Unless something resembling a miracle occurs, today's NCAA Division I District 8 cross-country meet in Fresno will be the final race of the season for the Cal State Northridge men's and women's teams.
But for seniors Darcy Arreola and Derik Vett, the meet at Woodward Park could be the springboard to the NCAA Championships in Knoxville, Tenn., Nov. 19.
The top three men's teams (in all likelihood fifth-ranked Oregon, sixth-ranked Arizona and Washington) and the top two women's squads (most likely No. 5 UC Irvine and No. 7 Oregon or Washington) automatically will qualify for the NCAA meet. But even a top-10 finish might be asking too much of Northridge teams that have been depleted by a) runners redshirting, b) runners transferring to other schools, c) poor recruiting classes.
"We just want to run our best team races of the season," Coach Don Strametz said.
The top three individuals among the first 20 finishers not on a qualifying team also earn automatic trips to the NCAA meet, leaving Arreola with a good chance at making the trek to Knoxville and Vett with an outside shot.
"Two months ago, no one would have given Derik a chance at making it to nationals, but I really feel he can do it if he runs his best race of the season," Strametz said.
Arreola, who won the Division II cross-country title in Marshalls Creek, Pa., last year, has an excellent chance at qualifying for nationals if Oregon places first or second. The Ducks' Liz Wilson and Stephanie Wessell, along with favored Buffy Rabbitt of Irvine, are expected to battle for the individual title.
None of those three would be individual qualifiers if favored Irvine and Oregon finish one-two. But if Oregon, which edged Washington by five points in the Pacific 10 Conference meet, finishes third or worse, Wilson and Wessell would be potential individual qualifiers, dimming Arreola's national chances.
The women's 5,000-meter race will start at 10:30 a.m., the men's 10,000-meter event at 11:15.