Thursday, October 20, 2011

GNAC cross country championships Saturday in Yakima...

YAKIMA--Western Washington, Central Washington, Seattle Pacific, and Saint Martin's will have the daunting task of trying to knock off defending men's and women's team champions Alaska Anchorage at Saturday's GNAC cross country championships.

The championships will be held for the fourth consecutive year at the Apple Ridge Cross Country Facility near Yakima. The women's 6,000 meter race begins at 10 a.m. followed by the men's 8,000 meters at 11 a.m.

In the women's race, Lauren Breihof of Western Washington and Natty Plunkett of Seattle Pacific, along with Joscelyn Minton of Saint Martin's, will try to improve upon their placings from last year. Breihof was seventh, Plunkett was ninth, and Minton tenth in the 2010 edition.

Western Washington, which is ranked third in the region and 16th nationally, likely has the best chance to challenge UAA's two-year conference reign, though they lost Sarah Porter to graduation.

Courtesy of Seattle Pacific, here's a feature story on first year Falcon runner Heidi Laabs-Johnson (left, #592/photo courtesy Seattle Pacific University), a converted soccer player, who is now a key cog on the SPU cross country team.

In the men's team race, Western Washington doesn't have any individual or team victories this fall, but had a solid third-place team finish in the Western Classic and is ranked third in the region and 19th nationally. Tyler Cannon led WWU at their home meet placing sixth on the 10K layout.

Seattle Pacific has won three team titles including two at Fairbanks. The third came in the CWU Appleridge Run where the Falcons' Jordan Wolfe finished first.

Saint Martin's Spencer Hunt, who along with teammate Kyle Van Santen had all-conference performances last year placing ninth and 10th in the GNAC championships, won the UPS Invitational.

Van Santen, who also was also an all-conference selection in 2009, placed second at UPS, third in the UW Sundodger Open Division (Sept. 17) and fifth in the pre-national meet in Spokane and in the Western Classic in Bellingham.

Following the GNAC title meet, most of the GNAC squads will make the first of what will hopefully be two trips to Spokane Valley for the NCAA Division II West Regionals at the Plantes Ferry Sports Complex on November 5th, and a return trip two weeks later for the NCAA Division II national championships on the same course.

The full GNAC release previewing the meet is available here.

NOTE: The GNAC, along with the sports information offices of Western Washington, Central Washington, Seattle Pacific, and Saint Martin's, contributed to this report.

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