Hundreds of runners from across the country are converging on Vancouver for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics cross country championships Saturday.
Four of them are coming home.
Northwest University’s Matt Porter and Paige DeLapp were selected as at-large individual runners following their performances at last weekend’s Cascade Collegiate Conference championships.
Junia Limage and Kristina Cupp helped the Concordia University women to second place at the CCC meet in Ashland, Ore.
The Cavaliers were already assured of an automatic team bid to nationals as the host school for the event — although at-large bids were extended to both teams ranked lower than Concordia’s No. 8 position in the most recent poll and individuals who finished behind Limage.
Limage finished eighth at the CCC women’s race, with DeLapp 12th and Cupp 56th. Porter was 14th in the men’s race.
NAIA nationals will be run at Fort Vancouver National Site for the third consecutive year Saturday, with the men’s 8-kilometer (5-mile) race at 10:30 a.m. and the women’s 5-km (3.1-mi.) race at 11:45 a.m.
Hockinson High School graduate Porter and Evergreen High School graduate DeLapp said this week they were looking forward to finishing the season in Clark County. It is the first cross country nationals for both, but DeLapp has nationals experience in track and field.
“Other national meets that I’ve gone to have been in the Midwest, mostly, and so I’m excited to get to race in my hometown,” said DeLapp, a senior at the Kirkland school. “My family will get to be there, and also most of our team will be coming down to watch, too. That will be really cool.”
Porter, a junior, pointed out another advantage of being a local besides crowd support.
“All of my family’s going to be there, and I’ve run the course before,” he said. “I’ve seen the nationals race there before. It feels all really familiar.”
Porter’s family is full of particularly accomplished runners.
His sister Sarah was a Division II All-American in track and cross country at Western Washington. Another sister, Shannon, is a former high school track and field state champion, and his mother, Laurie, is a top age-group marathoner.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m in the shadow, but I like being part of a fast family,” he said. “I think it’s important because all of my family’s going to be there to support me, just like I’m there to support them. It’s good that it goes both ways.”
DeLapp said she has not run on the course herself.
“But I’ve watched two races there and my coach knows a little bit about it,” she said. “It sounds like people run it a little bit slower, so it’s good to know that going into it.”
Concordia senior Limage, a Fort Vancouver High School graduate, placed 51st at nationals last year. CU sophomore Cupp, a Vancouver Christian High School graduate, is running at nationals for the first time.
One local runner who might have been expected back is Lewis-Clark State College senior Kelsey Klettke, who placed 11th last year to garner All-America status. The Prairie High School graduate is redshirting this fall, however, with hip and hamstring injuries. She will be eligible to compete next season.
Porter said he is now the “fittest I’ve ever been” right now after coming back from a midseason calf injury. Having to take a couple of weeks off actually helped him, he said, because the rest was beneficial.
“Now I think I’m going to peak right at the right time, for nationals,” Porter said.
DeLapp said she is happy with the final cross country season so far.
“I’m happy to end my cross country career the way I have,” she said, adding that she thinks she is also peaking at the right time.
As for a cold and rainy forecast for the week, DeLapp said it was cold at the CCC meet that “went well” for her — but she is “a little worried, I guess, about the mud, but hopefully my spikes work for me.”
Porter said bring on the mud.
“I do better on more technical courses, so the muddier, the better,” he said.
What: Cross country national championships for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
Who: Qualifiers include 32 teams plus individuals for each race, 100 men and 105 women.
When: Saturday. Men’s 8-kilometer (5-mile) race at 10:30 a.m.; women’s 5-km (3.1-mi.) race at 11:45 a.m.
Where: Fort Vancouver National Site, Fort Vancouver Way and McClellan Road. Start/finish line on parade grounds in front of the East Barracks.
Cost: Admission is free.
Defending team champions: Southern Oregon men, Cal State San Marcos women.
Men’s defending champion: Kennedy Kithuka, Wayland Baptist (Texas).
Women’s top returner: Karlee Coffey, Eastern Oregon, 2010 runner-up.