Kramer, Correa Win; Viking Women Claim 1st Regional Crown
WWU's women hoist the west region trophy - their first in program history.
WWU's women hoist the west region trophy - their first in program history.

Saturday, November 4, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

MONMOUTH, Ore. – The Great Northwest Athletic Conference was well represented at Ash Creek Preserve on a rainy Saturday morning, claiming both individual titles and the women’s team title at the 2023 NCAA West Region Cross Country Championships hosted by Western Oregon University.

Western Washington earned its first women’s team title in program history, while Alaska’s Kendall Kramer won the women’s individual crown and Central Washington’s Johan Correa was the men’s individual champion.

Kramer, the two-time reigning GNAC Cross Country champion, used a strong final kick to hold off Biola’s Susanne Bruennig down the final stretch of the 6k course. “I wasn’t too sure about today – I definitely wanted to get top-five to qualify for nationals,” the Fairbanks, Alaska native said on her expectations entering the race. “It’s a really good field and I didn’t really have any expectations. I was comfortable with the pace, and kept picking it up. When I started to have a gap I got into the mental state to maintain that. It came down to a sprint, but I had some kick left in me. I figured it would come down to that, and I saved a little bit.”

Kramer added to her decorated resume by topping the field of 164 competitors, clocking a time of 20:29.8 in the soggy conditions. Kramer led the Nanook women to a fifth-place team finish, marking their second-best regional result behind a fourth-place finish in 2011. “It was really heavy rain, but it was really warm – probably in the low 60s,” said Kramer. “That’s not something you experience in Fairbanks, but it was really fun. I like running in the rain. It kept you more cool and then it went away a bit during the race.”

The Nanook harrier made it back-to-back individual regional champions for her team, after Naomi Bailey claimed the 2022 crown, and she continued the GNAC’s dominance on the regional stage. Since the inception of the conference in 2001, the GNAC has had 15 of the 22 west region women’s champions. The California Collegiate Athletic Association has had four individual women’s champions, and the PacWest Conference has had three.

“That is really great to know that if you’re doing well in the GNAC then it means you’re at the top of the west region,” Kramer said on the historical context of Saturday’s win. “It’s a big confidence builder and it’s really cool that we get to compete against the California and Washington schools being all the way from Alaska. It is super awesome to know we are up there and are still in competition with them when we don’t have ideal training conditions this time of year.”  

Alaska’s Rosie Fordham, who finished runner up at the GNAC Championships two weeks ago, crossed the finish line in sixth place with a time of 20:57.3 to earn all-region recognition. Bailey followed in 19th place with a time of 21:32.3, and was among 11 GNAC runners who finished in the top-25 at the event.

Kramer also became the ninth woman in GNAC history to win both the GNAC Championships and NCAA West Region Championships individual titles in the same season. Alaska joined Western Washington and Alaska Anchorage as the third GNAC school to have multiple runners claim the regional individual crown.


GNAC Women’s Cross Country West Region Individual Champions

Year Champion School Time Location
2006 Jessica Pixler Seattle Pacific 20:46.1 Oroville, Calif.
2007 Jessica Pixler Seattle Pacific 19:52.9 Boise, Idaho
2008 Jessica Pixler Seattle Pacific 20:57.1 San Diego, Calif.
2009 Jessica Pixler Seattle Pacific 20:08.9 San Francisco, Calif.
2010 Sarah Porter Western Washington 21:21.9 Bellingham, Wash.
2011 Ruth Keino Alaska Anchorage 20:51 Spokane, Wash.
2012 Susan Tanui Alaska Anchorage 21:19 Kahuku, Hawaii
2013 Susan Tanui Alaska Anchorage 21:45.4 Spokane, Wash.
2014 Katelyn Steen Western Washington 21:06.59 Billings, Mont.
2015 Joyce Chelimo Alaska Anchorage 20:42.34 Monmouth, Ore.
2017 Caroline Kurgat Alaska Anchorage 20:26.1 Monmouth, Ore.
2018 Emmah Chelimo Alaska Anchorage 20:57.47 Billings, Mont.
2019 Emmah Chelimo Alaska Anchorage 20:22.4 Monmouth, Ore.
2022 Naomi Bailey Alaska 20:53.08 Billings, Mont.
2023 Kendall Kramer Alaska 20:29.8 Monmouth, Ore.



NCAA Women’s Cross Country West Region Individual Champions By Conference (Since 2001)
Conference Regional Titles
Great Northwest Athletic Conference 15
California Collegiate Athletic Association 4
PacWest Conference 3

Ashley Reeck led the cast of seven Vikings, who all finished in the top-31 to deliver WWU’s first women’s title. The Vikings had come close in previous years, finishing second in 2015 and third in 2010 and 2011, but Saturday proved to be historic for the group from Bellingham, Wash. “This is really special,” said Viking junior Ila Davis, who finished 11th with a time of 21:19.4. “The Western women have never won a regional championship, and we have been working at this for years.”

