Friday, October 21, 2016

Championship season begins for state's Division II schools with GNAC title meet Saturday in Bellingham...

Washington’s four Division II schools reconvene Saturday at East Lake Padden Park in Bellingham for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference cross country championships, with the men’s 10k starting at 10 am, and the women’s 6k commencing an hour later.

In the men’s 10k, Western Washington’s Isaac Derline (above/photo courtesy WWU Athletics) looks to duplicate his finish two weeks ago when he won the Western Washington Invitational on this very course, where he ran 31:14 to win the meet, and lead the Vikings to a fourth place team finish.  The Vikings, who were nationally ranked before the WWU Invitational, must get strong performances from their other runners if they are to return to the national top-30.

Alaska Anchorage enters the meet as the favorite, having won the last six conference crowns, and scored under 30 points over the last four years.  The Seawolves will be led by two time defending GNAC champ Henry Cheseto, though he has finished no better than 11th in the two races he’s contested so far this season.

On the women’s side, both the Seawolves and the Vikings enter the championships as the favorites, wth Alaska Anchorage returning defending champion Joyce Chelimo and Caroline Kurgat among their eight runners entered that ran on last year’s championship squad, while Western Washington brings back seven runners from the team that took second last year.

Two teams that will have something to say about the women’s team race are #19 Simon Fraser, led by Rebecca Bassett, and #25 Seattle Pacific, led by junior Mary Charleston and senior Sarah Macdonald.

Alaska Anchorage enters the meet ranked #14 in the latest USTFCCCA poll, while Western Washington, which was ranked #15 in the previous national poll, dropped out of the national top 25 after finishing 7th at its own invitational.

Saint Martin’s Shannon Porter could also contend for the GNAC individual crown.

NOTE: The GNAC and Western Washington University contributed to this report.

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