Junior Connie Morgan (Hoquiam) became the first Central Washington University women's cross country runner in seven years to qualify for the NCAA Division II National Championships, as she earned a sixth-place finish at the 2013 NCAA Division II West Region Cross Country Championships on Saturday morning at Plantes Ferry Complex.
Morgan's sixth-place individual finish came in a time of 22:18.4 on the six-kilometer course. She became the first CWU female to advance to nationals since Katie Hummel, who earned All-American status with a 12th-place national finish in 2006.
"We couldn't be more excited about Connie and her ability to step up and show how far she had come as an individual performer," CWU head coach Kevin Adkisson explained. "Her improvement, especially over the past year, has been pretty amazing – to be able to finish sixth at conference and now sixth here at regionals. She should do so well running on the same course at nationals here in a couple of weeks."
Sophomore Dani Eggleston (Longview/R.A. Long HS) had another solid outing at Saturday's regionals, placing 21st with a time of 22:49.4 and earning all-region honors in the process.
"One of our biggest goals here at regionals was to get at least one runner qualified for nationals, and we knew that both Connie and Dani had a good shot," Adkisson continued. "To be able to get two all-region selections is quite an accomplishment for us, and we couldn't be more pleased or proud of these two."
As a team, the CWU women finished 10th of 23 schools and sixth among Great Northwest Athletic Conference members. The Wildcats had placed fifth at the GNAC Championships two weeks ago in Monmouth, Ore.
Lacey Wagner (Lake Stevens), Megan Rogers (Covington/Kentlake HS), and Bri Barton (Denver, Colo./D'Evelyn HS) all finished among the top 100 and rounded out the Wildcats' top-five point scorers. Wagner was 70th with a time of 23:45.2, while Rogers was 82nd in 24:03.6 and Barton was 100th with a time of 24:26.5. Sophomore Danielle Maldonado (Spokane/Mead HS) and freshman Hannah Dowdell (Everett/Cascade HS) also broke the 25-minute barrier.
"Our goal was to be back in the top 10 on the women's team side," Adkisson said, "and we accomplished that. We realistically could have gotten as high as seventh, but we weren't quite as 'on' as we had been hoping to be. As a whole, our women ran well, and it's good to know that we're capable being among the top six or seven in the region."
For the CWU men, junior Rudy Spencer (Liberty Lake/Central Valley HS) once again led the way, finishing 32nd on the 10-kilometer course. Spencer had a time of 32:54.4, while senior John Wojtech (Bremerton/Olympic HS) was 51st in 33:27.2. Senior Nathan Minor (Mount Vernon) and sophomore Kaleb Javier (Tacoma/Woodrow Wilson HS) also broke the top-100 with times of 34:09.2 and 34:23.3, respectively, while finishing 78th and 85th. Freshman Tomislav Smith (Mukilteo/Kamiak HS) also ran an under-35-minute time (34:43.0) to finish 101st. Sophomores Jackson Halford (Volcano, Hawaii/Waiakea HS) and Nick Spencer (Tacoma/Aberdeen HS) rounded out the Wildcats' finishers for the men.
"The guys came up a little bit short of what we had been hoping for," Adkisson said. "One of our big goals was to get Rudy into the top-25 for an all-region award, but we weren't able to quite get there. It was good to see us continue to make strides to improve within the region from where we have been in past years, and it sets us up well for the future."
Morgan will run on the same six-kilometer course on Nov. 23, with the NCAA nationals being hosted once again by the GNAC and the Spokane Sports Commission.