Turning A New Leaf: SFU Picked For XC Repeat Sweep
Kate Cameron (left) and Charlie Dannatt (right) are among the athletes expected to lead Simon Fraser to a title sweep in 2022. Photos by Ron Smith.
Kate Cameron (left) and Charlie Dannatt (right) are among the athletes expected to lead Simon Fraser to a title sweep in 2022. Photos by Ron Smith.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – In 2021, Simon Fraser became the first team in conference history other than Alaska Anchorage to sweep the team titles at the GNAC Cross Country Championships.

Coaches are predicting another sweep this year with Simon Fraser picked to win both the men’s and women’s championships in the 2022 GNAC Cross Country Coaches Preseason Poll.

Winners of both the GNAC and NCAA West Region titles in 2021, the Simon Fraser women picked up six first-place votes to lead the poll with 86 points. The SFU men also earned six first-place votes and 86 points to lead a tight race in the men’s poll.

Western Washington is tabbed as the runner-up in both polls. The Vikings earned three first-place votes in the women’s poll to finish with 79 points. The men are in a close second with 84 points, receiving the remaining four first-place votes.

Alaska is picked third in the women’s poll with 72 points. The Nanooks received the remaining first-place vote after running to the program’s best-ever finish in 2021.

Western Oregon is picked fourth with 63 points, followed by Seattle Pacific (49 pts.), Saint Martin’s (44 pts.), Alaska Anchorage (35 pts.), Northwest Nazarene (28 pts.), Central Washington (22 pts.) and Montana State Billings (17 pts.).

The Wolves are picked third in the men’s poll with 67 points with Alaska Anchorage a close fourth at 65 points. Central Washington is predicted to finish fifth with 48 points, followed by Montana State Billings (45 pts.), Saint Martin’s (33 pts.), Northwest Nazarene (29 pts.), Seattle Pacific (23 pts.) and Alaska (15 pts.).

The 2022 season begins on Saturday, Aug, 27, with Alaska and Alaska Anchorage dueling against each other in the Blue & Gold Invite in Fairbanks. The 2022 GNAC Championships take place on Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Ash Creek Preserve in Monmouth, Oregon.

For the first time since 2013, runners advancing all of the way through the postseason will be able to do so without leaving GNAC Country. The NCAA West Region Championships will take place in Billings, Montana on Nov. 19 while Seattle Pacific hosts the NCAA Championships at Chambers Creek Regional Park in University Place, Washington on Dec. 2. 

Simon Fraser put together its best finish as a GNAC program in 2021, placing all five scoring runners in the top-10 to win with a score of 32 points. The score was the seventh-lowest in meet history and was the lowest winning score since Alaska Anchorage finished with 28 points in 2017. Simon Fraser went on to win the West Region title and finished 16th at the NCAA Championships.

Simon Fraser brings back two runners that finished in the conference’s top 10 and five runners that notched top 20 finishes. Sophomore Kate Cameron leads the way, having placed sixth at the GNAC Championships and 13th at the West Regional. Senior Megan Roxby placed eighth at the conference meet and just missed All-West Region honors by placing 29th at regionals. Sophomore Ella Marion finished 16th at the GNAC meet with sophomore Charlotte Prangley placing 17th and junior Grace Chalk placing 18th.

Western Washington placed second last year despite not having a single runner in the top 10. The Vikings made up for that with an impressive grouping. All five runners placed in the top 25 with a gap of just 21 seconds between the five scoring runners. It marked the third time in four years that WWU placed in the top three.

Sophomore Ila Davis is the Vikings’ top returning finisher, placing 14th in her freshman season. During the outdoor track and field season, Davis was the conference champion in the 5,000 meters. Sophomore Mia Crocker was also part of that tight group, placing 22nd, while junior Eugenia Palko finished 23rd. Palko is the team’s top returner from the West Regional, placing 41st.

Alaska was the surprise of the conference last year, using a talented freshman class to put together its best finish in program history, going 2-3-4 en route to a third-place finish. It was the first time since 2011 that the Nanooks had placed any runners in the top 10, led by Rosie Fordham’s second-place finish that earned GNAC Freshman of the Year honors.

Now sophomores, the impressive trio returns with a lot of potential. Fordham went on to finish fourth at the NCAA West Regional and 61st at the NCAA Championships, the best finish ever for a UAF runner. Kendall Kramer placed third and followed behind Fordham with a fifth-place finish at the West Regional. Naomi Bailey was the third part of that trio, placing fourth at the GNAC Championships and sixth at the West Regional.

Western Oregon’s fourth-place finish was the program’s best since 2010 and it hopes to improve in the return to its home course. Senior Luz Garcia was named the GNAC Newcomer of the Year after placing fifth at the conference meet and eighth at regionals. Senior Caitlin Heldt finished 12th at conference and also earned All-West Region honors with a 23rd place finish.

After placing no worse than fourth in each of the last four meets, Seattle Pacific will rely on a pair of talented returners to improve on its fifth-place finish. Sophomore Annika Esvelt placed ninth at the GNAC Championships and 22nd at West Regional. She went on to win GNAC indoor track and field titles in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters and the outdoor title at 10,000 meters. Sophomore Nicki Yorges returns after placing 35th in 2021.

Saint Martin’s eighth-place finish was the team’s best since 2016 as the conference meet was held in Lacey for just the second time in program history. Sophomore Cassidy Walchak-Sloan placed 26th last year but will be improved after earning all-conference honors in the indoor mile and the outdoor 1,500 meters. Sophomore Sara Sabra returns after placing one spot behind Walchak-Sloan last year.

