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Many Teams In The Mix For GNAC Indoor Team Titles
Northwest Nazarene's Payton Lewis (left) is competing for his fourth men's pole vault title while Western Washington's Jasmine McMullin seeks her third in the women's triple jump.
Northwest Nazarene's Payton Lewis (left) is competing for his fourth men's pole vault title while Western Washington's Jasmine McMullin seeks her third in the women's triple jump.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

NAMPA, Idaho – While the perennial favorites continue to be just that, the race for the team titles is wide open at the 2018 GNAC Indoor Track and Field Championships, which take place this weekend at the Jacksons Indoor Center.

Both of the 2017 champions figure into those favorites, but have a number of challengers that will make the path to repeat tough. Alaska Anchorage is the defending men’s champion, but will have to replace the majority of the 154 points it scored last year.

Seattle Pacific edged out Alaska Anchorage to re-take the women’s championship. The Falcons return the majority of their 124 points from last year, but will have to hold off a Seawolves’ squad that is strong in nearly every running event.

MEN
While the Seawolves won their last three championships on the shoulders of their distance runners, they will have to depend on sprinters and jumpers to win a fourth.

Chris Brake leads the way. The sophomore enters the meet leading the GNAC in the triple jump (45-5.25) and is tied for first in the high jump (6-8.75). Hylton Oshane is one of five GNAC athletes to run under seven seconds for the 60 meters this year (6.97). Liam Lindsay ranks fourth in the 400 meters (49.06) while Darrion Gray is sixth in the 200 meters (22.15).

The three sprinters are also part of a 4x400-meter relay team that is vying for its third straight title. The squad is provisionally qualified for nationals with a time of 3:14.20.

Northwest Nazarene, the meet host, returns a pair of champions and has a pair of conference event leaders. Payton Lewis is on pace to win a fourth straight title in the pole vault. His season-best of 16-4.75 is 12th best in Division II. In addition to leading three potential point-scorers in the pole vault, Lewis is also expected to contend for the title in the 60-meter hurdles.

Freshman Elijah Castro has the top mark in the triple jump and, at 23-8.75, is tied for 18th in Division II. Ebu Camara is the defending champion in the 200 meters and is third in the GNAC this season at 21.97 seconds. John Van Beuren brings NNU record marks in both the shot put (53-7) and the weight throw (60-5.25), both of which are NCAA provisional qualifiers.

Western Oregon senior David Ribich has put together a season for the ages. The defending champion in the mile and the 3,000 meters leads Division II in both events. He became the 501st U.S. athlete to break four minutes in the mile (3:58.88) and his 7:50.81 in the 3,000 meters is a Division II all-time best.

Teammate Dustin Nading has posted outstanding performances of his own. His best of 4:04.50 in the mile is ninth in Division II and his 8:10.82 in the 3,000 meters is 17th. He is joined by Tyler Jones, who has a provisional qualifier in the 3,000 at 8:21.20. Outside of the distances, WOU is augmented by Alani Troutman in the long jump (22-9.25) and Aaron Whitaker in the 400 meters (49.06).

In its first full season as a Division II member, Concordia will be in the mix to claim its first team title. Josh Koch will try to give the Cavaliers their third straight champion in the shot put. His season-best of 58-5.75 is second-best in GNAC history and 11th in Division II. Koch leads four CU athletes with NCAA qualifying marks in the event. In addition, Jakob Chamberlin leads the GNAC in the weight throw (60-6) while James Phillips is 20th in Division II in the pentathlon (4,968).

The Cavaliers, however, are out to prove that they are more than a throws program. Carlos Ortiz is a title contender in both sprints. His times of 6.89 seconds in the 60 meters and 21.95 seconds in the 200 meters are both No. 2 in the conference. Adam Brown is second in the 400 meters (48.81) while Noah Wallace leads the GNAC in the 800 meters (1:53.19).

Simon Fraser’s Vladislav Tsygankov is the defending champion in the 400 meters and long jump and stands a good shot to repeat in both. The three-time defending champ in the long jump, he enters with the GNAC’s No. 2 mark in the event (23-2.75) while his best of 48.02 seconds in the 400 meters is 17th in Division II.

Oliver Jorgensen leads another solid SFU distance crew, owning provisional qualifying marks in the mile (4:06.82) and the 3,000 meters (8:11.36). Mateo de Dalmases has the conference’s best time in the 5,000 meters by 13 seconds with his best of 14:38.10.

