Willamette Selected to Host NCAA West Regional in Cross Country

Races will be Held at Oak Knoll Golf Course on Nov. 15, 2014

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University has been selected to host the next NCAA Division III West Regional in cross country at the Oak Knoll Golf Course near Independence, Ore., on Nov. 15, 2014. The Bearcats previously hosted the West Regional at Oak Knoll in 2012, and hosted the event at Bush's Pasture Park in Salem, Ore., in 2001, 2005, 2008 and 2010.

"We are honored that the NCAA has selected Willamette to serve as the host of the 2014 Division III West Region Cross Country Championship," Willamette Director of Athletics David Rigsby said. "It is a testament to our tradition of outstanding runners and coaches and our commitment to host the premier track and cross country meets in the West."

"It is always a wonderful situation when Willamette is selected to host NCAA regional events," Willamette President Stephen E. Thorsett said. "We are proud that Willamette has been chosen to host the West Regional in cross country next fall. It will be a great time for the entire Willamette community to see our student-athletes compete in one of the most important meets of the season."

The new NCAA championship bid process creates the largest host site announcement ever, spanning 82 championships across a four-year cycle for many of the events. Previously, selection announcements varied by sport. This process now gives the NCAA and host sites more time to plan each championship experience.

Bidding for 82 of 89 NCAA championships began in July and 1,984 bid applications were ultimately submitted. Each sport committee, per division, selected the host sites it believed would provide the ultimate experience for the respective student-athletes, resulting in 523 total championship event sites awarded.

“We really want to thank everyone who put in a bid,” said Mark Lewis, NCAA executive vice president of championships and alliances. “The competitiveness of the bids made it extremely difficult for the sport committees to select sites as there just weren’t spots for all of the great bids we received. Ultimately the sites that were selected will provide our student-athletes, coaches and fans the best experience possible.”

In Division III cross country, the Championship sites for the next four years were announced along with six of the Regional sites for the 2014 season. The announcement of Willamette as a Regional host followed a very successful season by the Bearcats this fall.

The Willamette women's cross country team placed second and Michaela Freeby (Jr., Milwaukie, OR/Rex Putnam HS) won the individual title at 2013 NCAA West Regional, which was hosted by Pomona-Pitzer in Claremont, Calif. The WU women's squad received an automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Freeby went on to finish eighth at the NCAA Championships, leading the Bearcats to 12th place in the team standings.

Willamette's men took third place at the West Regional this fall. Parker Bennett (Sr., Sisters, OR/Sisters HS) placed second at the West Regional and received an individual bid to the NCAA Championships, where he placed 32nd.

Freeby and Bennett received All-America honors as a result of their top 35 finishes at the NCAA Championships. Freeby was named NCAA West Region Women's Athlete of the Year.

A few weeks earlier in the season, Willamette won the men's team title and the women's team title at the Northwest Conference Championships. Bennett won his second consecutive NWC men's championship in the 8-kilometer race, while Freeby won the NWC women's championship in the 6-kilometer race.

Head Coach Matt McGuirk was named NWC Men's Coach of the Year and NWC Women's Coach of the Year.

The Bearcat men won their 21st NWC team titles and 10th title since 2001. The WU women's team recorded its ninth NWC championship since 2000.

Willamette is proud to host the West Regional in cross country.

Willamette will host the 2014 NCAA Division III West Regional in cross country.

Willamette will host the 2014 NCAA Division III West Regional in cross country.