|CALDWELL, Idaho – The LC State Cross Country teams open postseason action on Friday at the 2023 Cascade Conference Cross Country Championships, presented by U.S. Bank, and will race against a pair of stacked fields. The CCC has proven to be one of the strongest cross country conferences in the country every year, with this season being no different.
Trips to nationals are on the line for each Warrior team. The men enter the race ranked No. 18 in the NAIA and the women are No. 19. The men’s team is seeking its 20th consecutive trip, while the women are aiming for their 23rd straight bid. Along with the pressure of nationals, the Warriors will compete for all-conference honors and a shot at a CCC title in Caldwell.
“Expectations are tough as it is a sport that we can only control what we do,” Head Coach Mike Collins said. “So, if runners or other teams are having great days, there isn’t much we can do about that other than try to respond with our own efforts. Our goal is to make it to nationals.”
Three women’s teams in the CCC are ranked in the NAIA’s top 25, including No. 1 College of Idaho. The Yotes top the leaderboard with No. 7 Southern Oregon not far behind. Eastern Oregon is also a threat and is receiving votes in the national poll. The Warriors are in the middle at No. 19.
“In order to get to nationals, I think our women have to finish in the top three, which will be challenging as C of I is easily the best team in the conference and Southern Oregon has already shown that they are very talented as well, so we have to fend off the challenges of EOU, OIT and others,” Collins said. “Those will be the teams we will be focusing on.”
LC State has a strong group of core runners and have been led by Brooklyn Shell and Chloe Overberg throughout the season. The pair have been the Warriors’ top finisher twice each in the four races, with Gerladin Correa in the mix as well. Sophomore Grace Tiegs has also been a consistent presence in the top five. The top 15 runners at the CCC meet earn all-conference honors.
“Runners can qualify for nationals individually, but that will be difficult as you have to finish in the top 15 and our conference is so stacked that you have to run pretty well to do that,” Collins explained.
The Cascade has four ranked men’s teams, with two more receiving votes, along with one of the top individuals in the nation. C of I leads the charge at No. 3 and Eastern Oregon is No. 6. Corban is currently ranked No. 14, with the help of two-time NAIA National Runner of the Week Robert Swoboda, and LC is No. 18. Southern Oregon and Northwest are each receiving votes.
“For the men, I think the top four teams in conference should qualify for nationals, fifth has a shot and sixth also an outside shot depending on what the results look like,” Collins explained. “Right now, we are sitting in fourth, but that is more because SOU did not run well a couple of weeks ago and they fell back in the rankings, but the rankings do not really reflect how talented they are.”
The Warriors have battled with ranked CCC teams earlier in the season, including a win over Northwest at the LC State Invitational, and have become familiar with the conference opponents.
“We have already been beaten by EOU, Northwest and Corban, then you add C of I and SOU to the mix, plus OIT is looking good. It is going to be a real dog fight on the guys’ side,” Collins added.
The men have had steady leadership in Carter Gordon and Brycen Brown, as well as strong races by Griffen Parsells, Clay Shumaker and Kobe Wessels. The LC State men have a good amount of depth that will help on race day.
“I think in the end it will be single digits that could separate the top 4-6, maybe even seven teams, and there will be runners not in the top three of each team that will make the difference. We have been training well, I like our attitude right now, we just have to put it to work on Friday.”
The women will start Friday with a 6k at 10 a.m. PT, followed by the men’s 8k at 11 a.m. PT. The meet will be held in Caldwell, Idaho, and live results will be available.
Stay up to date with all things Warrior Athletics at lcwarriors.com and on social media @LCWarriors.