Central Washington returns a pair of champions in Kodiak Landis and Armando Tafoya. Landis has already surpassed his point total from last year’s heptathlon with an effort of 5,407 points that automatically qualified him for nationals. Tafoya will vie for his second title in the weight throw and enters the meet third in the GNAC at 59-3.

Montana State Billings’ Sam Zook hopes to not only repeat as 60-meter champion, but to also add the 200 meters to his trophy case. Zook owns the 11th best time in Division II in the 60 meters at 6.80 seconds while his best of 21.72 seconds in the 200 meters is No. 3 on the GNAC All-Time List.

WOMEN
Much like the first 14 years of GNAC indoor track and field, Seattle Pacific and Alaska Anchorage expect to fight it out to take home the championship trophy.

Seattle Pacific’s Scout Cai, the defending pentathlon champion, enters the meet with a score of 3,709 points that is fifth in Division II this season. Cai is also tied for the GNAC lead in the long jump (18-3), is second in the pole vault (11-7.25) and third in the high jump (5-5). Geneva Lehnert is the defending champion in the high jump and is second in the GNAC at 5-6.5.

Freshmen lead the way for the Falcons in the sprints. Julia Stepper leads the GNAC in the 60 meters at 7.80 seconds while Renick Meyer is ranked second in the 60-meter hurdles (8.76) and third in the 60 meters (7.85).  Sophomore Alyssa Foote ranks third in the 5,000 meters (17:09.71).

Alaska Anchorage has potential point-scorers throughout the running events. Danielle McCormick has set the table for an 800-meter title, earning an NCAA automatic qualifier with a time of 2:07.13 last weekend. Tamara Perez owns a provisional qualifying time of 4:57.83 in the mile and Mariah Burroughs is provisionally qualified in the 3,000 meters (9:58.44). The three are also part of a distance medley relay team that is automatically qualified for nationals with a time of 11:32.96.

In the sprints, Vanessa Aniteye is ranked third in the 400 meters (57.05) while Marie Ries is fourth in the 60 meters (7.94).
While not returning any champions from last year, Simon Fraser will figure into the title mix. Julia Howley enters the meet ranked sixth in Division II in the 3,000 meters (9:32.78) and is 11th in the mile (4:50.46). In all, four SFU athletes have NCAA provisional qualifying times in the 3,000 meters and three in the mile.

Additionally, Alana Mussatto is ranked sixth in Division II in the 800 meters (2:09.69). Meyer Quaynor enters the meet ranked second in the 60 meters (7.84) and Renate Bluschke is third in the 200 meters (25.61). Diana Voloshin is ranked third in the GNAC in the 60-meter hurdles (8.81) and fourth in the 200 (25.75).

Concordia enters the meet with GNAC leaders in three field events as Christina MacDonald and Melissa Ausman will try to continue the Cavaliers’ lock on the weight events. MacDonald set the GNAC record earlier this season in the weight throw and her mark of 61-8.25 is ninth in Division II. Ausman is sixth in Division II in the shot put (49-11) and is provisionally qualified for nationals in both throws. In all, Concordia has six NCAA provisional marks in the weights.

Tori Johnson, the 2016 champion in the high jump, leads the GNAC once again this season with a mark of 5-7. Emma Hill will be in the mix for the triple jump title with her provisional qualifying mark of 38-7. To win, however, she will have to get past Western Washington’s Jasmine McMullin. The 2015 and 2016 champ in the event leads the conference and is 12th in Division II at 39-4.5.

Central Washington’s HarLee Ortega and Ali Anderson will be contenders in a number of events. Ortega enters with Division II’s ninth-best mark in the pentathlon (3,651) while Anderson is 11th (3,605). Anderson also leads the GNAC and is 13th in Division II in the 400 meters (56.08). Mariyah Vongsaveng leads the GNAC in the 60-meter hurdles (8.68) while Halle Irvine leads in the pole vault (12-1.5).

Western Oregon’s Suzie Van De Grift has the No. 8 time in Division II in the mile (4:48.95) while Kennedy Rufener is 11th in the 5,000 meters (16:53.96). The Wolves also have three NCAA provisional qualifiers in the 800 meters, led by Olivia Woods’ time of 2:10.62.

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