Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams had successful seasons last year. The women’s team made the national championships, and ended up in seventh place “out of probably 350 teams total,” according to coach Brit Townsend. The men’s team just missed the national championships, however, they “were very strong in the west regional championship,” said Townsend.
Now entering their third year in the NCAA, both teams are championship contenders, with a pre-season poll ranking the women’s team as first in the GNAC and the men’s as third.
To get there, though, both teams will have to work hard. “We have to qualify for the West regional championship in Billings, Montana in November and they will take six teams from our region to qualify for the national championship [. . .] in the beginning of December,” observed Townsend.
The men’s team is likely to feature last year’s GNAC freshman of the year Oliver Jorgensen as their lead runner, a position he served last season. It should be noted that the Abbotsford native narrowly missed making the cut for the national championships as an individual by just five seconds.
The team will also be bolstered by two freshman from Sherbrooke, Quebec: Phillipe Gravel and Marc-Antoine Rouleau. Townsend stated that the duo “for sure, will be a huge factor” and “will make an immediate impact on [the] program.”
Travis Vugteveen, who was redshirted last year, will run this year. Townsend described him as one of the “top cross country guys.”
Junior Cameron Proceviat, who was one of the “strongest track runners last year,” rounds out the team along with freshman Max Drummer, sophomore Ephraime Tadresse, and senior Austin Trapp. “I would say those would be our key men for this upcoming cross country season,” said Townsend.
The coach explained the drive behind the men’s team: “Their goal is to make the national championships, because they didn’t make it last year.”
On the other hand, the women’s team did make the national championships last year, and thus their goal is to beat, or at least match their placing last year.
“Our goal would be definitely to be in the top 10 again, as we were last year, and hopefully [we can do] even better if everyone’s healthy,” said Townsend.
The team will, however, have to contend with a changing roster, losing last year’s lead runner Lindsey Butterworth, whose NCAA eligibility for cross-country ended last season. As a result, the team is young, with no seniors whatsoever.
“We have lost two seniors that were key people, my top two seniors,” Townsend told The Peak. “It’s a very young team; we actually have no seniors at all other than Jennifer Johnson who is a grad student. The rest are freshmen, sophomores, or juniors.”
However, she is confident that with the new additions (including Johnson, Paige Nock, Miryam Bassett and Julia Howley) that the team will still be a force to contend with. Returners include Rebecca Bassett, Emma Chadsey (“one of our top runners last year”), Kansas Mackenzie and Peggy Noel.
Townsend maintained that both teams need to focus on closing the gap behind their front-runners. As points are awarded to the top five runners of the team, it would be advantageous to have the runners behind first place closer together.
“The thing we have to work on most is to have as many people close together in competition, so as close as they can be to our top runner. That way, our gap from first place to fifth place, or even seventh place, is not very big. That’s our best chance of beating other teams.”
For now, though, Townsend likes what she sees, saying, “The next couple of years for us look really good on both sides; we’ve got some really good new people.”
Both teams open up their season at the Ash Creek Invitational in Monmouth, OR on Friday, September 12.