Cross Country Stays Close to Home for the Inland Northwest Challenge in Spokane

Women’s team hoping to improve off of last year’s third-place finish

With the Big Sky Conference Championships quickly approaching, Eastern Washington University men’s and women’s cross country teams will participate in the Inland Northwest Cross Country Challenge this Friday (Oct. 14) at Spokane Falls Community College. The women will run 5,000 meters, while the men run 8,000.

The meet will be the last race Eastern runs until the conference championships in Pocatello, Idaho, on Oct. 29.

Last year, at the same meet, former Eagle Amy Kolin won the event, helping lead EWU to a third-place finish. This time around, head coach Chris Zeller is hoping senior Tonya Turner, the new women’s top runner, will help the Eagles place even higher.

“I expect Tonya to do really well,” said Zeller. “We’re two weeks out from conference and I’d really like to see her have a good performance and see her set herself up well from a psychological stand point.  But so far this season, Tonya should be extremely proud of what she’s done.”

Freshman Katie Mahoney is another runner to keep an eye on. In her first year as a collegiate runner, she has already solidified herself as Eastern’s No. 2 runner on the women’s team. In her last race, at the Montana Invitational, she uncharacteristically finished lower than usual, placing 23rd overall. But Zeller isn’t troubled about the past.

“Katie has looked really good in practice these past two weeks,” said Zeller. “I’m not overly concerned, I fully expect her to bounce back and have a fantastic race. Montana was most definitely a fluke.”

On the men’s side, seniors Bowe Ebding and Graham Vaux, along with junior Simon Sorenson, hope to improve last year’s sixth-place finish. Ebding finished fifth overall.

“Graham, Bowe and Simon are the heart of this men’s team,” said Zeller. “All three of them work so well together. They constantly push each other on and off the course. Any of the three can be our top finisher, but it’s just a matter of who is having that special day.”

Outside of the top three men, Eastern has struggled to find the fourth and fifth runners on the team. Junior Drake DaPonte was expected to be one of those runners, but he has been plagued by injuries this season. Freshman Quin Olivas is another runner that Zeller is really hoping to push himself.

DaPonte injured a calf muscle at the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle, Wash., on Sept. 17 and hasn’t participated since. Zeller isn’t making any promises, but he has very high hopes of the junior running this weekend.

“As of right now Drake will be racing,” he said. “He’s been running, but hasn’t pushed himself too hard. This week, he has put in a decent amount of time as far as mileage is concerned. So more than likely we will see him out there again.”

The main goal Zeller has for this weekend is for both teams to prepare themselves for the conference championships.

“Throughout the season, in terms of individual workouts as well as races, we talk a lot about progression,” said Zeller. “We want to start out more conservative, and it’s something that a lot of newcomers have trouble with. Hopefully they have that down in this last race, because it’s a chance to push harder and take a little bit of a risk. I’d like to some of them take a bit of a risk to test themselves before the championships.”

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