WWU to face toughest regular-season challenge Saturday at Spokane

Eric Brill

Sept. 23, 2011

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Western Washington University cross country teams, both ranked among the top 25 nationally, face their toughest regular-season challenge Saturday as they compete in the Runners Soul Erik Anderson Cross Country Invitational at the Plantes Ferry Complex.

The Vikings, whose men are ranked 19th and women 23rd in the latest United State Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Top 25 Poll, will be competing on the same course that the NCAA Division II West Regional and national championships are to held over a three-week stretch in November.

In all, 29 colleges and over 500 athletes are competing in the collegiate portion of the event with the women's race beginning at 10:45 a.m. and the men's run at 11:30 a.m. The majority of the schools in both the West and Central regions will be competing, including eight of the 10 Great Northwest Athletic Conference schools of which WWU is a member.

Both Viking squads are expected to be at full strength for the first time this season for head coach Pee Wee Halsell (25th year).

Making her first appearance for the women this season is All-American Lauren Breihof (Sr., Vancouver/Mountain View), and men's team captain Eric Brill (Sr., Kent/Kentwood) will be running at full strength in his second competition of the season.

Last week at the Sundodger Invitational, the WWU women placed third among 17 teams and the men 10th among 21 squads.

Freshman Katelyn Steen (Sammamish/Eastlake) has led the Viking women in each of their first two weeks, winning at the Central Washington Invitational and placing 10th at the Sundodger.

Tyler Cannon (Jr., Kennewick/Kamiakin), a transfer from Brigham Young, paced the WWU men last week, finishing seventh.

Cross country captain will return after injury

by James Kozanitis, The Western Front

Despite developing a knee injury over the summer that she feared would keep her out the entire 2011-12 season, Western women's cross country captain Lauren Breihof expects to participate in the team's upcoming meet on Saturday, Sept. 24, in Spokane.

In addition to being the captain, Breihof was All-American in 2009 and is currently the only returning All-American cross country runner on the roster. Breihof said her injury is a mechanical problem, stemming from all sorts of different factors.

"My hips are kind of weak," Breihof said. "I was running in the wrong shoes over long distances. It started to cause lots of pain."

Breihof said the injury was revealed to be IT Band Tendonitis. She said the pain peaked at a Vancouver USA marathon on June 19 in Vancouver. She was able to finish the marathon, but Breihof attributed that success to adrenaline, and said the last five miles were incredible painful for her.

Breihof finished it in 2 hours 54 minutes and 8 seconds, but after, she said realized something was wrong with her knees.

Immediately, she started taping up her legs in an effort to correct the problem so it would not happen again. But as Western's cross country team took off at Sundodger Invitational on Sept. 17, Breihof did not.

"We toyed with the idea of running her, and I was open to it," Western coach Pee Wee Halsell said. "But we didn't end up doing it."

Breihof said she did not feel ready to run that week and wanted another solid week of training. Halsell said her presence was missed, but his team still took third place in the meet.

The prognosis, Breihof said, is good. Although she is admittedly scared of any sort of recurrence, probably because this is her first major injury in four years, Breihof said, she has worked out solid for the past week, having good, pain-free runs.

Last week, Breihof noticed some bruising around the affected area, and was worried about a flare-up. At the same time, she noticed the tape was starting to irritate her. After taking off the tape, once and for all, the bruising went away.

"It was my crutch I had leaned on all summer," Breihof said. "I didn't need it anymore."

As for the rest of the year, Breihof said she is both anxious and excited. Given her injury, and her admitted tendency to be hard on herself, she wonders if her performance this year can match that of last year.

"I may not have the fast races now, but I believe I can get there by nationals and regionals where it really counts," Breihof said.

Halsell and Breihof are confident she will run in the Runners Soul Erik Anderson XC Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Plantes Ferry Sports Complex in Spokane.