2012 WWU Men's and Women's Cross Country Preview
Aug. 21, 2012
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Both of the Western Washington University cross country teams are looking to extend lengthy NCAA Division II national championship appearance strings this fall, but the task appears easier for the men than the women.
"These are both solid programs," said head coach Pee Wee Halsell (26th year). "With five of the top seven returning, the men's team should do well right from the start. The women are very young, but I look for them to improve rapidly throughout the season."
The Viking men lost only two of their top seven runners from last year's team that placed 10th at nationals, the school's fourth straight top 10 national finish and fifth consecutive trip overall. Leading those returnees are their top two 2011 national finishers, junior Dak Riek (Everett/Mariner), who was 50th, and senior Tyler Cannon (Kennewick/Kamiakin), who was 54th.
The WWU women graduated three of seven national competitors from a team that finished 12th while extending its consecutive appearances to four. Heading the returnees is sophomore Katelyn Steen, who was 58th at nationals.
The Viking men placed third at the West Regional and second at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships, while the women were fourth at regionals and third in the league meet.
Riek was both a regional and conference all-star, placing 22nd and 10th, respectively. Cannon earned GNAC all-star honors, finishing fifth.
Completing the national returnees are senior Kyle Johnson (Nine Mile Falls/Lakewside) and juniors Dylan Peterson (Seattle/Garfield) and Tanner Boyd (Camas). Boyd was 88th, Johnson 89th and Peterson 131st.
Another talented returnee is junior Chip Jackson (Shoreline/Shorewood), who placed 138th at nationals in 2010.
Four top newcomers include transfer Nathan Richards (Longview/R.A. Long), a junior from Clark CC, and a pair of freshmen. Max Romey (Anchorage/Service), who placed second at the Alaska Class 4A state championships, and Hayden Palmer (Prescott, AZ), who finished third at the Arizona Division II state championships.
On the women's side, Steen placed 22nd at regionals to earn all-star honors. Two more national finishers back for WWU, also sophomores, are Haley O'Connor (Sammamish/Eastlake), who was 99th, and Mikhaila Thornton (Bend, OR/Mountainview), who was 117th.
Graduation claimed the rest of the Vikings' national contingent, led by four-time participant Lauren Breihof, a 2009 All-American and a two-time GNAC all-star. Also gone are three-time national competitors Sierra Brisky and Rachael Johnson, who placed 16th at regionals, and two-time participant Phoebe Hartnett.
WWU is counting on a trio of talented freshmen to mesh with their sophomores. They are Taylor Graham (Burlington/Burlington-Edison), Skagit Valley Herald Runner of the Year; Taylor Guenther (Vancouver/Prairie) and Austen Reiter (Camas), who placed seventh in the 5,000 meters at the Class 3A state track championships.
Another key newcomer is junior Juan Castillo (Lake Stevens), a transfer from Everett CC.
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