Seawolves, Vikings To Duel For Women's Cross Country Title
The top-three finishers from last year's GNAC Championships all return in 2016. From left, Caroline Kurgat (UAA), Rebecca Basswet (SFU) and Joyce Chelimo (UAA).
The top-three finishers from last year's GNAC Championships all return in 2016. From left, Caroline Kurgat (UAA), Rebecca Basswet (SFU) and Joyce Chelimo (UAA).

Thursday, October 20, 2016

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - There is a score to be settled in the women's race when Alaska Anchorage and Western Washington meet this weekend at the 2016 GNAC Cross Country Championships.

It began at last year’s GNAC Championships, when the Seawolves placed their five scoring runners in the top-15 to score 39 points and win their sixth title in a seven-year span on the Vikings’ home course.

Western Washington, however, had its say at the regional and national meets. The Vikings finished ahead of the Seawolves in both competitions, placing second at the West Regional Championships and sixth at the NCAA Division II Championships.

The two teams are expected to battle for the championship trophy once again and bring a lot of experience back. The Seawolves return eight of nine competitors that ran in last year’s meet while the Vikings return seven.

Alaska Anchorage will be lead by the potent one-two punch of senior Joyce Chelimo and junior Caroline Kurgat. Chelimo is the defending individual champion and a two-time All-American, but did not race this season until the Oct. 8 Western Washington Classic, where she finished 10th.

Kurgat was the runner-up to Chelimo at the 2015 GNAC Championships and placed sixth at the national meet. So far this season, Kurgat has finished no worse than third in three meets, winning the Notre Dame de Namur Argo Invitational and placing second at the WWU Classic.

Chelimo and Kurgat will not be the only contenders. After an All-American junior season on the track, Saint Martin’s senior Shannon Porter has made her mark on the cross country course. Porter has three victories to her credit this season and placed fifth at the WWU Classic, just 21 seconds off the pace set by Kurgat.

Seattle Pacific brings to the table a one-two punch of its own in junior Mary Charleson and senior Sarah Macdonald. Charleson opened the season with a win at the Humboldt State Invitational, running against some of the region’s top teams, and has finished no worse than 11th in any race this season. Macdonald placed third at Humboldt and was fourth in the virtual championship preview at the WWU Classic.

Simon Fraser’s Rebecca Bassett will also have a chance to earn the Clan’s first GNAC individual cross country title. The senior placed third at last year’s championship and has one win on the season at September’s Ash Creek Invitational.

Two other top-10 finishers from last year’s meet return: Western Washington’s Brittany Grant (eighth) and Alaska Anchorage’s Kimberly Cosica (ninth).

Other runners to watch in the individual race include Northwest Nazarene’s sister act of Sierra Manzer and Anysja Manzer. Sierra, a sophomore, has three top-five finishes on the season, topped by a win at the season-opening Idaho State Invitational. Anysja had three top-10 finishes, including a third place finish at September’s Yellowjacket Open.

Simon Fraser is expected to contend for the team title after winning in 2014 and placing third in 2015. In addition to Bassett, junior Julia Howley has paced the Clan to solid team finishes all season. Seattle Pacific is also in the mix thanks to the work of Charleson and Macdonald along with senior Hannah Calvert.