The Seattle University cross country team earns the honor of being the first Redhawk program to compete in a Western Athletic Conference championship event, as eight men and eight women are heading to Ruston, La., for the WAC Cross Country Championships Saturday, Oct. 27, at Lincoln Parish Park.
In a pre-championship poll conducted last week among the conference coaches, the Seattle U men's cross country team picked up two first place votes and finished third overall in the poll with 58 total points. The Redhawks women's team collected 40 total points from the coaches, good enough to finish sixth in the poll.
The Redhawk men will be led by seniors Erik Barkhaus (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) and Matthew McClement (Bellingham, Wash.), both of whom received conference honors during Seattle U's time in the Great West Conference. Barkhaus is a two-time WAC Male Cross Country Athlete of the Week who is expected to be among the leaders in Saturday's race, while McClement will be depended on for his leadership as captain to push the team to its best result possible.
Ryan Dennison (Pacifica, Calif.), Graham Kinzel-Grubbs (Portland, Ore.), Baxter Arguinchona (Spokane, Wash.), and Peter VanNuland (Newcastle, Wash.) finished within 30 seconds of each other at the Emerald City Open two weeks ago, and they will need to work together for a high team standing on Saturday. Collin Overbay (Spokane, Wash.) and Jeff Baklund (Auburn, Wash.) have shown the ability to run in that same group throughout the year, and their efforts will also be key to the Redhawks' success.
"We will have a great result as long as we're poised, confident, and focused. The men's team has been extremely successful so far this season, partly because they've had a great synergy and focus as a group. The training we've been doing to gear up for the conference meet should put us in an even stronger position. If everyone is healthy and keeps their wits about them once the gun goes off, I put no cap on what this team can accomplish," Seattle U head cross country coach Trisha Steidl said.
On the women's side, Hannah Mittelstaedt (Maple Valley, Wash.) has been Seattle U's top finisher in every race she has competed in over the past two years, and she is also coming off a First Team All-Great West performance last year. Jennifer Stolle (Seattle, Wash.) and Sophie Curatilo (Honolulu, Hawaii) ran together at the Emerald City Open, as did Madison Davis (Camano Island, Wash.) and Becca Lassere (Boise, Idaho).
Three runners who worked hard over the past two weeks round out the women's squad headed to Ruston: Elena Smith (Seattle, Wash.), Amy Tolentino (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.), and Justine Bates (Arlington, Wash.). In order for the Redhawk women to be competitive this weekend, everyone will need to produce their best efforts with several regionally-ranked programs involved in the event.
"It's going to require a true team effort for the women to accomplish what they're capable of this Saturday," said Steidl. "Our season has been rocky and not up to my, nor the women's team's, expectations. I believe things are coming together when they need to and we can produce good results this weekend."
The women's race is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Central time (7 a.m. Pacific time) Saturday, with the men's race set to begin at 10 a.m. local time (8 a.m. Pacific time). Results will be posted on GoSeattleU.com as well as the conference's official website (www.WACsports.com) as soon as they become available.