Big Island, UH Hilo to Host PWC Cross Country Championships

When the University of Hawai`i Hilo hosts the Pacific West Conference Cross Country Championships this Saturday (Oct. 22), one thing is certain… the course will be unlike any other that the teams have run on this season, or maybe ever.

uhh-xcThe jungle trail at Kamehameha School Hawai`i will feature grass, gravel, mud and likely, standing water. There will be a mixture of hill and flat. There could be rain, and it will be warm and humid.

In other words, this is no walk in the park.

“It is a true cross country course,” said Vulcan head coach Jaime Guerpo. “Other than the Hawaii schools that were here for our meet early in the year, this will be a new experience for everyone else. It’s a fair course, and it is challenging, which in my mind is perfect for a championship meet.”

14 schools will make their way to Hilo and Keaau, flying in from Utah, northern California, southern California and Oahu. 14 men’s teams will compete in the 7:30 a.m. race, and 12 women’s squads (including UHH) will run at 8:30 a.m.

In both races, California Baptist University is the defending champion. In fact, the Lancers have won the last five championships on the men’s side, and the last two trophies in the women’s race. Individually, 2015 PacWest champion Eileen Stressling from Azusa Pacific is back. The junior is running strong again this season and was named the PacWest Runner of the Week earlier in the month after crossing the line as the top Division II finisher at the Stanford Invitational.

CBU is ranked 17th nationally this week in the men’s NCAA Division II poll, with Academy of Art at No. 24. On the women’s side, the Lancers are No. 8 in this week’s national listing, with Point Loma at No. 16.

Hawai`i Hilo hosted the very first PacWest Cross Country Championships in 2006, on their campus. The conference was much smaller back then, but now nearly 250 student-athletes will race and many more coaches, administrators, parents and fans will travel to the Big Island for the event.

“We are pleased to host this event for a number of reasons,” said Vulcan athletic director Patrick Guillen. “We are excited to show off the Big Island to our fellow PacWest universities and we look forward to putting on a quality event. At the same time, these championships bring in significant tourism dollars to Hilo and the surrounding communities, and we feel privileged to partner with local businesses to help make this a great experience for all involved.”

Dr. Tam Vu, Chair of the UHH Business Administration and Economics department, confirmed that teams visiting Hilo bring in significant dollars.

“Between airfare, rental vehicles, hotel rooms, restaurants and shopping, there will be significant spending,” said Vu, who along with
Dr. Eric Im compiled the long-run impact for this event. “That includes spending in Oahu and the Big Island. The number on the Big Island can be estimated at over a half million dollars ($556,100) including the leakage spending due to the larger number of Big Island residents shopping in Oahu in the future, and with Oahu as the base for Hawaiian Airlines, their number is close to $400,000 ($390,700). That brings you close to a million dollars ($946,800) in long term impact.”

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