WOU: Western to host GNAC cross-country championships Saturday in Monmouth

Plus results for the WOU women's soccer, volleyball teams

2012 GNAC CROSS-COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS

When:

Saturday. Men's 8K race starts at 10 a.m.; women's 6K race begins at 11 a.m.

Where:

Western Oregon University's Ash Creek Preserve Course, located just west of the WOU baseball field off Church Street in Monmouth. Free parking will be available in the McArthur Stadium lot.

Admission:

Free.

MONMOUTH -- Hoping for a prediction on how well the Western Oregon University cross-country teams will fare at this year's Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships?

Good luck finding one.

"We're pretty much stealth," WOU cross-country coach Mike Johnson said of his squad.

The reason? The last time his top runners ran a race, it was in September -- in the Sonoma State Invitational, Sept. 22.

"We have a team that's stayed under the radar -- (the men's team) has went to the national championships the last two years, yet no one knows who we are," Johnson said.

Johnson said his teams have "divided the season in half," -- running in big meets like the Pier Park Invitational (Portland) and the Sundodger Invitational (Seattle) in early to mid-September, but taking the rest of the season away from competition to train for the biggest races -- Saturday's conference meet, the NCAA West Regional, and if the teams are good enough -- the NCAA National Championships.

Saturday's meet will be held at WOU's Ash Creek Preserve course, with the men's 8K race set to start at 10 a.m. and the women's 6K race to begin at 11 a.m.

"Our group has taken the last four weeks to prepare for the championship part," he said. "It's a higher risk to train than to compete -- we haven't had much competition. But at the same time, if we want to achieve better than we have, we have to get stronger, more prepared."

Don't count the Wolves out.

Returners Connor Kasler and Brady Beagley are expected to lead the WOU men's side, ranked 20th in the NCAA Division II national poll. Johnson said David Smith, a transfer from Spokane (Wash.) Community College, has also "been running well."

Kasler placed 11th (25 minutes, 45 seconds) in the 8K race at the GNAC's a year ago, and went on to take fifth at the NCAA West Regional with a time of 30:58 over the 10K course. The men's team finished third at the GNAC's in 2011.

On the women's side, Rachel Shelley, Holly Meler and Stephanie Stuckey should lead the way for a rebuilding squad. The WOU women finished seventh overall in 2011.

WOMEN'S SOCCER STREAK SNAPPED:

The Western Oregon women's soccer team saw its five-game unbeaten streak come to an end against league-leader Western Washington Saturday in a 2-0 Great Northwest Athletic Conference loss. The Wolves (7-6-1, 5-4-1 GNAC) defeated Simon Fraser Thursday, 1-0, behind Marina Austin's goal - set up via a Lindsay Bauman corner kick - in the 31st minute.

VOLLEYBALL SPLITS:

Danielle Reese posted a double-double with 13 kills and 14 digs to lead the Western Oregon volleyball team to a 25-19, 19-25, 25-13, 25-22 win over Northwest Nazarene Saturday. Krissi Kemper added 11 kills to help WOU (12-5, 5-3 GNAC) rebound from a 25-21, 25-18, 25-15 loss to No. 22 Central Washington Thursday. The Wolves travel to play the Alaska schools this week.

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