Eric Avila is still flying, but the Southern Oregon University junior is no longer doing it under the radar.
The NAIA office named Avila the men's national runner of the week Wednesday for the second time in a month, commending his first-place finish last Friday at the Beaver Classic in Corvallis. His time of 24 minutes, 15 seconds was a season-best and six seconds better than the next runner in.
Avila also earned national kudos on Oct. 2 following a seventh-place showing at the Stanford Invitational. The only race this season for which he was not recognized, the Lewis & Clark Invitational, he won by 30 seconds.
"This is obviously the best year he's had and he's put in a ton of work to make it happen," SOU head coach Grier Gatlin said. "His experience and hard work are finally catching up with his talent."
Sam Atkin of Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) is the only other runner to have been honored twice in 2013.
Also on Wednesday, the Raider men remained at No. 2 in the NAIA Top 25 poll behind St. Francis (Ill.) but got four of the 22 first-place votes. They had previously not garnered more than one.
The Raider women were the last team left out of this week's Top 25. They hauled in 164 points and No. 25 Indiana Wesleyan had 169.
Both SOU squads are off until the Cascade Conference Championships on Nov. 9 in Caldwell, Idaho.
At Eagle Point, Ashland beat Eagle Point 2-0 Wednesday to head into the postseason on a four-game winning streak.
No details were available at press time.
The Grizzlies improved to 8-3-2 overall heading into the Class 5A play-in round.
By piecing together nine wins in 10 matches, Southern Oregon has earned the right to call this weekend its most important of the season.
Given their histories, the other parties involved shouldn't be a big surprise, either. The Raiders (14-7 overall, 11-3 Cascade Conference) will welcome first-place Eastern Oregon (23-3, 13-1) to Bob Riehm Arena on Friday and second-place College of Idaho on Saturday in a showcase of the league's top talent.
Both matches start at 7 p.m. and are SOU's last at home of the regular season.
When SOU went on the road to see the same teams a month ago, it wound up playing its only five-set matches of the season. The Coyotes went down, their 73-match conference win streak at home falling with them; and the 10th-ranked Mountaineers overcame SOU's 2-1 set advantage to win.
The Raiders haven't lost since, claiming 21 of 22 sets during their current run. This, along with next Friday's match at fourth-place Concordia, is their last chance to make a push toward the top of the standings.
"I think this is one of those weekends when you don't have to talk about much to get people ready to play," SOU head coach Josh Rohlfing said. "We were ready to play them on Monday afternoon, and that's a tribute to how good these teams are coming in."
The Mountaineers and Raiders tied for second place in 2012 and have gone to five sets in five of their last six meetings. The Raiders have won six of their last 11 matches against C o I, but the Coyotes, who have won or shared each of the last seven CCC titles, are riding an eight-match CCC winning streak since their loss against SOU.