NWC MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY | Sixth Straight NWC Title Predicted for Bearcats

The Willamette men’s cross country team enters the 2017 season as the favorite to win its sixth straight Northwest Conference title, according to a poll of the nine NWC head coaches.
The Willamette men’s cross country team enters the 2017 season as the favorite to win its sixth straight Northwest Conference title, according to a poll of the nine NWC head coaches.

Rk.

Team (1st)

Pts.

’16 NWC Score

’16 West Region

1.

Willamette (7)

68

36

5th

2.

Pacific Lutheran (2)

59

81

8th

3.

Whitworth

46

118

14th

4.

Lewis & Clark

43

132

10th

5.

Whitman

34

90

12th

6.

George Fox

30

138

11th

7.

Puget Sound

27

139

15th

8.

Linfield

18

161

13th

9.

Pacific (Ore.)

8

272

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(Points awarded on an 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Coaches could not vote for their own teams.)

 

HILLSBORO, Ore. — The Willamette men’s cross country team enters the 2017 season as the favorite to win its sixth straight Northwest Conference title, according to a poll of the nine NWC head coaches.

The five-time defending NWC champion Bearcats were picked to win a sixth straight title after earning seven first place votes and 68 total points.  Last season, Willamette had four runners in the top nine spots at the NWC Championships and is slated to return four of its top five runners from last season’s conference meet, including Patrick Loftus (Sr., Healdsburg, Calif.). Loftus finished second at the 2016 NWC Championships and eighth at the NCAA Division III West Regional. The Bearcats finished fifth as a team at the 2016 NCAA Division III West Regional in Salem, Ore.

Reigning Northwest Conference individual champion Brad Hodkinson (Jr., Snohomish, Wash.) returns for Pacific Lutheran, which is picked to finish second with two first place votes and 59 points. The Lutes scored 81 points to finish second at the NWC Championships last season and then went on to finish eighth at the west regional meet. Hodkinson is coming off an incredible 2016 that saw him win the NWC cross country title to earn NWC Runner of the Year, before winning the West Regional title and earning NCAA Division III All-America honors with a 35th place finish last year at the NCAA Division III National Championships.

After finishing fourth at the 2016 NWC Championships, Whitworth was projected to finish third with 46 points. The Pirates, who finished 14th at the NCAA Division III West Regional will look to Grant Bingham (Sr., Portland, Ore.) to lead its roster into 2017, a year after Bingham finished fifth at the conference meet and 31st in the west region.

Lewis & Clark was picked fourth with 43 points after running to a fifth-place finish at the NWC Championships in 2016. The Pioneers were led at last year’s conference championships by Blake Slattengren (Sr., Kenmore, Wash.) and Liam Monheim (So., Southborough, Mass.), who finished third and fourth, respectively, and will be looked upon to lead the way for Lewis & Clark in 2017. Lewis& Clark posted a 10th place finish at last season’s regional competition as Monheim finished seventh and went on to compete at the NCAA Division III National Championships in Louisville, Ky.

The Whitman Blues were forecasted to finish fifth with 34 points following a third-place finish at the 2016 conference meet. Whitman’s top returning finisher from last season is Eli Fournier (So., Boulder, Colo.), who finished 19th at the conference championship and third among the Blues’ finishers.

After finishing sixth at the conference meet last season, George Fox was picked to finish sixth once again with 30 total points. The Bruins’ top finisher, Spencer Elmore (Jr., Quincy, Wash.), will look to lead George Fox this season after finishing 18th individually at the conference meet last season.

Puget Sound was slated to finish seventh with 27 points, a repeat of the Loggers’ final position from a season ago. Jack Monaghan (So., Oak Park, Ill.) finished 21st at last season’s NWC Championships and is among the Loggers top returners entering the 2017 season.

Slotting in at eighth in the preseason poll is the Linfield Wildcats with 18 points after an eight-place finish at the conference meet last season. The Wildcats’ top two finishers from last season have graduated, leaving Linfield to look toward Calvin Ong (Jr., Clackamas, Ore.) after he finished 35th a year ago.

Wrapping up the projected standings in ninth is Pacific (Ore.) with eight points. The Boxers will rely on the experience of seniors Logan Naegeli (Trout Creek, Mont.) and Kyle Eisenbeis (Bothell, Wash.) in 2017 after the duo finished 57th and 72nd, respectively at the 2016 conference meet.

After winning the NWC title for the fifth straight season, Willamette finished the year ranked fourth in the final USTFCCCA Division III West Region Poll.

The start of the 2017 NWC men’s cross country schedule is slated for September 1, when Lewis & Clark and Pacific meet in a dual meet, George Fox and Linfield compete at the Linfield Harrier Classic and Whitworth travels to Montana for the Clash of the Inland Northwest. Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound get started on Sept. 2 at the Puget Sound Invitational, while Willamette opens in Monmouth, Ore. at the Ash Creek Invitational on Sept. 8. Whitman will begin its season at the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle on Sept. 16.

The Northwest Conference Championship is scheduled for October 28 at Veterans Memorial Golf Course in Walla Walla, Wash., hosted by Whitman.