Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pixler nabs fourth straight GNAC harrier title; Vikings win GNAC men's team title...

YAKIMA--Seattle Pacific senior Jessica Pixler (left/2007 file photo by Paul Merca) finished a four-year career sweep of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference meet on Saturday, leading from start to finish and cruising to a 10-second victory at Apple Ridge Run. Pixler finished the 6-kilometer course in 21 minutes, 3 seconds to defeat Western Washington all-American Sarah Porter by a ten-second margin.

But while Pixler stayed in front, Alaska Anchorage became the first team since Central Washington in 2004 to knock the Falcons out of the top spot. The Seawolves, ranked second in the West Region and fifth in the nation, went 3-4-5-6-7 behind Pixler and Porter for the day’s low total of 25 points.

SPU, ranked No. 3 in the West and No. 7 in the nation, was second with 48. Western Washington, No. 4 in the West and No. 8 nationally, was third with 64. All three teams will share the course again when they gather in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on Nov. 7 for the NCAA Division II West Regionals.

Pixler was in front even before the race hit the 200-meter mark, and gradually opened the margin on Porter, who also was second last year.

“I think I went out a little too fast, and this is definitely a slow course,” Pixler said. (Indeed, her three other 6K races this year have been well under 21 minutes.) “I went through the mile in 5:17, which was blazing fast, and I felt it a little bit later in the race.”

"That's as close as she's (Porter) been to Pixler and that's exciting to see," said Western Washington coach Pee Wee Halsell.

Falcon senior Jane Larson (Fall City, Wash./Cedar Park Christian HS) took eighth place in 22:20. The other three Seattle Pacific scorers also were in the top 15: sophomore Natty Plunkett (Bellevue, Wash./Newport HS) was 11th in 22:48; senior Lisa Anderberg (Mukilteo, Wash./Kamiak HS) took 13th in 22:57; and senior Kate Harline (Orem, Utah) was 15th in 22:57.

Also finishing among the top 10 for the Vikings to earn all-league honors was Lauren Breihof (So., Vancouver/Mountain View), who placed ninth in 22:37.

Western's Courtney Olsen (Sr., Bellingham/Squalicum), bothered by a bad back, was 12th (22:52); Emily Wallen (Fr., Olympia/Capital) 20th (23:48), and Sierra Brisky (So., Acme/Mount Baker), 21st (23:51) rounded out Western's scorers.

Western easily won its third title in four years as they captured their fourth GNAC championship overall.

The Vikings were led by Bennett Grimes (Jr., Pocatello, ID/Century) and Jordan Welling (Jr., Burlington/Burlington-Edison), who were second (25:05) and third (25:08), respectively.

Grimes finished 15 seconds behind the individual champion, Alaska Anchorage's Marko Cheseto, who became the first two-time men's titlist by completing the 8-kilometer course in 24:50.

Western, ranked No.7 in this week's United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association/NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll, had a winning score of 33 points, 37 ahead of runner-up Alaska Anchorage (70), the defending champion.

"It was a very gutsy race and a really good quality race," said Halsell. "It was good to see our No.5 (runner) moving up closer with less than a minute between them (top five) and our No.6 is not that far back.

"That top seven group is tough and that is what we want to see."

Grimes and Welling were two of four Vikings to earn all-conference recognition by placing among the top 10. Western's Anthony Tomsich (Sr., Fairbanks, AK/West Valley) was sixth (25:14) and Blake Medhaug (Jr., Bothell) ninth (25:32).

It was the third all-league honor for Grimes, Medhaug and Welling.

Completing Western's seven scoring runners were Eric Brill (So., Kent/Kentwood), 13th (25:59), Greg Kubitz (Sr., Kelso), 15th (26:12) and Yonas Berhe (So., Seattle/Roosevelt), 18th (26:28).

SPU's Chad Meis crossed the finish line 11th on Saturday morning as its top finisher. Meis (Renton, Wash./Seattle Christian HS) went through the 8-kilometer course in 25 minutes, 47 seconds.

Last year, Meis (Renton, Wash./Seattle Christian HS) ran 26:06 to place 15th. But even with his significant improvement on Saturday, a top-10 spot proved elusive.

“I was sitting on 10th the whole way,” he said. “I should have had a good race. That’s the most I’ve tapered for the meet.”

While Meis will get a chance to run at the NCAA West Regional meet on Nov. 7 in San Francisco, the Falcons fell short of making it as a team. Needing a top-four finish, SPU checked in fifth with 138 points.

Complete results from the GNAC Championships can be accessed here

The Vikings and Falcons have a week off before competing in the NCAA II West Regional on Saturday, Nov. 7, which will be held at Golden Gate State Park in San Francisco, Calif. The top three men's teams and the top four women's teams at the regional meet along with the top two individuals not on a qualifying team or anyone else in the top five qualify for the national meet Nov. 21 at Evansville, Ind.

NOTE--The sports information offices of the GNAC, Seattle Pacific and Western Washington contributed to this report.

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