Saturday, October 24, 2015

Vikings earn top three team finishes at GNAC championship meet...

BELLINGHAM—On a cloudy, but crisp fall Saturday at Lake Padden Park, Western Washington’s nationally ranked cross country squads finished second (women) and third (men) at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference cross country championships.

It was a dominating performance by both Alaska Anchorage squads, as the Seawolves swept the team titles, with the women scoring a low of 39 points, to Western’s 71, led by Taylor Guenther's (left/photo by Paul Merca) sixth place finish, while the men scored a low of 21 points to easily outdistance second place Simon Fraser, who scored 54 points.

After Western in the women's 6k race came an inspired effort by Central Washington to take third with 95 points, led by All-American Dani Eggleston’s fifth place finish, with two other Wildcats placing in the top 11.

Nationally ranked Seattle Pacific, the conference’s most improved team going into the championship race, finished fifth with 114 points, while Saint Martin’s was ninth with 217.

As billed, the top four runners in the conference—Joyce Chelimo and Caroline Kurgat of Alaska Anchorage, Simon Fraser’s Rebecca Bassett, and Seattle Pacific’s Anna Patti, broke away from the field early.

Chelimo and Kurgat worked together before the field began the loop around Lake Padden, at which point Chelimo slowly opened up a gap on her teammate, winning in 21:01 to Kurgat’s 21:09.

Bassett, who finished behind Patti at the Sundodger meet in Seattle last month after leading, returned the favor on Patti, as she finished third in 21:30, with Patti fourth in 21:43.

Central Washington’s Dani Eggleston, last year’s third place finisher, showed signs of returning to the form that made her a cross country All-American and an NCAA steeple finalist last year, charging to take fifth, after looking less than impressive in her previous races so far this season.

Western’s Taylor Guenther was sixth in 22:02, leading teammates Brittany Grant in eighth (22:11), and Tracy Melville in tenth (22:25).

Eggleston helped tow Wildcat teammates Megan Rogers to seventh (22:07), and Alexa Shindruk to 11th (22:38).

Larissa Kolasinski led the way for Saint Martin’s with her 14th place finish in 22:42.

Central’s third place finish in the women’s championship coupled with Seattle Pacific’s fifth place will probably signal a shift in the national USTFCCCA Division II rankings when they’re published next week.

In the men’s 8k championship, it was all Alaska Anchorage, as the trio of defending champion Henry Cheseto, Dominik Notz, and Edwin Kangogo opened up a gap early, with only Western Oregon’s David Ribich and Simon Fraser’s Oliver Jorgensen the only ones willing to go with the Seawolf trio early.

Cheseto defended his crown easily, winning in 24:23, followed by Notz in 24:28, and Kangogo in 24:45.

Andrew Wise led the way for Western Washington with his tenth place finish in 25:31, as the Vikings were third with 83 points.

Central Washington finished sixth with 185 points, led by Alex Martinez in 27th at 26:33.  Ben Halliday was Seattle Pacific’s top runner in 31st in 26:37, as the Falcons were ninth with 258 points.

Saint Martin’s finished eleventh with 304 points, led by Jasper Heckman in 46th in 26:59.

Following the GNAC Championships, the league’s teams will compete in two weeks at the NCAA West Regional Championships on November 7th in Monmouth, Oregon, hosted by Western Oregon. The top five teams in the west region meet will advance to the NCAA Division II Championships.

Complete results of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships are available here.

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

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