In his first year as the head cross country and an assistant track and field coach at Washington State, Julian, who hails from Ashland, has received verbal commitments from two Rogue Valley state-champion senior distance runners.

As an elite cross country runner, Pete Julian has been on trails the world over. The recruiting trail, however, brought him back home.

In his first year as the head cross country and an assistant track and field coach at Washington State, Julian, who hails from Ashland, has received verbal commitments from two Rogue Valley state-champion senior distance runners.

Drew Jordan, a home-schooled student who competes for North Medford, and Ashland's Wilder Schaaf visited the school last weekend and have pledged their services to the Pac-10 Conference school.

Jordan captured the Class 6A cross country state title the past two years and this week was named the Gatorade boys runner of the year for Oregon.

Schaaf claimed Class 5A state track titles last spring in the 3,000 and 1,500 meters, setting a meet record in the former. He was slowed by illness in state cross country and placed sixth.

The emphasis for Jordan, who said the longer the distance the better he likes it, will be on cross country. Schaaf fancies himself more of a track runner, and will likely lean to the 1,500 or 5,000, he said.

They'll have the chance to develop under Julian, a four-time All-American at the University of Portland who followed that with more than 10 years of professional track and road racing. He won the 10,000-meter bronze medal in the 1999 Pan American Games and was on the U.S. world cross country teams the previous two years.

Before taking the WSU position, he coordinated the elite distance training group for USA Track and Field in Boulder, Colo.

Julian is restricted by NCAA regulations from commenting on recruits before they sign letters of intent, other than to confirm they've made official visits. Jordan and Schaaf will sign during a ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 3 at Ashland High.

However, Julian — whose brother, Bob Julian Jr., is the Ashland High cross country coach — did speak to the top-flight distance running here.

"There's some exciting, big-time athletes down in Southern Oregon," said Julian, who coached for four years at Metro State College in Denver before joining the Cougars in August. "They're going to make a huge impact at any university they attend. We were excited to have both Wilder and Drew on visits last weekend."

They were in a group of four Northwest runners who paid simultaneous visits. One other, Kyle Boe of Vancouver, Wash., committed as well, said Jordan.

Jordan also made visits to Oregon and Boise State, while Schaaf had a couple of NCAA Division III schools in the East on his radar.

Ultimately, they were sold on Julian, his program and the small-town atmosphere of Pullman, Wash.

"I liked everything about WSU," said Jordan. "Coach Julian is from Ashland, and he seemed to definitely know where I was coming from. When I talked about runs, he knew exactly what runs I was talking about. I definitely felt a strong connection. It felt like I was talking to my coach here."

Julian typically has a 15-man roster, which is much smaller than Oregon's, said Jordan, and should afford Jordan and Schaaf a better opportunity to crack the race lineup earlier in their careers. As in high school, college cross country teams send seven runners to meets and five runners are used in scoring.

The meet distances are 8,000 meters in the regular season and 10,000 meters for championship competition. High school races are 5,000 meters.

Jordan's goal is to make the cross country varsity as a freshman, but with five of the Cougars' top seven runners returning, he realizes "that will be a long shot."

WSU was ranked as high as 26th in the nation last fall and placed sixth in the Pac-10 championships. It advanced to the NCAA West regional but not the NCAA championships.

Jordan, whose winning time at state in November was 16 minutes, 10 seconds in miserable conditions, welcomes the longer college races.

"I don't have the best speed, but I definitely do have speed," said Jordan, who has gone 4 minutes flat in the 1,500. "But the longer the distance the better. I've run a couple of 10Ks on the road and love them. Even the 3K on the track seems too short for me. I'm looking forward to the jump in distance. I think I'm better at it."

Schaaf stormed onto the scene at the state track meet, winning the 3,000 in 8:42.17. It was only the second time he had eclipsed the 9-minute mark and was a personal best by 17 seconds.

He followed with his 1,500 win the next day in 4:02.64.

Although they're both from Ashland, Schaaf hadn't met Pete Julian prior to his recent visit.

"I liked it a lot up there," said Schaaf. "I was pretty amazed at how different is was from here. I'm excited to go. I like Pete a lot. He's a lot like Bob, who I get along with, so that will be good."

The other schools Schaaf considered were Middlebury College in Vermont and Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

But the lure of NCAA Division I competition won out.

"I think it'll be the same as high school," said Schaaf. "I'll start at the bottom as a freshman, and hopefully by the time I'm a senior, I'll be at the same level I am in high school now."

Both Jordan and Schaaf still have their senior seasons of track in which to compete.

Reach Mail Tribune sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@mailtribune.com