Westmont runners receive at-large berth to NAIA Championships


The NAIA National Office released the final 2012 Women’s Cross Country National Poll on Sunday and Westmont found itself at number 13 on the list. Given the results of the conference championships across the nation and the Warriors’ new ranking, Westmont will receive the fifth of eight at-large berths into the NAIA National Championship race.

Westmont finished third at Saturday’s Golden State Athletic Conference championships behind Concordia who was previously the fourth ranked team in the conference and #16 in the nation. Concordia moved up to number nine in today’s national poll. Biola finished first and earned the conferences’ automatic berth into nationals.

“I thought that our women underperformed as a whole compared to two weeks ago,” said Westmont head coach Russell Smelley. “Concordia ran very strongly and our team did not respond to Biola going out hard. They just held their ground hoping for things to improve as the race went along. It stayed status quo and they ended up finishing third.”

Westmont, which had been ranked at number eight, knew that it would likely drop in the national polls and was in jeopardy of losing out on an at-large bid.

“There might have been a sense that being ranked eighth that they were in (at nationals) and therefore a sense of complacency,” acknowledged Smelley. “After yesterday, complacency is definitely not what they are feeling. So there should be motivation for redemption – to prove that they are capable of running at the level they did prior to yesterday.”

The Master’s which was ranked thirteenth before finishing fourth in the GSAC Championship, fell to seventh in today’s rankings and is the first ranked team to not receive and at-large berth. Westmont beat out The Master’s by just one point in yesterday’s GSAC Championship, had they finished behind The Master’s, the Warriors likely would have slipped further in the polls and not received an at-large berth.

“I’m glad they will have the opportunity to compete,” said Smelley of his women’s team. “This is a young group with a chance for a four-year experience at nationals and an opportunity to work their way up into a nationally competitive team.”

The National Championship will be held at Historic Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Washington on November 17. The field will consist of 32 teams, 24 of which received automatic berths won through their conference championships. The automatic qualifiers are joined by eight at-large teams, determined solely by the today’s final national rankings. Individual qualifiers are also added to the field.

Westmont Men’s Cross Country, which finished third at the GSAC Championship, received votes in the national poll but did not make it into the top-25. With the exception of Matt Day, the men’s season has come to an end. Day placed third at the GSAC Championship and therefore earned a individual qualification into nationals.

“Matt was phenomenal yesterday,” said Smelley, “At a mile and one-half, he broke out into third place. Two weeks ago he did the same thing and then faded in the last mile. Yesterday, he looked great the whole way and stormed into the finish.”