By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- The Willamette University women's cross country team has been picked to finish second in the Northwest Conference according to the 2019 NWC Women's Cross Country Preseason Poll. All nine head coaches voted in the poll, but none could vote for their own team.
Whitworth University, which placed second at last year's NWC Championships, was selected in this year's poll to win the NWC title. The Pirates received four first place votes and 58 total points. Willamette, which won the 2018 NWC Championship, was listed second in the poll with two first place votes and 56 points. Willamette's championship last fall was the 11th NWC title won by the Bearcat women's team since 2000, including a string of five in a row from 2002 through 2006.
Third place in this year's poll was held by Whitman College with two first place votes and 50 points. Pacific University followed in fourth place with 37 points, while Pacific Lutheran University was fifth with one first place vote and 32 points. University of Puget Sound held sixth place with 30 points and George Fox University was seventh with 27 points. Lewis & Clark College and Linfield College tied for eight in the poll with 17 points.
Two of Willamette's five runners who scored at the 2018 NWC Championshps are back for this season. Kyla Shade (Sr., Snohomish, WA/Snohomish HS) placed sixth at last year's NWC meet, while Audrey Piacsek (So., Ellensburg, WA/Ellensburg HS) took 15th place.
Willamette opened the season at the Ash Creek Invitational on Friday, Sept. 6. Three first-year runners led the way for the Bearcats. Emelia Sherman (Fy., Springfield, OR/Springfield HS) placed 21st, while April Holland (Fy., Warrensburg, MO/Warrensburg HS) was 23rd and Sam Smith (Fy., Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) was 24th. WU placed overall behind the University of Oregon and Western Oregon University.
The Bearcats will compete again on Friday, Sept. 20 at the Sundowner Invitational, hosted by Western Oregon University at 5 p.m. (PDT).
In just a few weeks, the Bearcats will host the 45th Annual Charles Bowles Willamette Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 5 at Bush's Pasture Park. Each year, the event is one of the largest on the West Coach with two men's races and two women's races featuring NAIA, NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III teams, plus junior colleges and club teams.
2019 NWC Women's Cross Country Preseason Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Whitworth (4), 58 points, 2nd place tie in NWC in 2018
2. Willamette (2), 56 points, 1st place in NWC in 2018
3. Whitman (2), 50 points, 3rd place in NWC in 2018
4. Pacific, 37 points, 4th place in NWC in 2018
5. Pacific Lutheran (1), 32 points, 6th place in NWC in 2018
6. Puget Sound, 30 points, 5th place in NWC in 2018
7. George Fox, 27 points, 7th place in NWC in 2018
8. (tie) Lewis & Clark, 17 points, 9th place in NWC in 2018
(tie) Linfield, 17 points, 8th place in NWC in 2018
Note: Points were awarded on an 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Coaches could not vote for their own team.