MONMOUTH — Oregon State didn’t have its best day Friday at the Pac-12 Conference cross-country championships.
But the Beavers will have an opportunity in short order to make a stronger case for a return trip to the NCAA national meet.
Lexi Reed’s 28th-place finish led the Oregon State women to seventh place on the 6,000-meter (3.7-mile) course at the Ash Creek Preserve on the Western Oregon University campus.
The Beavers head to the NCAA West Regional on Nov. 15 in Colfax, Washington. Their performance there, coupled with their season’s body of work, will determine if they get back to the national meet for the second time in program history.
Reed, a junior, improved her Pac-12 place by nine spots over 2018, taking 28th in 20 minutes, 32.6 seconds.
“I’ve kind of been struggling all season to trust myself and put myself in that front group from the beginning. I’m usually one that kind of starts back and then works my way up,” Reed said. “Coach (Louis Quintana) has been telling me all season I’m ready for a big breakthrough race and I just have to put myself in position from the start.”
Audrey Lookner was OSU’s next finisher in 41st in 20:53. She was followed by Meagen Lowe (42nd, 20:55), Mari Friedman (44th, 20:57), Greta van Calcar (50th, 21:05), Batya Beard (57th, 21:08), Gabby Peterson (66th, 21:17); Haley Wolf (74th, 21:20), Katie Intile (82nd, 21:32) and Libby Rinck (98th, 22:17) in the 111-runner field.
“I thought Mari Friedman ran awesome. Mari’s a half-miler, so she’s extending running cross-country,” Quintana said. “This is a fair cross-country course, this is not an easy course. She’s been battling some injury this year. So for her to be in the 40s (placing). She was 62nd last year.”
Wolf, a sophomore, was the Beavers’ top returner last year from a 26th-place national team finish and the team’s top placer this season. But Friday she had difficulty finishing the race. Oregon State dropped from fifth midway through the race to seventh, six points behind Arizona and one spot lower than last year, when the Beavers’ recorded the program’s best-ever finish at the conference meet.
“We went for it. We kind of took our swing,” Quintana said. “Our No. 1, Haley Wolf, was our eighth girl. That last 2k she just came unglued. So we’ve got to figure out what’s going on there. But if she’s in normal position, we’re a solid sixth and we’re probably 150 points and we’re feeling pretty good about getting to nationals in two weeks."
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Quintana added that he still feels “pretty confident” that his team has a shot to get to nationals, to be held Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“We had a couple of our wheels fall off the last couple thousand meters, but we were definitely in a really good position throughout the race and in two weeks we’re going to put it all together and get it done there,” Reed said.
The top two teams at each of the nine regional meets automatically qualify for nationals. The remaining 13 teams that fill the field are selected as at-large berths.
Oregon State will benefit from having already defeated Furman and Texas, teams Quintana said are likely to be automatic berths out of regionals.
Quintana said his team ran far better than it did two weeks earlier at the Nuttycombe Invite in Madison, Wisconsin, where the Beavers were 30th in a 36-team field.
“To get to the national meet a lot of things have to fall your way just the way the qualifying process plays out,” Quintana said, adding that his team is better than in 2018 but could still miss out. “For us, we just want to have our best day in two weeks.”
Stanford’s Fiona O’Keeffe won Friday’s race in 19:32 to lead a 1-2-3 individual finish as the Cardinal claimed the team title with 27 points, 28 better than runner-up Washington.
Colorado’s Joe Klecker was the men’s winner, covering the 8,000-meter (5-mile) course in 23:02. The Buffaloes were the team champion with 41 points, 16 better than second-place Oregon.
The meet was originally scheduled for Corvallis’ Trysting Tree Golf Club, where it was also held in 2007. But last spring’s flooding resulted in the move, and the meet was held on a dedicated cross-country course for the first time in event history.