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Located in five states and the province of Canada 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 a remarkable 95 NCAA Division II Top 10 national team finishes in 15 of the 16 sports that it sponsors. 

The GNAC’s successes in 2016-17 were topped by the conference’s fourth national championship team. Western Washington’s women’s soccer program marched to an undefeated season and the Division II championship. The Vikings tied only their first match of the season before winning 24 straight and beating perennial power Grand Valley State in the national final.

Alaska Anchorage’s volleyball team finished a whisper from becoming the fifth GNAC national title team, winning a conference-record 34 matches and advancing to the Division II national championship final.

Three of the conference’s six top-10 finishes came in cross country. The Alaska Anchorage men’s cross country team placed fifth at the national championships. The Simon Fraser women’s team placed sixth and the Seawolves’ women’s team placed seventh. During the winter, Western Oregon’s men tied for sixth place at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships, the best ever finish by a GNAC team in the meet.

In addition to the team successes, the GNAC received individual national championships in outdoor track and field from Northwest Nazarene’s Payton Lewis (men’s pole vault), Western Oregon’s David Ribich (men’s 1,500 meters) and Western Washington’s Bethany Drake (women’s javelin).

Western Washington’s title was the third for the conference in soccer. 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.

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).

GNAC athletes have also been successful academically, winning 76 GNAC CoSIDA Academic All-American awards.  Nine of those came during the 2016-17 academic year.

Earning first team honors this past season was Alaska women’s basketball player Jordan Wilson, Alaska Anchorage track and field standout Jamie Ashcroft and Western Washington javelin national champion Bethany Drake.  The three give the GNAC a total of 17 CoSIDA First Team Academic All-Americans, which honor both academic and athletic achievement. 

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, as both Humboldt State and Azusa Pacific are affiliate members in the sport of football.

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) but remains in the conference as a football-playing member. Seattle University departed following the 2007-08 season to compete in NCAA Division I.