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Located in five states and the Canadian province of British Columbia and with a strong presence in or near the largest city of each, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference has established itself as one of the top NCAA Division II athletic conferences in the nation during its 16-year history.

Founded in July 2001, GNAC teams have had over 100 NCAA Division II Top-10 national team finishes in 15 of the 17 sports that it sponsors.

During the 2018-19 year, the GNAC had an impressive 20 teams advance to postseason competition in every conference championship sport. The GNAC’s postseason success was led by Western Washington volleyball, which amassed a 30-match win streak en route to an appearance in the NCAA Division II championship match. The Vikings lost in five sets to Tampa, extending the season as far as it could go.

The Western Washington women’s soccer team continued to be a fixture in the postseason, advancing to the West Regional championship match. Simon Fraser, meanwhile, spent time as the No. 1 ranked team in Division II men’s soccer after opening the season with 16 straight victories. The Clan earned the right to host the NCAA West Regional for the second straight season.

Alaska Anchorage’s women’s cross country notched its 10th consecutive top-10 finish at the national meet, finishing sixth, while Simon Fraser finished ninth. The Seawolves extended their success to the indoor season, placing fourth at the Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships. It was the best-ever team placing for a GNAC squad in the meet.

The conference advanced three teams to the men’s basketball West Regional: Saint Martin’s, Seattle Pacific and Western Oregon. The Falcons advanced to the regional championship game, losing to eventual national runner-up Point Loma. Likewise, Alaska Anchorage’s women’s basketball program advanced to the West Regional final, falling to Azusa Pacific.

During the spring, the GNAC advanced three teams to the NCAA Softball West Regional in Central Washington, Concordia and Western Oregon. Three other conference teams earned first-ever automatic bids to the NCAA Championship: Montana State Billings in baseball, Western Washington in men’s golf and Simon Fraser in women’s golf. The Clan saw two of its players, Kylie Jack and Jaya Rampuri, selected to compete in the Division II Women’s Golf Championships.

The conference also saw the pinnacle of an impressive career for Alaska Anchorage’s Caroline Kurgat, who won national titles indoors in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters and outdoors in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters. Kurgat set two Division II all-time bests during the indoor season and broke the outdoor record in the 10,000 meters. She was named as a finalist for the Honda Award, honoring the Division II Female Athlete of the Year, after winning the overall award in 2018.

In the conference’s 18-year history, GNAC teams have won four national championships. Former GNAC member Seattle University won the 2004 NCAA Division II men’s soccer national title before moving up to the Division I level. Seattle Pacific won the 2008 national championship in women’s soccer and was the national runner-up in 2005. The Vikings’ men’s basketball program claimed the 2012 Division II national title while Western Washington’s women’s soccer program won a national title in 2016.

Also earning second-place national finishes have been Seattle Pacific in women’s soccer (2005), women’s basketball (2005) and women’s cross country (2007) and Western Washington in volleyball (2007 & 2018).

The GNAC’s championship-caliber slate is further enhanced with the addition of women’s rowing as the league’s 17th sport for the 2019-20 season. The four programs that will compete in the GNAC have won 12 Division II championships and finished as the national runner-up 10 other times.

Over its history, the GNAC has also been successful academically. Conference student-athletes have won winning 94 Google Cloud/CoSIDA Academic All-American awards.  Ten of those came during the 2018-19 academic year.

Five GNAC student-athletes received First Team Academic All-American honors. Seattle Pacific’s Julia DeVere and Montana State Billings’ Amanda Hemmen were honored in the women’s soccer program. Western Oregon’s Tyler Jones and Olivia Woods and Alaska Anchorage’s Caroline Kurgat were recognized in the cross country/track and field program. The five give the GNAC a total of 27 Google Cloud/CoSIDA First Team Academic All-Americans, which honor both academic and athletic achievement.

During the 2018-19 academic year, 86 percent of the conference’s 122 competing teams posted cumulative grade point averages of 3.00 or higher. Five GNAC schools had all of its teams surpass the 3.00 threshold: Alaska Anchorage, Alaska, Concordia, Northwest Nazarene and Seattle Pacific.

The GNAC’s 11 full-time members are located in one of the most picturesque areas of North America, covering five U.S. states and one Canadian province.

Representing the Evergreen State in the conference are Central Washington University, Saint Martin’s University, Seattle Pacific University and Western Washington University.  All four schools are within 110 miles of Seattle, the state’s largest city.

Alaska is the home to GNAC members University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The only Canadian member in the NCAA is Simon Fraser University, which is located in Burnaby, B.C., a suburb of Canada's third-largest city, Vancouver.

Other conference members include Western Oregon University, which is a short drive from both the capital of Oregon (Salem) and the state’s largest city (Portland); Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, which is located near Idaho’s largest city and capital (Boise), and Montana State University Billings which is situated in the largest city in the Treasure State. The newest conference member is Concordia (Ore.), which is located in Portland. The Cavaliers begin competing in the GNAC and Division II in the fall of 2015 and was approved for full Division II membership in 2017.

The GNAC also has a presence in California with Azusa Pacific as an affiliate member in football and Humboldt State as an affiliate member in women’s rowing. Sitting outside the general conference footprint, the University of Central Oklahoma joined the GNAC in 2019 as an affiliate member in women’s rowing.

Humboldt State and Seattle University were charter members of the conference.  Humboldt left the GNAC following the 2005-06 season to join the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) and was an affiliate member in football until 2018. The Lumberjacks retained their GNAC membership by rejoining an affiliate member in women’s rowing in 2019. Seattle University departed following the 2007-08 season to compete in NCAA Division I.