Butterworth, Donigian, Thomas Voted Top Indoor Athletes
SFU's Lindsey Butterworth (far left), WWU's Alex Donigian (middle) and UAA's Cody Thomas (far right) have been voted GNAC Indoor Athletes of the Year (Photos by Loren Orr)
SFU's Lindsey Butterworth (far left), WWU's Alex Donigian (middle) and UAA's Cody Thomas (far right) have been voted GNAC Indoor Athletes of the Year (Photos by Loren Orr)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore.  –  Lindsey Butterworth of Simon Fraser, Alex Donigian of Western Washington and Cody Thomas of Alaska Anchorage have been voted the Great Northwest Athletic Conference  Indoor Track and Field  Athletes of the Year.

Butterworth (Sr., North Vancouver, BC – Handsworth) completed a brilliant 2015 season and indoor career by winning the women’s 800 meter title at the NCAA national meet in Birmingham, Ala., in a time of 2:08.44.

Butterworth, who had the season-best time in NCAA Division II in both the 800 (2:06.56) and mile (4:44.80), also anchored SFU’s second-place distance medley relay team that set a GNAC record at Birmingham with a time of 11:28.28.

Prior to the national meet she claimed three GNAC titles to bring her career total to seven. She won the 800 in a time of 2:08.44.  She also won the mile (4:55.34) and the distance medley relay (11:59.08) for the third time each. 

Donigian (Jr., Mission Viejo, CA – Northern Colorado) and Thomas (Sr., Blenheim, New Zealand) tied in the balloting from the nine conference head coaches for the GNAC Male Athlete of the Year award with 19 points each.  Each athlete finished second in the national meet in their specialty after earning titles in the GNAC meet.

Donigian finished second in the 60 meters at Birmingham in a five-way photo finish in a time of 6.72, tying his own GNAC record.  At the conference meet, he won the 60 in a time of 6.82 and finished second in the 200 in a time of 21.66.  His best 200 time of 21.63 ranks second in GNAC history.  Donigian, who has exhausted his indoor eligibilty but has another year of outdoor eligibility after this spring, has now won five GNAC individual indoor titles, which equals the GNAC record.

Thomas finished second in the heptathlon at the NCAAs with the No. 2 best score in GNAC history (5,488) after winning the multi-events at the GNAC meet with a meet-record score of 4,985.  His NCAA score featured  a 6-10 ¼ high jump – the second-best in GNAC history in any competition - and his GNAC score included a meet heptathlon record in the 60 hurdles (8.50)              

Badane Sultessa of Western Oregon, Jennifer Johnson and Paige Nock of Simon Fraser and Payton Lewis of Northwest Nazarene all also won special awards. 

Sultessa (Jr., Portland, OR) and Johnson (Sr., Corvallis, OR) earned the GNAC Male and Female Newcomer of the Year award, respectively, while Lewis (Nampa, ID – Nampa Christian) and Nock  (Courtice, ON) were voted the GNAC’s top freshmen.

Sultessa, a transfer from Clackamas CC, earned All-American honors placing fourth at the NCAAs in the men’s 800 meters in a time of 1:51.36 after setting a GNAC record in the prelims in a time of 1:50.73.

Johnson, who sat out her final two years at Georgetown due to injuries prior to transferring to SFU to attend graduate school, earned All-American honors in the 3000, placing third in a time of 9:26.82 and breaking the old NCAA national meet record in the process.  In the conference meet she set a meet record in winning the 3K (9:47.6).  She was also a member of SFU’s winning DMR team which ran a 11:59.08.

Lewis, who was voted the USTFCCCA West Region Field Athlete of the Year, had a season-best of 17-0 ½ in the pole vault, becoming just the second 17-foot vaulter in GNAC history.  He won the pole vault at the conference meet with a meet-record mark of 16-11.  He also finished ninth at Birmingham with a vault of 16-2 ¾.

Lewis, who scored 20 points in the conference meet also placing fourth in both the 60 hurdles (8.31) and long jump (23-0), set school records in the pole vault, long jump (23-0) and heptathlon (5,075).   His heptathlon score ranks third in GNAC history.

Michael Friess and Karl Lerum, who guided Alaska Anchorage and Seattle Pacific to the GNAC men’s and women’s conference titles, respectively. were voted the GNAC Male Team and Female Team Coaches of the Year.

The men’s title was UAA’s first since it added indoor three years ago.  Friess had previously led UAA to two women’s titles in 2013 and 2014 earning the Coach of the Year award in both seasons.

Lerum was selected the GNAC Women’s Coach of the Year award for the seventh time.  He also won the award in each season after leading the Falcons to conference titles in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 before UAA ended his six-year title run and SPU’s nine-year run in 2013.