Aug. 28, 2000
WSU WOMEN'S TEAM PREVIEW
Coach James Li is very enthusiastic about the Cougar women's cross country team this fall. With two All-American seniors to lead the way, it's easy to see the basis for his anticipation.
"This will be a pretty exciting year for the women," Li said. "For sure it is the best team I've had since I started coaching women at WSU five years ago."
Megan Maynard, a cross country All-American two years ago, is back and ready for her final season. Maynard, from Langley, Wash., had a down year as a junior after suffering some physical problems in addition to needing to take time off last spring for personal reasons. Li said she's been training very well this past summer and is in very good shape. Her experience will be invaluable to the team's efforts in 2000.
Alishia Booterbaugh is an All-American in the 800m who trained and competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials. With only eligibility left in cross country, this is Booterbaugh's last hurrah as a collegian. Primarily a middle distance runner, Booterbaugh will be at a little bit more of a disadvantage since the women's courses are moving from 5000 meters to 6000 meters.
"It really is how it plays in your mind," Li said of the increase in distance. "Since this is Alishia's last season in college, she can forget about the middle distance part and just be a runner. She says she's ready to run six miles at a pretty good pace."
A pair of Cougar returning runners who had break through seasons last year are junior Ryan Gilmore and sophomore Greta Johnson. Gilmore clocked PRs week after week during the spring track season, taking 30-40 seconds off her time every time she ran. Johnson, from the small town of Potlatch, Idaho, had very little formal training in high school so Li said her freshman year was a transition time for her to adjust to the much more demanding collegiate running.
"Greta held up really well last year, even after beginning the cross country season with recovering from an injury and surgery," Li said. "She started moving up and by the time she got to the regionals, she was our number one runner, finishing 29th, as a freshman." Johnson also ran PRs during the track season, finishing seventh in the 5000m at the Pac-10 Championships.
"Megan, Alishia, Ryan and Greta will be our big four," Li said. "They've proven themselves in competition."
Two newcomers with solid credentials coming into the program are Ana Cabrera and Anna Blue. Cabrera, a freshman from Vancouver, Wash., finished seventh in the girls' 3A state meet last year. Blue transferred from Northern Arizona after red-shirting her freshman year and was a top prep runner two years ago at Olympia's Capital High.
Squad members looking to contribute are juniors April Gagner, Charlotte Neel, and Jenny Filipy. Gagner and Neel have not fully recovered from their foot injuries so are questionable. Li said Filipy made great improvements last year.
Freshman Angelita "Chrissy" Green is a freshman 800m runner from Long Beach, Calif., who Li will not push too much in her first cross country season. "This is a very solid team and deeper than we've ever been," Li said.
WSU MEN'S TEAM PREVIEW
Depth will be a big concern for the Cougar men's team in 2000 according to coach James Li.
"We have good quality but it is a relatively young team especially in terms of their competitive level," Li said. "We had the same group of athletes last year and they showed so much promise at the beginning of the year, we thought we would take a team to nationals. This same team that showed so much potential in the early season faded toward the end of the season."
Two cases of mononucleosis among the top five runners last fall resulted in a near disaster at the end of the year.
Junior Oscar Franco-Parra brings the top credentials to the team. Two years ago Franco-Parra, from Beaverton, Ore., was one of the top freshmen at the national championships. Last year he had a sophomore slump as he was bothered with nagging injuries. Li predicts he'll be ready to go this year.
Jon Welsh, a sophomore from Carmichael, Calif., should be a major factor, joining with Franco-Parra to be the front runners. Welsh had mono during the fall, but ran a 30:04 time in the 10k last spring on the track. He will miss the pre-season practices because of his obligations to his ROTC scholarship which has him parachuting in Georgia.
Ian Johnson, a sophomore from Spokane, Wash., saw his freshman season evaporate after contracting a severe case of mono.
"This year should be different," Li said. "Ian Johnson is still not fully recovered from his mono and he couldn't do any consistent training during the summer. We'll try to ease him into shape. Being competitive at this level against the runners in the Pac-10, it will probably take more than a couple of weeks to get ready."
Li expects sophomore Kyle Barker and junior Scott Johnson to be among the top Cougar runners. Both ran well in the steeplechase last spring with significant time improvements. Li counts on them as solid cross country runners who have been training well during the summer.
Missing from the Cougar lineup will be junior Mark Wicklander who has not returned to school for fall semester because of family obligations.
The remaining spots will be filled by newcomers. Freshman Kurt Hicks, from Glide, Ore., placed in the top ten at the past two Oregon state cross country champions and showed Li potential.
"Kurt is from a very small school but I feel sometimes that is a plus for us and these kids can do well for us," Li said. "After the small town kids get some sophisticated training here, they improve and get into the good stage."
Other freshmen who could have an impact on this team this year are Jim Neeway, and Mike Merrick.
Neeway, from Sandy, Utah, was one of the top runners in West regional last year, finishing third in the senior race. Merrick, from Bellevue High, Bellevue, Wash., was 17th and his prep team finished fifth in state 3A cross country last year.
"I think these guys will be training and improving and filling in the spots," Li said.
WSU 2000 SCHEDULE
The Cougars stay in the Northwest for the first month and then venture to the Midwest and Northern California in October.
The Pre-NCAA Invitational in Ames, Iowa, will be a key to the Cougar men's and women's team returning for the national championships.
"Only the top two teams from the region get automatic bids to go to the NCAA but our region is so strong, five or six teams go every year," Li said. "In order to be selected for an at-large bid, we need to go to these big meets like Ames, Iowa, and establish our record there and score some wins against teams from other regions to give us credibility."
Li predicts Stanford will win the Pac-10 titles on both the men's and women's sides. Going out on a limb, Li thinks Arizona State will be vying for top honors on both sides, followed by 1999 men's champs Arizona. On the men's side, Oregon and Washington will follow with WSU making a strong showing. In the women's team competition, Li feels Washington will vie for a fourth place and WSU will be in the mix for the top five with a defeat of UCLA a must for a spot at the NCAAs.
"The Pac-10 is so good, every year we have five or six teams ranked in the top 20 nationally," Li said. "So a team can be in the top 20 in the nation but only finish sixth in the conference. It is a challenge."
WASHINGTON STATE MEN'S & WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY 2000 SCHEDULE
DATE DAY MEET LOCATION September 2 Saturday Inland Empire XC Classic Coeur d'Alene, Idaho September 8 Friday Idaho Invitational Moscow, Idaho September 16 Saturday WSU XC Invitational Pullman September 23 Saturday Sundodger Invitational Seattle September 30 Saturday Big Cross Pasco October 7 Saturday Open October 14 Saturday Pre-NCAA Invitational Ames, Iowa October 21 Saturday Open October 28 Saturday Pac-10 Championships Seattle November 4 Saturday Open November 11 Saturday NCAA West Regional Fresno November 20 Monday NCAA Championships Ames, Iowa