Alaska Anchorage is predicted to repeat its seventh-place finish. The Seawolves hang their hopes on senior Alfin Nyamasyo, who placed 45th at last year’s meet and 105th at the West Regionals. Junior Bailey Roe is the team’s top returning placer, taking 38th.

Northwest Nazarene looks to sophomore Emily McMahon to move up from last year’s sixth-place finish after she finished 41st at last year’s championships. Sophomore Olivia Klein will aim to move up from her 55th-place finish.

Central Washington returns four runners from 2021 and hopes that a young group of athletes can move up at the end of the season. Junior Meredith Massey is the team’s top returner after placing 51st last year. Sophomore Tailer Cochran was close behind in 52nd with sophomore Kelli Heim placing 54th.

Montana State Billings returns six runners with conference meet experience. Senior Kailee Stoppel leads the team after she placed 24th last year. Sophomore Kendra Woods placed 44th while senior Ally Whitmer was 48th.

After placing second in four of the previous five conference meets, Simon Fraser finally broke through in 2021 to win the program’s first men’s GNAC title. The team placed three runners in the top 10 and all five scoring athletes in the top 20 for a total of 50 points, finishing just five points ahead of Western Washington.

Simon Fraser returns two of those three top-10 runners and all but one of its scoring five. Sophomore Charlie Dannatt finished third and went on to place 21st at the West Regional. During the outdoor track and field season, Dannatt won the GNAC title at 1,500 meters. Sophomore Scott Arndt finished ninth and also earned All-West Region honors with a 24th-place finish. Junior Ephrem Mekonnen placed 18th while sophomore Aiden Good was 19th.

Western Washington bettered Simon Fraser by placing all five scoring runners in the top 15, but SFU’s first and third-place runners made the difference in the close victory. Like the women, the Vikings grouped extremely well with just 15 seconds separating the No. 1 and No. 5 runners. Western Washington went on to place fifth at the West Regional and just missed a team at-large berth to the national meet.

Sophomore Jeret Gillingham leads six WWU runners returning from last year’s meet and four that figured into the scoring five. Gillingham placed eighth at conference and finished 19th at the regional meet, earning All-West Region honors. Junior Alec Ritter notched a 12th-place finish and was just five seconds out of all-conference placing. Sophomores Jalen Javurek and Kevin McDermott finished 14th and 15th, respectively.

Western Oregon’s third-place finish in 2021 was the program’s best since 2017 and was the Wolves’ third top-three finish over the last nine conference meets. Senior Miguel Villar was named the GNAC Newcomer of the Year thanks to his 10th-place finish and just missed all-region accolades with a 28th-place finish at the West Regional. Senior Bailey Smith was the third of three WOU top-20 finishers, placing 17th.

Sophomore Coleman Nash led Alaska Anchorage to its fourth-place finish last year. The GNAC Freshman of the Year placed second at the conference meet and fifth at the West Regional. The only GNAC men’s representative at the NCAA Championships, Nash earned All-American honors with his 27th-place finish. The Seawolves will rely on senior Jesus Avalos and a quartet of transfers to fill out the scoring five.

Central Washington returns four runners that contributed to the team’s sixth-place finish. The Wildcats are led by sophomore Shawn Clough, who was the team’s top finisher in 2021 in 27th place. Junior Zach Sundt added a 34th-place finish and is one of two returning upperclassman finishers for the Wildcats.

Montana State Billings stands to improve on or beat its seventh-place finish from last year with an experienced roster. Senior Ase Ackerman placed 16th at conference and missed All-West Region honors by six seconds with his 33rd-place finish. Senior Logan Straus, who placed 28th, and junior Bryant Edgerton, who placed 42nd, add solid upper-class depth.

Saint Martin’s placed eighth on its home course last year. Senior Jack Farrell led the way, earning all-conference honors with his seventh-place finish. The Saints will look for improvement from sophomore Kainalu Pagente, who finished 38th at the conference meet after a handful of top-10 finishes during the regular season.

Northwest Nazarene will be led by sophomore Quincy Ellis, who placed 73rd at conference last year. Junior Norman Kosgei, the Nighthawks’ only other returning GNAC Championships participant, placed 75th.

Seattle Pacific returns five of its conference meet placers. The Falcons will be led by sophomore Jon Owen, who placed 45th, and junior Brennan LeBlanc, who finished 49th. Alaska will be led by junior Nolan Earnest, who finished 61st at the conference meet.

Rank Team (First Place Votes) 2021 GNAC Finish
1. Simon Fraser (6) 1st (32 pts.) 86
2. Western Washington (3) 2nd (77 pts.) 79
3. Alaska (1) 3rd (92 pts.) 72
4. Western Oregon 4th (114 pts.) 63
5. Seattle Pacific 5th (161 pts.) 49
6. Saint Martin's 8th (191 pts.) 44
7. Alaska Anchorage 7th (189 pts.) 35
8. Northwest Nazarene 6th (163 pts.) 28
9. Central Washington 9th (204 pts.) 22
10. Montana State Billings 10th (221 pts.) 17
Points awarded on 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.


Rank Team (First Place Votes) 2021 GNAC Finish
1. Simon Fraser (6) 1st (46 pts.) 86
2. Western Washington (4) 2nd (55 pts.) 84
3. Western Oregon 3rd (96 pts.) 67
4. Alaska Anchorage 4th (107 pts.) 65
5. Central Washington 6th (165 pts.) 48
6. Montana State Billings 7th (168 pts.) 45
7. Saint Martin's 8th (190 pts.) 33
8. Northwest Nazarene 5th (150 pts.) 29
9. Seattle Pacific 10th (228 pts.) 23
10. Alaska 9th (224 pts.) 15
Points awarded on 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
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