SPOKANE, Wash. -- The 2019 Whitworth cross country season will officially get under way on Saturday at the Clash of the Inland Northwest in Cheney, Washington. The women's race will start at 10:00 am on the Eastern Washington University campus, with the men's race following at 10:30 am.
The Pirates hope to challenge for Northwest Conference and regional titles once again in 2019. Whitworth's women finished as NWC runners-up last fall and took seventh in the NCAA Division III west region. The men were third at the conference championships and ninth at regionals.
The women's team returns nearly intact, with eight of the top nine runners from last season back in uniform. However, the one who did not return is defending NWC individual champion and NCAA Division III All-American Marissa Mount, who graduated. Kristal Roberts claimed All-NWC recognition as a sophomore with a fourth place finish. Ellie Shoop earned NWC Freshman of the Year recognition by taking eighth place. Fellow 2018 first-year runner Isabelle Snyder just missed claiming second team All-NWC honors with a 17th place finish. Emma Bates, Mary Neder, Naomi Reyes and Erin Pfundt all competed at the NWC Championships as freshmen last season. Nicole Oh is back for her junior campaign.
Whitworth's women welcome five new runners to the squad and have 15 on the roster.
The Pirate women fell to Willamette by only seven points (53-60), ending Whitworth's three-year run of conference titles. Whitman was only two points behind the Bucs at conference last season and returns most of its squad as well.
Whitworth's men look to improve on last season's third place NWC finish. Pacific Lutheran and George Fox shared the championship with 74 points apiece, while the Pirates came across with 88 points.
None of Whitworth's top-nine runners graduated last year. However, second team All-Northwest Conference honoree Will Glick (Jr.) will miss the 2019 season with an injury.
Joel Mott (Jr.) and Aidan Smith (So.) each earned second-team All-NWC recognition by finishing in 13th and 14th place, respectively. A pair of seniors, Gabriel Meek and Nathaniel Anderson, were top-25 finishers at the conference meet in 2018. Ryan Bova, Drew Hovde and Gabe Morales all ran as freshman last fall, gaining valuable championship experience.
There are 17 Whitworth men in 2019, including four freshmen.
This weekend's meet is the traditional season-opener for schools in the greater Inland Northwest. NCAA Division I members like Washington State, Idaho, Eastern Washington and Gonzaga will race alongside Whitworth, Whitman and Lewis-Clark State. The meet will be scored separately between the bigger and smaller schools.