Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pixler three-peats as NCAA D2 cross country champ; SPU & WWU earn fourth place team finishes...

EVANSVILLE, Indiana--Jessica Pixler (left/photo courtesy Randy has done it again.

Under clear and sunny skies, the Seattle Pacific senior proved it again on Saturday as she ran to her history-making third straight NCAA Division II women’s cross country championship.

Pixler cruised along the 6-kilometer University of Southern Indiana Cross Country Course in 20 minutes, 23 seconds. It was the closest of her three title victories, as Western Washington junior Sarah Porter was second in 20:31.

Porter finished over 13 seconds ahead of third-place Ashley Siler from Missouri Southern.

“Neely Spence (of Shippensburg State, last year’s runner-up to Pixler) was with me until about the 4K mark, but then she kind of died,” Pixler said. “It was just kind of me finishing. It put a surge on the hill, and I think that helped. That was kind of a turning point.”

Spence, the 2009 USA junior champion faded to 43rd.

In talking about Porter's second place finish, Western coach Pee Wee Halsell said, "Sarah's strategy was not to go out with the leaders and expend too much energy." "At the halfway mark, she went out and really started dropping people and she was really pulling on Pixler at the end."

And in keeping with that theme of threes, the Falcon women captured their third straight team trophy. As the case last year, this was the fourth-place model, and SPU claimed it by beating West Region rivals Alaska Anchorage and Chico State. Seattle Pacific finished with 151 points.

The Western women finished eighth with 300 points, as Adams State emerged victorious with 73 points.

Among other notables in the women's race, former two-time Pac-10 steeple champ from Washington State Sara Trane finished 18th, competing for Florida Tech, and former Pac-10 cross country newcomer of the year from UW, Tori Tyler, representing Chico State, finished 27th, four spots ahead of Western's Lauren Breihof.

Three other West Region teams placed in the top 10, Seattle Pacific being fourth (151), Alaska Anchorage fifth (158) and Chico State sixth (172).

Pixler, from Eastlake HS in Sammamish, joined an elite group of three-time NCAA cross country champions, and is the first in Division II to win that many. The other three-time winners were Sally Kipeygo of Texas Tech (2006-07-08 in Division I) and Missy Buttry of Wartburg (2002-03-04 in Division III). She now has nine NCAA championships: three in cross country, four in indoor track and two in outdoor track.

Prior to nationals, Pixler completed a four-year sweep of the GNAC and the West Region championships.

“It’s kind of funny after having it happen -- you realize more and more it wasn’t about winning the title,” Pixler said. “So much of the journey was about spending time with teammates and family and coaches.”

Added SPU coach Erika Daligcon, “To go out there and make (D-2) history, that’s pretty special. It just speaks to the work. She’s definitely talented, but she has put in all those hours of work.”

The Falcons packed three runners within one second of each other. Seniors Suzie Strickler and Jane Larson were the Nos. 2 and 3 Falcon finishers in their final career cross country races. Strickler was 46th overall in 22:12, and Larson was 47th, just a second back. Sophomore Natty Plunkett was right with them, taking 49th in 22:13.

Senior Kate Harline (Orem, Utah) rounded out the SPU scoring by finishing 62nd in 22:25.

Adams State of Colorado won its seventh straight title, posting the day’s low total of 73 points. Grand Valley State of Michigan was second with 81, followed by Missouri Southern in third with 104.

Alaska Anchorage, which dominated both the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the West Region championships, wound up fifth with 158. Chico State, the top-ranked team in the country for a stretch of the season, placed sixth with 172.

Western Washington's mens squad earned a NCAA team trophy as well, as the Bellingham school finished fourth.

Adams State from Colorado, the team champion in both the men's and women's competition, finished with 23 points in the men's division. Western State CO was second (86), Colorado Mines third (153) and the Vikings fourth (170), 15 points ahead of fifth-place Grand Valley State MI.

Western was paced by Jordan Welling, who finished 13th, completing the 10-kilometer course in 31:45.

"Jordan got up that first hill and then at the halfway mark started picking people off," Western Washington coach Pee Wee Halsell said. "He had a very strong second half."

The Vikings' Anthony Tomsich placed 45th (32:45), Eric Brill 52nd (32:49), Bennett Grimes 56th (32:54), Blake Medhaug 61st (33:00), Greg Kubitz 79th (33:18) and Yonas Berhe 97th (33:42).

"To have all seven men finish in the top 100 is an amazing feat," Halsell said. "Brill had an incredible race, to move up from being our fifth runner most of the season to third was outstanding."

Complete results of the NCAA Division II championships can be accessed here.

NOTE: The sports information offices of Seattle Pacific University and Western Washington University contributed to this report.

No comments:

Blog Archive