At-Large Bids on Line at NCAA West Regional

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Inviting some of the highest ranked programs in the nation, the NCAA West Regional has proven to be a cruel but permitting mistress for the Cal cross country team.

More than anything else, the sporting event is a story about qualifying for the championships, as the cruelest of mistresses always are, but the Bears have been very successful in recent seasons.

The No. 22 Cal men are looking for their third NCAA berth in the past four years, while the 26th-ranked women are looking to justify their current ranking and earn their first ever invitation to the fast-approaching NCAA Championships.

If both the men and women's teams earn bids to the championships, it would be the first time in school history.

As for tomorrow's race, held at the Springfield Country Club in Springfield, Ore., the level of competition will continue to uphold the country club's standard of excellence. The men will face three ranked teams: No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 Oregon and No. 13 Portland.

On the women's side, there are six teams in the top 30, headlined by No. 4 Stanford, No. 6 Arizona, and No. 7 Oregon.

This season has already been a season of firsts, with the men and women both nationally ranked together for the first time. The Bears will try to close the season with that in mind.

Earning those coveted invitations to the NCAA Championships are just as tough as earning a coveted invitation to the Springfield Country Club itself, but the Cal men and women may have a shot nonetheless.

While the top two teams in each race will qualify automatically for the NCAA championships, the others will have a chance for at-large berths.

Though it will be difficult to finish in the top two when competing against the best in the West region, earning an at-large berth is not unreasonable for the Bears, who have played spoiler with their come-from-behind finishes.

Even if those bids elude Cal, there is also the possibility of individual runners qualifying for the championships. The star runners for the Bears this season, senior Michael Coe and junior Deborah Maier, will certainly help their teams in earning a bid and may even qualify individually.

"Michael and Deborah have distinguished themselves as elite runners who are competitive with anyone in Division I. Their leadership and front-running ability is vital to the team." head coach Tony Sandoval said. "I'm confident that we'll step up when it counts."

With Coe and Maier's vitality still running, and with Cal's season of firsts on the line, a regional finish and championship bid seem to be within reach.

They just happen to be in the hands of a cruel, cruel mistress.


Samuel Farahmand covers cross country. Contact him at [email protected]

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