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September 3, 2010

PLU Cross Country Opens at Whitman Invitational

THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran at Whitman Invitational, 10:30 a.m.

OFF TO WALLA WALLA: For the second time in the last three years, Pacific Lutheran will open its cross country schedule at the Whitman Invitational at Fort Walla Walla. The competition begins at 10:30 a.m. with a men's 6,000-meter race, followed shortly thereafter by a women's 4,000-meter competition. The PLU men opened the 2008 campaign with a fourth-place finish out of eight teams at the Whitman event, while the women placed fifth out of six teams.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Lutes host one race this year, the annual PLU Invitational scheduled for Oct. 9 on the school's University Golf Course. The Northwest Conference championship meet, slated for Oct. 30, will be held at Ft. Steilacoom Park in Lakewood.

SEASON OUTLOOK: With a solid number of returnees and a large handful of solid new talent in the fold, the Pacific Lutheran women’s cross country team should have a good chance of improving on its sixth-place finish at the 2009 Northwest Conference championship meet. For the Lutes men, the challenge will be in finding replacements for half of the runners that competed at the conference meet. PLU placed seventh in the men’s race and hopes to mix the veterans with new talent into a solid team. On the women’s side, the Lutes return seven of the 10 runners, including its top three finishers, which competed at the conference championship. Suzy Olsen was PLU’s top runner throughout her frosh campaign and led the Lutes with a 17th-place performance at the NWC meet. Also returning are sophomore Katie Gebert and senior Mary Wuest, who finished 31st and 32nd, respectively, for PLU. Rounding out the list of top returnees are juniors Jill Kuschel and Erica Johnson and sophomores Sarah McDade and Chiarra Rose-Witt. Half of the group that represented the PLU men at last year’s conference meet are gone, and that leaves a challenge for senior John Phillips and junior Sean Andrascik to help the younger runners get up to collegiate cross country “speed” at a quick rate. Phillips has been Pacific Lutheran’s top conference meet finisher each of the last two years, including a 26th-place performance in 2009. Andrascik challenged Phillips for the top spot among the Lutes throughout last season and ended up 29th in the NWC meet. Rounding out the list of returnees who ran at last year’s conference championships are junior Barrett Bollen and sophomores Kolter Grigsby and Nathaniel Allen-Slaba. Alex Martin, a junior, figures to return to form and move back into the top seven after struggling throughout the 2009 season with a knee injury.

- PLU -