Zags host Idaho in dual on Sept. 16
SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga women’s and men’s cross country returns plenty of experience and talent this upcoming season, and there’s plenty to be excited about. The Zags released their 2017 schedule Wednesday.
Jordan Thurston returns after another All-West Coast Conference season for the GU women, while Troy Fraley will conclude his phenomenal career as a Bulldog this year. Both Fraley and Thurston will be seniors on the Gonzaga cross country rosters this upcoming season.
“Our schedule is just perfect for this team,” Director of GU Cross Country Pat Tyson said. “We open up on a mini road trip to Missoula for a nice short sprint race of 6K. Two weeks later, we get our first 8K rough draft race versus Idaho at a site yet to be determined in Spokane. On Sept. 29, we’ll take 12 men to face very good teams at the Bill Dellinger Invitational. The talk is BYU, Oregon, Washington, Portland and others will make up the elite field. We then will take our top seven down to the NCAA Preview. Our goal is to mix it up with very good teams and get some experience that will help us for conference two weeks later.
“The West Coast Conference Championships will be at Metropolitan Links Golf Course adjacent to the Oakland Airport. We know Brigham Young will be loaded and NCAA powerhouse Portland always reloads. San Francisco always comes to compete at the highest level. Our expectation is to give our best and see if we can be in the elite mix. Regionals will be in Seattle in mid-November and NCAA final 30 teams back in Louisville, Ky. This group of Gonzaga harriers have high goals! I am excited to see how high we can climb the cross country ladder!”
The Zags open their 2017 schedule at the annual Clash of the Inland Northwest on Sept. 1. The rotating meet is hosted by the University of Montana this season in Missoula. The twilight races will give the Bulldogs great starts to their season over the 6,000 and 4,000-meter courses. Thurston and the GU men began a streak of three first-place finishes to open last season at the 2016 Clash of the Inland Northwest.
On Sept. 16, Gonzaga welcomes the University of Idaho for a dual meet. The location of the event will be released in the near future. Last year, the Bulldogs and Vandals raced at Mead High School. Thurston led the GU women to the win, while Max Kaderabek paced the Zag men with a second place finish.
The Bulldogs return to the Bill Dellinger Invitational on Sept. 29. Both Gonzaga squads placed second at the event in 2015. The annual event is run at the Springfield Country Club in Springfield, Ore.
Gonzaga will split its squads on Oct. 14, sending a select group to Louisville, Ky., for the NCAA Pre-Nationals and another group to the Inland Empire Classic in Lewiston, Idaho. The Pre Nationals will give the Zags a sample of the national championships, which will be run on the same course at Tom Sawyer State Park on Nov. 18. The Inland Empire Classic returns to the Lewiston Orchards, where GU swept the women’s and men’s team titles in 2015.
The University of San Francisco hosts the 2017 West Coast Conference Championships on Oct. 27. The Bulldogs will look for more All-Conference finishes, before heading to Seattle, for the NCAA West Regionals on Nov. 10. This year’s regionals return to Jefferson Golf Course, where the Zags made national qualifiers in 2015.
“There’s great potential in this group,” women’s Head Coach Patty Ley said. “We will be working very hard to close the gap to BYU, Portland and San Francisco, but that is really exciting. It is such an opportunity to grow and to stretch. It will be a challenge, but one that will be fulfilling to our athletes who strive to get there.
“Our freshman from last year will play a bigger role, but one they are so ready to take on this year. They are a competitive, driven group and it will be fun to watch them continue to grow. We do lose a lot from last year, but we have great leadership returning in Jordan Thurston, Elena Slavoski and Jenny Albrecht. They will be our captains and will hold themselves and their teammates to high standards. The new freshmen are an exciting group who have terrific potential to help right away.”