By PJ Marcello, Staff Commentary
Men's cross country continues dominance with a WCC Championship. The women's team placed second with six runners from both men's and women's teams placing in the top 10
They ran 48 kilometers! Converted into our measure of distance, that is 238.6 miles. This is the combined distance of all the men's cross country races from the WCC Preview to capturing the men's WCC Championship on Oct. 27 at Fernhill Park in Portland.
Did I mention that this is the men's cross country team's thirty-third conference championship in 34 years? While many of their peers were recovering from nasty hangovers after those wicked Friday night Halloween parties, these men were out kicking all sorts of WCC ass around Fernhill Park, including the BYU Cougars, who ranked fifth in the country. The Pilots only loss in the WCC playoffs came last year when BYU took first place and UP ended with second.
Let's put this into perspective. The nationally recognized conference powerhouse in basketball, Gonzaga, has won 11 of the 26 conference championships played since 1987. Not too shabby, Gonzaga men's basketball, but that is a mere 42 percent winning record. We are rocking a sweltering 97 percent down here.
If conference championships were grades, the men's cross country team would have to prepare a graduation speech because they are the conference valedictorian.
Giving the speech would be seniors like Lars Erik Malde (ninth), Jared Bassett (thirteenth) and Charlie McDonald (eighteeth), who have all clearly made an impact in keeping the tradition of winning alive for the team.
The really impressive thing is this team has not even touched its potential yet. In addition to the strong finishes of the veteran leaders of the team, the youth of the program has the talent to do so for years to come.
I say this because the three Pilots who finished in the top five are all underclassmen, Scott Fauble (Redshirt-Freshman second), Woody Kincaid (Sophomore third), and David Perry (Redshirt-Freshman fifth). They also boast the award Freshman of the Year in Jacob Smith (twenieth) for finishing ahead of all other true freshman runners in the conference.
Speaking of young talent, the women's team finished second in their WCC Championship led by freshman Laura Hottenrott-Freitag (fifth), sophomore Tansey Lystad (eighth), with a trio of upperclassmen, senior Lyndy Davis, senior Gina Paletta and junior Natasha Verma finishing in spots 12-14 respectively.
In a sport that is often overlooked, it is about time the cross country team gets some credit for such an incredible feat. I personally take pride in what my peers have been able to accomplish, as well as those who came before. They have built a winning tradition that is sewn into the fabric of UP cross country.
It is time that cross country starts being recognized as the school's top sport. They have earned it by running their asses off (pretty much literally) for over three decades! If that does not get them some attention, I do not know what will.
Next time you see a cross country runner around campus, give him or her a pat on the back, or offer him or her some pieces of your Halloween candy haul. They certainly deserve some, but don't overdo it because they still have to represent the purple and white in the West Regionals on Nov. 9 in Seattle, Wash.