Saturday, October 21, 2017

SPU's Mary Charleson takes second in GNAC cross country championships...

BELLINGHAM—It rained before, and after the races, but for the duration of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference cross country championships at East Lake Padden Park, the weather gods cooperated.

Seattle Pacific’s Mary Charleson (left/photo by Paul Merca), who had nursed an injury for most of the season before opening two weeks ago on this very same course with a 13th place finish in 22:15 at the Western Washington Classic under explicit instructions to run easy with the pack for the first mile, roared to a second place finish, running 21:46 over the wet course, improving on her fourth place finish in the conference meet last year.

While Alaska Anchorage’s Caroline Kurgat ran away from the field, winning by a 56 second margin over Charleson in 20:50, the Seattle Pacific senior had a seven second gap over third place finisher Julia Howley of Simon Fraser, who was one of the most dominant runners in the conference this season.

Charleson’s efforts helped the Falcons gain a fourth place finish, just behind host Western Washington, as the Vikings edged Seattle Pacific out by a 87-93 margin, despite not having a runner break into the top ten.

Afterwards, Charleson said, "It felt so good to be back and starting where I normally start and being competitive with it. “I didn't hold anything back today, and that was exciting."

"After that first hill, I started making a move on the downhill," Charleson said of how she broke away on the back side of the lake. "I knew we had to keep up the pace so that the back pack didn't catch us.”

Sophomore Tracy Melville was the Vikings’ top finisher in 13th place with a time of 22:24.

Central Washington was fifth with 163 points, led by GNAC 10000m champ Alexa Shindruk, who was 11th in 22;14.

Saint Martin’s was tenth with 255 points, led by Larissa Kolasinski in 31st place with a time of 23:23.

Alaska Anchorage made an emphatic statement in successfully defending its GNAC title, as the #8 ranked Seawolves scored a low of 28 points, placing all five of its scorers in the top ten, handily defeating number 4 Simon Fraser, who scored 65 points.

With Saturday’s performance, Alaska Anchorage should move up when the national USTFCCCA rankings are published on Wednesday.

In the men’s 8k race, there was a bit of a mild upset, as Western Oregon’s David Ribich, the reigning NCAA D2 champ at 1500 meters, got the best of defending conference cross country champ Edwin Kangogo, winning the GNAC title in a time of 24:55 to Kangogo’s 25:04.

#23 Western Washington placed two runners in the top ten, led by Jadon Olson’s sixth place finish in 25:30.  Andrew Wise was tenth in 25:42, as the Vikings finished fourth with 76 points.

As in the women’s race, Ribich’s win propelled #13 Western Oregon to the conference title, stopping a streak of seven consecutive team titles for Alaska Anchorage. The Wolves, coached by former UW head coach Mike Johnson, scored 51 points to UAA’s 64 points.

The Vikings, which beat unranked Simon Fraser two weeks ago at its own meet, had the tide turned on them by the Clan, as SFU was third with 70 points to WWU’s 76.

Central Washington was sixth with 161 points, led by Josh Boston in 25th place in 26:19.  

Seattle Pacific was eighth with 224 points, as Peder Rickbell was their top runner in 32nd in 26:42, while Saint Martin’s was 11th with 331 points, led by Josh Hunt in 59th place in 27:11.

All eleven GNAC member schools will reconvene in two weeks at Western Oregon University’s Ash Creek Preserve for the NCAA West Regional championship meet to determine berths for the NCAA championships in Evansville, Indiana on November 18th.

NOTE:  The Great Northwest Athletic Conference contributed to this report.

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