Bearcat Women's Cross Country Team is Ranked #30 in NCAA Division III

Willamette Men and Women are #3 in West Region

By Timothy Walsh, Athletics Communications Writer

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University women's cross country team heads into the 2013 season ranked #30 in the nation in the NCAA Division III Preseason Poll released by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). In addition, both the Willamette men's and women's teams are ranked #3 in the West Region.

Last year, the Bearcat women took second place in the Northwest Conference and were third at the West Regional. Led by Michaela Freeby (Milwaukie, OR/Rex Putnam HS), who earned third place at the NWC meet and ninth place at the NCAA West Regional, Willamette's women received an at-large bid to the 2012 NCAA Championships.

Freeby, who returns for her junior year this fall, was Willamette's top finisher at the national meet, finishing 142nd out of 277 competitors.

The Willamette men's team captured a record 20th NWC team championship in 2012, paced by an individual NWC title from Parker Bennett (Sisters, OR/Sisters HS). Bennett went on to finish sixth at the NCAA West Regional and earned an individual bid to compete at the NCAA Championships. There, Bennett placed 97th out of 280 runners.

Head Coach Matt McGuirk was named NWC Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year for guiding the Bearcats to their ninth NWC title since 2001. It was his eighth such honor in the past 12 years.

Four of Willamette's top five finishers at last year's NWC meet return this season, including Bennett (Sr.), Nathan Conrad (So., Bothell, WA, Bothell HS), Yonny Castillo (So., Parkdale, OR/Hood River Valley HS), and Kit Kingstad (Sr., Beaverton, OR/Beaverton HS).

At the top of this year's national Preseason Poll in women's cross country was Johns Hopkins University (Md.), which received all eight first place votes and 280 points in the poll. Johns Hopkins won the 2012 NCAA Championship.

Wartburg College (Iowa) was ranked #2 with 266 points in the poll, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was ranked #3 with 265 points. Williams College (Mass.), received 256 points and was listed at #4. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.) held the #5 spot in the poll with 250 points.

In the women's West Region Rankings, CMS owned the #1 spot. NWC rival Lewis & Clark College was listed at #2, while Willamette was #3. Another NWC rival, Linfield College, was ranked #4 and Colorado College was ranked #5. Joining Lewis & Clark, Willamette, and Linfield in the Regional Rankings for the NWC was Whitworth University at #6.

The #1 team in the men's national Preseason Poll was defending NCAA champion North Central College (Ill.), with six of eight first place votes and 278 points.

Haverford College (Pa.) was ranked #2 in the nation with 269 points in the poll and one first place vote. The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse followed at #3 with 260 points. Washington University (Mo.) was ranked #4 with one first place vote and 255 points. Bowdoin College (Maine) was #5 with 242 points.

CMS received the top spot in the men's West Region Rankings. Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.) was ranked #2, Willamette held #3, and Occidental College (Calif.) was ranked #4. The University of La Verne (Calif.) gained the #5 position.

A total of five NWC teams were included on the men's West Region list. Willamette was joined by Lewis & Clark, which was ranked #6, the University of Puget Sound (#7), Whitworth University (#8), and George Fox University (#10).

Willamette is scheduled to open the 2013 season by hosting the Oak Knoll Loop Run on Saturday, Sept. 21. The event will be held at the Oak Knoll Golf Course, located between Salem and Independence, Ore.

USTFCCCA Cross Country Preseason Polls/Rankings

National Polls
NCAA Division III

Regional Rankings

NCAA Division III

Michaela Freeby finished third at last year's Northwest Conference meet, and placed ninth at the 2012 NCAA West Regional.

Michaela Freeby finished third at last year's Northwest Conference meet, and placed ninth at the 2012 NCAA West Regional.