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Washington State Cross Country


Cougar Cross Country Runners Open Season At Whitworth

September 1, 1998

PULLMAN, Wash. - The Washington State University men's and women's cross country squads open the 1998 fall schedule with the first of seven straight meets beginning with the Whitworth Invitational Saturday, Sept. 5 in Spokane.

The women's 4,000-meter race and men's 6,000-meter race will be held at the Whitworth campus. The Cougar contingent, who will compete against runners from Idaho, Gonzaga, Community College of Spokane and host Whitworth, will predominantly feature freshmen runners.

"The freshmen need to run some college races to work their nerves out," said Dr. James Li, who this summer was officially promoted as head coach of the WSU cross country programs. "It's tough for freshmen to go out and compete in top college races. This meet will be a little more low-key and give them a chance to get some good work in."

That's not to say that freshmen don't figure into the mix of WSU's top seven runners this fall. "This is probably the best year of recruiting the state talent I've had on both the men's and women's side," said Li. "We have so many freshmen who were the top runners in high school."

Li will get his first glimpse of newcomers such as Scott Johnson (Bellevue, Wash./Sammamish) and Mark Wicklander (Tacoma, Wash./Franklin Pierce). Johnson was the runner-up at the state cross country meet, while Wicklander was also among the top ten finishers. Oscar Franco-Parra, originally from Mexico, competed the last two seasons at Sunset High in Portland, Ore. He was the runner-up at last year's state meet in Oregon.

The women's squad is full of new faces, including nine freshmen on the current roster. Jamie Miller (Spokane, Wash./University) was a top ten runner at the state cross country meet and placed second in the 1,600 and 3,200 races during track season. April Gagner (Yelm, Wash./Yelm) was fifth at last year's state cross country meet and looks to have recovered from a hip injury she suffered during track season. Ryan Gilmore (Seattle/Ballard) was one of the top distance runners in the state last year. She finished third in the 3,200 race last spring. The Cougars also have the services of Charlotte Neal, who redshirt last fall. On the track, the freshman ran significant personal best times.

NOTES - Li is the first Asian to earn a head coaching position in either track and field or cross country at the NCAA Division I level. "It's a great honor for me," said WSU's coach. "I'm grateful to Rick Sloan (WSU's head track and field coach) and Rick Dickson (WSU's athletics director) for the opportunity."

He also changed his name from Li Li to James Li this May after he became a naturalized citizen.

Washington State University Cross Country

Washington State Cougars Cross Country