The top-ranked Southern Oregon men's cross country team will be gunning for its second national title in three years Saturday at the NAIA National Championships in Vancouver, Wash.
The Raiders have spent the entire season in the top spot of the polls, and now head into the final meet looking to end the season in the same position. While no live footage of the race will be available, the awards ceremony will be streamed live by the NAIA with links available on the SOU athletics site (souraiders.com).
"As I've said all year, the main ranking is Nov. 18, which is the day after (the championship meet)," SOU head coach Grier Gatlin said. "That's when the ranking counts."
The Raiders claimed their fifth consecutive Cascade Collegiate Conference championship two weeks ago in Portland, with five top-12 finishers earning all-conference honors. Scott McIntyre led the charge, finishing second overall, followed by Eric Avila, Tyler VanDyke, Brett Hornig and Jared Hixon.
"I think we have a shot to do well," Gatlin said. "Everybody seems to be pretty healthy and fit. We're excited and I think we're ready to go."
Southern Oregon won the program's first national championship at Fort Vancouver in 2010 and finished third at the championship meet last season. This will be the fourth and final year the meet will be held at Fort Vancouver. It's slated to move to Lawrence, Kan., next season.
Before the men's race begins at 11:45 a.m., SOU all-conference performer Anne Hagy will represent the Raiders in the women's championship race at 10:30. After beating her previous personal record time by 26 seconds at the CCC Championships, Gatlin expects Hagy to finish strong on Saturday.
"Anne looks fit and ready to go, and she had a very good conference meet," Gatlin said. "I think she has a chance to be in the top 30, which would give her All-American status."
Seven Southern Oregon women's soccer and football athletes have been named Capital One Academic All-District honorees and will advance to the Capital One Academic All-America ballot, where first-, second- and third-team recipients will be selected later this month.
Nominees must be starters or important reserves with at least a 3.3 cumulative grade point average of sophomore or higher academic standing. Southern Oregon's women's soccer program picked up a pair of District 8 honorees, while five football players received recognition.
Senior Stacy Hamer and junior Sydney Paulsen represented the SOU women's soccer program on the all-district list, with both boasting GPAs exceeding 3.7 at SOU. Both were also named to the All-Cascade Collegiate Conference second team earlier this week after tying for third on the team with four goals each.
Senior Justin Otaguro led SOU's football team contingent, joined by sophomores Austin Dodge, Drew Gibson, Heston Altenbach and Daniel Breaux. All five have played a key role in the 10th-ranked Raiders' first trip to the NAIA Football Championship Series since 2002.
Dodge has set program records and leads the NAIA in passing yards (4,325), touchdowns (36), completions (292) and attempts (447), while Otaguro has caught 26 passes for 348 yards and a touchdown. Altenbach ranks second on the team with 72 tackles and Breaux has added 43 tackles, including 3 1/2 for losses and one sack. Gibson has started and been a key contributor on the offensive line.
All seven will advance to the All-America ballot, which will be selected later this month.