SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Haggin Oaks Golf Course will serve as the site of the 2018 Big Sky Conference Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Oct. 27. The men's 8K race will begin at 10 a.m. with the women's 5K race getting under way at 11 a.m. All awards will be presented at noon. Admission is free but there will be a charge for parking.
Last season, Sacramento State finished eighth in the men's race and the women took 10th place. The Hornets were led by Elijah Changco (25:50.9, 33rd) and Amy Quinones (18:12.1, 26th). Northern Arizona captured both team titles and also had the top finishers for both genders.
Quinones has been the rock for the Hornet women this season and will be looking to earn all-Big Sky honors (top 10) for the first time in her career. The senior has led the team in each meet since the start of the 2016 season. This season, she was the top individual at the Fresno Cross Country Invitational and also finished second at the Capital Cross Challenge, fourth at the UCR Cross Country Invitational and ninth at the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational. The last Sacramento State woman to earn all-conference honors was Chloe Berlioux who finished third in 2014.
The men's team has been more balanced as five different Hornets have ranked among the top three on the team in meets. Andres Sandoval has had the top Sacramento State time in three of the four meets this year. Sandoval most recently finished 14th overall and paced the team at the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational. He also finished 17th at the Capital Cross Challenge on the same course which will be used on Saturday.
Saturday will mark the third time that Sacramento State has hosted the Big Sky Championships. The team used a course in Rocklin, Calif., in 1997 before moving to Granite Regional Park in 2006. The Hornets have hosted the Capital Cross Challenge as well as a pair of NCAA West Regionals at Haggin Oaks over the last four years.
This is the Eagles' first year under Sam Reed. Reed has seen much growth from a young roster throughout the season. In the Bronco Invitational on Oct. 13, Eastern Washington was led by a pair of underclassmen with freshman, Carter Ledwith finishing in 60th place on the men's side, while Lily Tyrrell finished 101st in the women's race. The Eagles finished ninth in the men's race and eighth in the women's race at the 2017 Championships.
The Vandals head into the conference championship with an experienced roster on both sides looking to make some noise. Kara Story has led Idaho in its last two races including an 11th place finish at the Bronco Invitational. Just two weeks before on Sept. 28, Story won the Montana Invitational by 12 seconds. Andrea Condie, the first Big Sky Athlete of the Week honoree on the season, has finished right behind Story in the team's last two meets. The Vandals have been ranked regionally for much of the year in the USTFCCCA West Region.
On the men's side, Skylar Ovnicek has been the Vandals' top performer in three meets this season including the Montana Invitational and Bronco Invitational, Idaho's most recent meets. In the Montana Invitational, Idaho finished ahead of all the Big Sky teams in the meet that included Eastern Washington, Montana and Montana State. Just like the women's team, the men have been ranked in the USTFCCCA West Region for most of the season.
Both Bengal squads have been ranked in the USTFCCCA Mountain Region polls all season. In the Bengals' last meet at Pre-Nationals, Wyatt Diderickson finished in 65th place. Diderickson finished in 15th place at the Big Sky Championships last season, just outside of earning All-Conference. Idaho State earned sixth place in last year's conference championship.
The women's team finished third and just two points behind Montana for second place in the Montana State Invitational. The Bengals ran in the Pre-National Invitational and came away with a 32nd place finish. Idaho State has been led by Molly Olsen, Rachel McGovern and Ashley Sondag, all of whom have led the Bengals in at least one race this year.
The Grizzlies finished their season at the Inland Empire Challenge on Oct. 13 as Jessica Bailey notched a top-ten finish. The senior had a delayed start to the season due to an injury and is rounding into form at the right time. Erica Simison led the team in the first three meets of the year collecting top-ten finishes in each meet.
On the men's side, the Grizzlies had three different runners lead the team with Dillon May the top Grizzly in two of the four meets while Kyle Peterson and Nathan Wellington led the other two meets. Montana took tenth at the Big Sky Championship last season.
The preseason favorite on the women's side, the Bobcats have been led all year by Kelsi Lasota who will look to contend for the individual title at the Big Sky Championship after placing fourth last year. At Pre-Nationals, the Bobcats finished behind Northern Arizona and ahead of Portland State coming in at 21st. Earlier in the year, the Bobcats hosted the Montana State Invitational and won the meet defeating Montana and Idaho State.
The men have been solid all year with Ty Mogan leading the way and he even received Big Sky Athlete of the week after winning the Montana State Invitational by over 25 seconds. Mogan also placed 32nd at Pre-Nationals and has led the team in all three meets this year. The Bobcats will look to improve on their fifth-place finish from last year's meet.
