VANCOUVER, WA - Lewis-Clark State Cross Country is gearing up to compete on the largest stage of the season. Both the men and women will be racing in Vancouver on Friday morning at the NAIA National Championships looking to capitalize on this opportunity.
"We are excited about nationals as always," Head Coach Mike Collins said. "I think it can be easy to fall into a rut and expect to go every year, but very seldom have we been in a position where we felt we were comfortable getting in. Keeps the team hungry. This year was a little close on the women's side of things, but fortunately we made the cut."
The No. 12 men's team is coming off a second-place finish at the Cascade Conference Championships on November 5. After finishing third at nationals in 2019 at the same course in Vancouver and earning the best finish in program history, the men have the same high expectations two years later.
At the CCC meet, the Warriors were led by Cole Olsen, who finished second, followed by fellow seniors Clayton VanDyke (fifth place) and Chase Barrow (ninth place). All three individuals earned All-Cascade Conference honors by finishing in the top 15. Olsen, Barrow, and VanDyke are no strangers to this type of stage and have been competing together the last three years, including once on the Vancouver course. The fifth-year seniors look to lead this team to another strong finish, with goals of being in the top four as a team and earning All-American honors.
In his fifth trip to cross country nationals, Olsen is ready to take advantage of his last trip.
"I'm extremely optimistic heading back to Vancouver," Olsen said. "A lot of us have raced there before, and this will be my third time. I believe a lot of good things in cross country come from confidence in yourself, your team, and the course. The course itself is relatively similar to our home course, so that gives me some more confidence all around. To be frank, I don't have many goals beyond doing something that I can be proud of. All we can do is push ourselves with the skills and fitness that we have gained over the years and this season, don't need to ask for anything more."
Brycen Kempton and Brycen Brown were also scorers for the Warriors at conference and have been essential to the team throughout the season, along with Carter Gordon, Griffin Parsells, Connor Turpin, Dillon Dawson and David Phillis. They have added to the talented mix of runners that makes up this year's group and will be important contributors Friday.
"Assuming we are healthy on Friday, we should be a team in the hunt for a top-10 finish," Collins stated. "Three guys have led the team for the past three years and I am sure that both Cole and Chase will be reaching towards a third All-American recognition and Clayton will be right in the mix for his second. The key for us will be where the next two or three guys come in. Looks to be a wet and muddy race, but with it being the first race of the day, we hope that conditions won't negatively affect the outcome."
The women are nationals bound for the 21st straight season, although this year was a close call. After finishing fourth at the Cascade Conference Championships and falling just outside the top 25 post conference, they look to prove they deserve a spot at nationals this Friday. They have goals to earn a top 20 finish and hopefully add a few All-American recognitions as well.
Fifth-year senior Emily Adams enters her fifth trip to cross country nationals. She led the Warriors at conference with an eighth-place finish to earn all-conference, in which she has earned all five years of competing in the sport. Adams heads into nationals with confidence and will be a strong contender for an All-American finish, and sophomore Geraldin Correa should in the mix as well. Correa was the second Warrior to finish at the CCC race, coming in at 18th, and Rylee Brown was the third just behind her in 21st. Callie Johnson and Brooklyn Shell rounded on the top five for the Warriors and will be of much value come Friday. Abigail Peightal and Abigail Gorton will also be important racers in helping the Warriors reach their goal.
"I'm really excited for this race," Adams said. "It's my last time on a cross country course in an LC State jersey, so the plan is to give it all I got and don't hold back. This is my third time racing on this course, so I know how it runs and where the best points are to execute race strategies. I've developed a strong race plan with the coaches that will hopefully lead to another All-American finish. Physically, I feel strong and ready to race hard. I know my teammates are ready to show everyone we deserve to be there and I'm excited to have them with me for one last race."
Adams, Brown, and Johnson all raced the Vancouver course in 2019 when the team finished the season in 18th, and Adams was also a member of the 2017 team that raced at the historic park. They will be bringing this experience and course knowledge on race day.
"Women should be going into this with something to prove," Collins said. "Barely making the field and with a large number of national raters not even thinking we are in the top 30 should be enough to provide motivation to prove them wrong. Right now, we have designated our top seven runners, but this has been a season of ups and downs and right now, not sure who will be running on Friday. Will likely be putting the healthiest seven gals we have on the line."
The races will take place on the grounds of the Historic Fort Vancouver Park on Friday, November 19. The men will start the day off at 10:30a.m., followed by the women at 11:30a.m. A live stream will be available HERE and live stats available HERE.
The top 40 individuals will be recognized as All-Americans and the top four teams will bring home a trophy.