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October 26, 2011

Lutes Running for Upper Half Finish at NWC

THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran competes at the Northwest Conference Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Willamette Mission State Park in Brooks, Ore. The men's 8000-meter race is scheduled for an 11 a.m. start.

2010 CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS: Whitworth won the 2010 conference title, placing four of the top seven on the way to 33 points. Willamette was second with 36 points, followed by Lewis & Clark with 66. Rounding out the team scoring were Linfield 116, George Fox 160, Whitman 162, Pacific 185, Puget Sound 202 and PLU 240. Willamette's Leo Castillo won the race with a time of 25:18.66, and he will be back this year to defend his title.

TEAMS TO BEAT: There are five Northwest Conference teams currently ranked in the West Region of the cross country coaches poll, and the top two are considered favorites to win this year's conference title. Willamette is No. 4 in the West Region poll, followed one spot back by defending conference champion Whitworth. Linfield is No. 6 in the poll, while Lewis & Clark is No. 8 and Whitman is No. 9.

BEEN THERE BEFORE: Pacific Lutheran has run at Willamette Mission State Park, the site of this Saturday's NWC meet, and getting familiar with the course was the reason that PLU head coach Heather Kreier chose to run at the Sept. 24 Linfield Preview. Sophomore Alan DenAdel took first place in the men's portion of the Linfield Preview, clocking 26:07.51 over 8000 meters and beating runner-up Arian Anderson from Linfield by almost nine full seconds. Linfield won that meet with 26 points, followed by Pacific with 44, PLU with 62 and George Fox with 120. Those were the only NWC teams competing that day.

LUTES LOOKING FOR MAJOR IMPROVEMENT: You would have to go all the way back to the 2001 season to find a Pacific Lutheran men's team that finished in the upper half at the Northwest Conference championship meet, and that team placed fourth. That is the goal of this year's team at Saturday's race. With nine teams in the conference, an upper-half finish would mean fourth or better. That would be a major improvement over a year ago when the Lutes struggled at the championship race and finished ninth. What would make an upper-half finish even more impressive is that this year's team has only one newcomer to the team (freshman Nathan Brewster), in addition to the fact that PLU's top finisher from a year ago, senior John Phillips, has finished his collegiate eligibility. What gives the team so much hope is the strong running of sophomore Alan DenAdel, who sets the team pace as one of the top runners in the conference, plus some solid performances by other members of the team during several of this year's five races. Racing for the Lutes on Saturday, in addition to DenAdel, are seniors Sean Andrascik, Alex Martin and Barrett Bollen, junior Kolter Grigsby, and sophomores Kyle Smith and Eric Herde.

COACH HEATHER KREIER SAYS: "The men (are) forecast at seventh place with the potential of earning as high as fourth if all athletes are on point at the same time.  Alan DenAdel is ranked top three in (the) NWC and has a good chance at hitting second or better at the NWC Championships.  (The) team is rested and excited to race."

MORE RACE HISTORY: Willamette has won eight of the last 10 conference championships, but Whitworth has been victorious in two of the last three (2008 and 2010). Pacific Lutheran last won a NWC men's cross country crown in 1997 when Ryan Pauling led his team with a first-place individual finish, but PLU has not finished in the top three since 1999. PLU was the dominant men's program in the Northwest Conference in the 1980s and early 90s, winning nine straight championships between 1984 and 1992.

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