Neal advances to nationals, Knudson is all-region

Megan Ditore

The Wildcats have a strong outing at the NCAA Division III West Regional Championships Saturday at Pomona College in California.

Sophomore Kaelia Neal placed 13th overall out of 133 runners in the six-kilometer course with a time of 22 minutes and 23.88 seconds. She placed seventh among the Northwest Conference opponents. Last season as a freshman, Neal placed 29th overall.

Two teams from each region automatically advance to the national championships plus 16 at-large teams throughout the regions that are chosen by representatives.

Willamette University and Claremont College team members placed first and second as a team, earning spots to nationals.

Whitworth University team members received an at-large bid, meaning they too will advance to nationals as a women’s team.

Willamette, Claremont and Whitworth team members all advanced to nationals, and the next seven highest placing individuals go as well. Neal earned a spot to the championship as she was sixth among individual qualifiers.

This is the first time a Wildcat from the women’s team made it to nationals since 2009.

Sophomore Emma Knudson earned her first all-region award finishing 34th with a time of 23:20.77. Last year she placed 44th at the championships.

Freshman Courtney Beard finished 64th overall in her first meet with a time of 24:32.32.

Senior Sarah Rasmussen-Rehkopf placed 92nd (25:18.1) and Sophomore Vera Heidmann placed 100th (25:38.4) to round out the team scoring.

Linfield women collectively finished 11th overall and fifth among league teams. Neal was happy with how the young team raced.

“I’m proud of the girls and how the season went overall. We ran solid at regionals. We’re still a young group with a lot of potential to be a top team in the coming years,” she said.

Pomona-Pitzer’s Maya Weigel, who was the west regional champion in 2014, won the women’s race in a time of 21:25.0.

Willamette team members won the women’s meet with a total of 64 points. Linfield scored 300 points.

The men had a three place improvement over conference teams from the league championships meet two weeks prior. At regionals the men placed fourth among the Northwest Conference teams.

“I’m really proud of how the boys raced. They didn’t do well at conference, and I think they redeemed themselves,” Neal said.

Alex Mangan just missed all-region honors, placing 40th overall out of 126 runners with a time of 27 minutes, 14.39 seconds in the eight –kilometer course. This was a career-best finish in regionals for him. As a sophomore he placed 41st in 2014.

Junior Tyler Griffin finished second for the Wildcats and 48th overall in a time of 27:31.3. Sophomore Jeff Lee was close behind finishing 50th in 27:33.9.

Junior Adrian Clifford placed 55th (27:40.1) and Chris Roth placed 71st (28:02.4) to round out the scoring for the Wildcats.

Puget Sound’s Tyler Shipley won the men’s race with a time of 25:04.5.

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men won the meet with a score of 51. Linfield scored 255.

This coming weekend Neal will compete at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships, which will be on Saturday, November 21 at Winneconne, Wisconsin.