(MSUB Athletics photo)

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – The Montana State University Billings cross country team will travel to Monmouth, Ore. this weekend as they participate in the NCAA Division II West Regional Championships hosted by Western Oregon. Jorey Egeland will look to continue his excellent senior season in which he has finished in the top-15 in all five races he’s competed in.

“I feel like there’s a little extra motivation to make sure it’s not my last collegiate race,” Egeland said of the regional meet. “I’m not ready to be done, but I also think it is important to approach it like any other meet and trust the work that we’ve put in as a team all year.”

The top-three teams from each region will get an automatic bid while eight other at-large teams will be selected to join them. Of the non-qualifying teams, the top-three individual finishers will also earn a spot at the national meet which will be held in Evansville, Ind. on Nov. 18.

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With the quality competition and high steaks looming at the regional meet, Egeland has been sure to keep his composure.

“I feel pretty relaxed,” Egeland added heading into the race. “I try not to think about it too much, I feel that I perform better when I’m relaxed.”

The west region will give the ‘Jackets a glimpse of some of the teams that will represent the top competitors at the national meet.

“There is a chance that we could see five schools make it to nationals out of the west region,” head coach Jonathan Woehl said. “The regional meets always have a different feel to them, we see a lot more fans and when you have a field of 30 teams you’re constantly working through a crowd. Hopefully we can feed off of that energy and have a strong race.”

The Yellowjackets will compete in a stout region that features six team currently rank in the top-25 in the nation both in the men’s and women’s races. No. 4 Chico State, No. 6 Cal Baptists, No. 9 Cal Poly Pomona, No .13 Western Oregon, No. 16 Alaska Anchorage and No. 22 Simon Fraser all look to earn a top-three spot in the men’s division to clinch an automatic bid to the national meet. For the women, No. 1 Cal Baptist, No. 4 Alaska Anchorage, No. 5 Chico State, No. 9 Simon Fraser, No. 12 Cal State San Marcos and No. 22 Cal Poly Pomona look to lead the field.

The men will take on their longest course of the season as they complete a 10K at Ash Creek Preserve in Monmouth, Ore while the women will race a 6K. The relatively flat course will allow the teams to pick up their pace as they weave their way through the competition. The ‘Jackets have a few runners with previous experience on the regional course.

“Bailey Bomar has run here before and with the improvement she’s shown over the past couple of weeks she could put together a really great race,” Woehl said. “I also think Kelby Wegner is primed for a good day, she has been moving up in the past couple meets for us. This is probably the flattest course with the best footing we’ve run this year so I feel we are well prepared.”

Oregon has been experiencing typical heavy rain fall over the past week but weather is something the Yellowjackets are prepared for. In their last meet, MSUB dealt with a wet and slick course in Bellingham, Wash. and the ‘Jackets ran in the snow earlier in the season when they traveled to Bozeman, Mont. for the Montana State Invitational in September.

Nikki Aiken will look to assume her role at the front of the MSUB pack during the women’s meet as the sophomore captain has been the ‘Jackets top finisher in every race this season.

“Nikki continues to be extremely motivated,” Woehl added. “With this course and her preparation she has the opportunity to put up a personal best for a 6K race.”

Tyus Mendoza was the third finisher for the ‘Jackets in last year’s meet as he finished with a time of 32:41.5, Mendoza has shown great improvement this season with three top-10 finishes. The ‘Jackets will look to Ronald Venema and Ivan Colmenero to help push the team into the top-10 as this will be the first time that freshmen Carson Jessop, Jack Pickell and Drake Henson compete in a 10K race.

“If Ivan and Ron can run a clean race we’ll be in a good spot,” Woehl said. “Then, we just need to have one of the freshman move up for us and that could be what determines where we finish. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were any one of them.”

Catrina Schuchard and Kateri Bridges will get their first shot at the Ash Creek course while Sarah Beatty will race the course for the second time in her career at MSUB. Beatty finished with a time of 27:43.5 at the regional meet in 2015.

Egeland believes the ‘Jackets are prepared to end the season on a high note with their steady progress throughout the season paying off in Oregon.

“I’m happy with the season,” the senior captain added. “I think we’re in good shape and we are feeling well rested and ready to go. We are ready to perform better at regionals than we did at conference. We’re better than our seventh-place finish in the GNAC and we’re excited to show that.