Vikings host 31st annual WWU Invitational

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Head Coach Pee Wee Halsell
Head Coach Pee Wee Halsell

Oct. 4, 2004

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The Western Washington University men try to make it three straight titles, and the Viking women are looking to return to the top Saturday at the 31st annual WWU Cross Country Invitational meet which takes place at Lake Padden Park.

The 10-kilometer men's race starts at 10:30 a.m., the women follow with a 6-kilometer run at 11:45 a.m.

The Viking men have won team titles at three of the last four Western Invitationals, while the women last finished first in 2002 and placed fourth in 2003.

Western is joined by fellow Great Northwest Athletic Conference schools Central Washington, Seattle Pacific, Humboldt State, Alaska Anchorage, Northwest Nazarene and the Seattle U. (women only).

"It should be a very competitive meet," Viking head coach Pee Wee Halsell said. "It's sort of a precursor to the regional championships which will also be at Lake Padden Park, so it'll be interesting."

The men's field is stacked with regionally ranked teams. In the latest USA Cross Country/NCAA II poll, Alaska Anchorage is No.4, Seattle Pacific No.6, Western No.7 and Central No.9.

"Alaska Anchorage is ranked the highest, so they're probably the favorite," said Halsell. "Seattle Pacific is also running well, so it should be a good race."

The women's race features the only nationally ranked team at the Invitational, No.22 Seattle U. Regionally, the Redhawks are No.3, Central No.5, Seattle Pacific No.6, Alaska Anchorage No.7 and Western No.8.

"It should be a close race for the women," Halsell said. "The field features a lot of solid teams."

The Western men are led by Sam Brancheau (So., Edmonds/Edmonds-Woodway), who looks to be fully recovered from an early-season back injury.

"Sam ran well at Saint Martin's, but this is his first meet going at full strength," Halsell said. "He was one of our leaders in 2003."

Halsell also said he expects solid performances from Keever Henry (R-Fr., Kelso) and Logan Senrud (So., Bigfork, MT). Henry has been Western's top finisher in all three races he's competed in this fall.

Seattle U. is the favorite in the women's race, and Seattle Pacific is the defending champion. Leading Western is All-American Laura Trevellyan (Jr., Vashon) who has two top-5 finishes this season. She was the top collegiate woman finisher at last year's Invitational, placing fifth.

Two other top performers for the Vikings this season have been freshman Sara Thon (Bellingham/Squalicum) and junior Molly DePasqual (Jackson, WY/Jackson Hole)

"This is a very important meet for us," Halsell said. "It's our last regular-season meet, and it should determine who competes for us at the conference championships."

The Western men have won the WWU Invitational eight times, and the only women's title came two years ago.

With the GNAC Championships just two weeks away at Arcata, Calif., Halsell says improvement is as important as winning this weekend.

"It's always fun to win your home meet," Halsell said. "But we're just going to race hard and hopefully just keep on improving as a team."