Eastern finds high altitude of Pocatello tough to overcome
The Eastern Washington University men’s and women’s cross country teams both placed seventh at the Big Sky Conference Championships on Saturday (Oct. 29) in Pocatello, Idaho.
In the preseason polls, the men and women were predicted to finish fifth and seventh, respectively.
One of the major challenges in this year’s championship was the altitude of Pocatello at 4,462 feet. Couple that with constant up and down hills, and the course was nothing less than grueling for the Eagles.
“The altitude can be more of a mental thing,” said head coach Chris Zeller. “You have to make sure not to go out too quickly early on or you’ll get in oxygen debt. We were conservative, but we’d be toast if we tried to push hard early on.”
Senior Tonya Turner, Eastern’s top women runner throughout the season, finished 22nd overall. It was the first time this season the Spokane, Wash., native has finished outside the top ten.
Rounding out the top five women were freshman Katie Mahoney (36th), senior Stephanie Dye (41st), freshman Dani Moon (45th) and sophomore Micaela Rasmussen (48th). Although as a team, Eastern didn’t perform as well as it wanted, Zeller was pleasantly surprised by Moon’s effort.
“The women finished where they were predicted to finish, but we definitely wanted to do better,” said Zeller. “Tonya looked like she was working pretty hard early on in the race. The highlight for us was Dani Moon. She was one of the last additions to our roster and ended up having a very solid race today.”
On the men’s side, junior Simon Sorensen led the Eagle squad for the first time this season, finishing 19th overall. Seniors Bowe Ebding and Graham Vaux took 22nd and 23rd, respectively. All three runners crossed the line within 16 seconds of each other.
“Simon had his best race of the year,” said Zeller. “He did a great job with being conservative in the high altitude. But I know Bowe and Graham were a little disappointed on how they did individually. Those three guys are as good as anyone one else’s top three in the conference.”
Junior Jordan Curnutt, a last-second addition to the men’s roster, was Eastern’s fourth finisher in 50th place. Freshman Nathan Fall placed 55th.
The Eagles will wrap up the 2011 season in Stanford, Calif., at the NCAA West Regionals.
“It’s nice for the seniors to have Regionals as a chance to redeem themselves and go out on a different note,” said Zeller. “Eastern is at a low altitude, so it will be nice to finish on a low altitude course. It’s tough to finish your season at (4,462) feet.”