at the Cascade Conference Championships presented by U.S. Bank. They learned as much on Oct. 26 at the William Jessup Invite, where all four of the CCC’s NAIA Top 25 teams in each field convened and College of Idaho reaffirmed its status as the favorites by edging SOU in both races.
The meet will be held in Cottage Grove at Middlefield Golf Course, which the Raiders got a look at seven weeks ago during the CCC Preview Meet. The men’s 8,000-meter race is slated for a 10 a.m. start, and the women’s 5K will follow at 11 a.m.
FORMAT: The top-12 placers in each race are considered All-Cascade Conference, and the top-five finishers on each team contribute to their team’s score. The winning team gets to bring seven runners and an alternate to the NAIA Championships on Nov. 22 in Vancouver, Washington; every other team will have to rely on an at-large bid, which a top-25 ranking in next week’s final NAIA coaches’ poll should ensure. The first five placers on teams that don’t advance to the NAIA Championships will receive individual berths, as long as those individuals finish in the top-12 overall.
HISTORY: The Raider men won 10 consecutive titles until last year, when College of Idaho broke through to end the streak - though SOU was still the conference’s highest-placing team at the NAIA Championships with a fourth-place finish two weeks later. SOU last produced an individual champion four years ago in Ray Schireman, and runner-up Noah Oberriter (now graduated) was two seconds off of the winning time last season.
The Raider women turned in a second-place finish last fall for the first time since 2014. Oregon Tech won the CCC title and went on to capture the women’s national title, while SOU’s fourth-place showing at the NAIA Championships was the best in team history and a three-spot improvement over its pre-meet ranking. The Raiders are still vying for their first conference team title after producing their first individual champion, Jessa Perkinson, in 2017.
LINEUP: Isaac Fernandez, Wyatt Goff, Alex Harbert-Castro, Deklan Humble, Brandon Kelsey, Gabe Loader, Jensen Salvatori, Zeke Stelzer, Shea Van Butler, Kevin VanDyke
OUTLOOK: The Raiders have thee scorers back from last year’s conference meet, but Alex Harbert-Castro, a non-scorer in 2018, paced them at William Jessup as they were second to C of I (36-to-67) while handily beating out No. 4 The Master’s (Calif.), No. 17 OIT and No. 23 EOU. Harbert-Castro has been a top-three runner for SOU all year, as have returning scorers Brandon Kelsey and Deklan Humble. Kelsey, a senior, is an All-CCC performer who placed fourth at the conference meet before attaining All-America status by taking 24th in the NAIA last year. He’s making his fourth appearance at the race, while six others in the lineup have at least one postseason appearance under their belts.
C of I’s Marcos Cervantes will aim to defend his individual title. Last year the Yotes put four runners among the top-seven, each of whom are expected to be on the course Friday.
LINEUP: Emma Amundsen, Haylee Brodahl, Lauren Fillipow, Sydnee Kizziar, Kira Morrow, Shayla Potratz, Maya Smith, Claire Tillett, Ariana Toland, Madison Willhoft
OUTLOOK: Half of SOU’s lineup is back from last season, and junior Ariana Toland will attempt to repeat an All-CCC effort in which she placed sixth in before taking 36th at the NAIA Championships. Junior Shayla Potratz and sophomores Sydnee Kizziar and Lauren Fillipow were also top-25 placers as underclassmen last year. With Toland working her way back after missing the first two races of the regular season, Kizziar and Potratz have been the Raiders’ first and second placers every week, and at William Jessup were 14th and 15th of 112 to put the team in front of No. 12 EOU and No. 18 OIT. Junior Emma Amundsen, a Phoenix High product in her first season with the Raiders, was expected to be one of the team’s top runners but has been hindered by an injury and only made one appearance.
With Oregon Tech losing its top-three from 2018, Toland is the meet’s highest-placing returner. C of I put three runners in front of SOU’s first finisher at William Jessup, where the Yotes won with 53 points to SOU’s 82.