The Northern Arizona men are primed and loaded for a three-peat of the NCAA Championship. Arguably the deepest team in the nation, the Lumberjacks have overshadowed the competition all year and will look to extend its streak of men's Big Sky titles to three. Tyler Day has been the top runner in two of the team's three meets while Peter Lomong won the George Kyte Classic to open the year. The Lumberjacks began the season as the nation's top team and have not let go of the ranking the entire season.
The NAU women had their best result of the year at Pre-Nationals finishing ninth. Bryn Morley opened her collegiate career at Pre-Nationals and led the Lumberjacks with a 39th place finish. The next three runners at Pre-Nationals placed between 51-60 with Delaney Rasmussen finishing 51st, Pipi Eitel placing 53rd and Shannon Molvin collecting 60th place. NAU heads into the Big Sky Championship ranked 28th in the country and will look to claim its third straight championship.
The Bears are coming off its most impressive performance of the year at the Bronco Invitational on Oct. 13 where the men finished in ninth place. With the high finish, the men made their first appearance in the USTFCCCA regional polls of the season coming in at No. 14 in the Mountain Region. Josh Campbell was the top Bear in the Bronco Invitational with a 42nd place finish while Ryan Lehmuth led the team in the first two meets of the year.
The Bears have been led by a pair of seniors on the women's side. Cammy Sargent and Alaina Anderson have paced the squad with each having led the team in at least one meet this year. The Bears will look to improve off of their ninth place finish the team had last year in the Big Sky Championships.
The Vikings have made huge strides in the second year of head coach David Hepburn's tenure. After finishing 11th in both the men's and women's championships last year behind only North Dakota, the Vikings have a mix of new faces along with veterans that have even been ranked in USTFCCCA West Region this year. Senior, Kaila Gibson was recognized as Big Sky Athlete of the Week after her strong performance at the Charles Bowles Invitational.
The Portland State men have relied on underclassman throughout the year, but have netted positive results. Freshman, Drew Seidel led the Vikings in every race he's ran this season including a 43rd place finish at the Bronco Invitational where he cut 19 seconds off his personal best time. In his first race of the year, another freshman max Norman finished 61st as the Vikings finished in 15th place as a team.
The Hornets opened the season with the women's team winning the Fresno Cross Country Invitational that included an individual title from senior, Amy Quinones. Quinones has led the team in every event this year posting top-ten finishes in all four meets. Another top-ten finish for Quinones at the Big Sky Championship would earn the senior All-Conference honors. The Hornets made the USTFCCCA West Regional poll earlier in the season after its win at the Fresno Cross Country Invitational.
Sophomore, Andres Sandoval has led the men's squad all year and is coming off a personal best 8k time of 24:13.8 at the Bronco Invitational. The Hornets finished ahead of Portland State and Eastern Washington most recently at the Bronco Invitational. In last year's Big Sky Championships, the Hornets earned an eighth-place finish.
Predicted to finish third in the women's preseason poll, the Thunderbirds head into the championship as the top team in the Big Sky. It has been a season of firsts for Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds had their first Big Sky Athlete of the Week honoree when Angie Nickerson won the award not once, but twice this year. After a top-ten finish at Pre-Nationals, Southern Utah made the USTFCCCA National Poll for the first time in school history coming in at No. 23 in the country. The Thunderbirds will look to continue its string of firsts with a win at the Big Sky Championship this weekend. Southern Utah's highest finish was second place back in 2012, its first year in the conference.
The last team to knock off Northern Arizona men at the Big Sky Championships was Southern Utah back in 2015. Last year, the men had their highest finish at the NCAA Championships in team history with an 11th place finish. This year, the Thunderbirds have been a mainstay in the USTFCCCA National Poll coming into the championship at No. 25. Both Aidan Reed and George Espino are back for the Thunderbirds this season after finishing 11th and 12th in last year's conference championship.
The Weber State women are the last team to take down Northern Arizona in the Big Sky Championships back in 2015. Senior, MarLee Mitchell led the team in the last two meets with finishes of 67th at Pre-Nationals and 44th at the Notre Dame Invitational. Mitchell placed 38th at last year's conference meet.
The men's team ran a very tight race in its last meet at Pre-Nationals with a ten second gap between the team's first and fourth place runners. Freshman, Curt Crossley ran the top time for the Wildcats at Pre-Nationals while Jacob Stone was the fastest Wildcat at the Notre Dame Invitational at the end of September. The Wildcats took third place in last year's championship and even had an All-Conference honoree in Jordan Cross who finished in sixth place.