Reeck crossed the line with a time of 20:54.6 to take fifth place, which was the second-highest finish by a GNAC runner on Saturday. “Every single workout that we have we just push each other,” said Reeck, who placed fourth at the GNAC Championships. “We are all really fit, and we did everything we needed to do to be here.”

The Vikings finished with 75 total points, earning an 11-point victory over second-place Biola (86). Meaera Nystrom placed 14th in 21:25.1, Sophie Wright took 24th in 21:43.8, Emma Smith checked in 26th in 21:44.9, Marian Ledesma finished 29th in 21:52.2 and Mia Crocker checked in 31st at 21:55.1. “We are really stoked with how far we’ve come,” said Crocker. “Last year we finished sixth (at regionals), so to be on top here is really special. I am proud of everyone.”

Western Washington became the fourth school in GNAC history to claim the women’s team regional title, and gave the GNAC nine women’s team titles since the conference was founded in 2001.


GNAC Women’s Cross Country West Region Team Champions

Year Champion Points Location
2007 Seattle Pacific 45 Boise, Idaho
2009 Alaska Anchorage 35 San Francisco, Calif.
2010 Alaska Anchorage 40 Bellingham, Wash.
2011 Alaska Anchorage 27 Spokane, Wash.
2013 Alaska Anchorage 76 Spokane, Wash.
2014 Simon Fraser 103 Billings, Mont.
2018 Alaska Anchorage 66 Billings, Mont.
2021 Simon Fraser 75 Monmouth, Ore.
2023 Western Washington 75 Monmouth, Ore.


NCAA Women’s Cross Country West Region Team Champions By Conference (Since 2001)
Conference Regional Titles
California Collegiate Athletic Association 10
Great Northwest Athletic Conference 9
PacWest Conference 3


Teammates Cassidy Walchak-Sloan and Elke Wijkmans of Saint Martin’s were each all-region finishers, finishing in seventh place (21:00.9) and 22nd place (21:40.2), respectively. Seattle Pacific’s Annika Esvelt earned all-region by virtue of a 20th-place finish in 21:35.1, as did 2023 GNAC Newcomer of the Year Nell Baker from Alaska Anchorage who finished in 25th place in 21:44.1.

Correa was happy with his effort but disappointed with the results of the GNAC Championships on Oct. 21, where he finished as runner-up after falling short in a stride-out battle down the finish chute against Western Washington’s Kevin McDermott. No such frustration existed on Saturday, when the GNAC Newcomer of the Year became the first man in Central Washington history to claim a regional crown. “It feels amazing,” Correa said on responding to the second-place finish in Anchorage. “At the GNAC race I was disappointed with the results, but at the same time I was happy because I gave it everything I had. Being able to win regionals feels amazing. I really wanted to win this and go to nationals, and it happened.”

Correa won his fourth race of the 2023 fall season with a 10k time of 30:42.1 to hold of Azusa Pacific’s Juan Diego Castro (30:44.0) by just over two seconds. A damp course that had been trounced by the legs of the women’s competitors didn’t slow down the regional champion one bit. “I was hungry to win the race – I didn’t care how the course was and it didn’t bother me at all,” Correa said. “Whoever is most mentally tough will win this race. I felt good today, and I was ready to do it.”

Correa became the eighth man in GNAC history to claim the individual regional title and gave the conference 11 total individual titles since 2001 which is the most among the three NCAA West Region conferences. After Simon Fraser’s Charlie Dannatt claimed the 2022 crown, Correa made it the third time that the conference has had individual regional men’s champions in back-to-back years including a stretch of four straight from 2009-12. “That part makes me happy to know I’m the first to do something that special for Central,” Correa said upon learning he was the first Wildcat to achieve the feat.


GNAC Men’s Cross Country West Region Individual Champions

Year Champion School Time Location
2002 Paul Kezes Western Washington 31:58 Fresno, Calif.
2007 John Riak Saint Martin's 30:35.4 Boise, Idaho
2009 Marko Cheseto Alaska Anchorage 30:42.5 San Francisco, Calif.
2010 Marko Cheseto Alaska Anchorage 31:20.8 Bellingham, Wash.
2011 Micah Chelimo Alaska Anchorage 30:19 Spokane, Wash.
2012 Micah Chelimo Alaska Anchorage 31:58 Kahuku, Hawaii
2014 Henry Cheseto Alaska Anchorage 30:33.99 Billings, Mont.
2015 Henry Cheseto Alaska Anchorage 29:29.82 Monmouth, Ore.
2017 David Ribich Western Oregon 29:49.2 Monmouth, Ore.
2022 Charlie Dannatt Simon Fraser 30:07.49 Billings, Mont.
2023 Johan Correa Central Washington 30:42.1 Monmouth, Ore.


NCAA Men’s Cross Country West Region Individual Champions By Conference (Since 2001)
Conference Regional Titles
Great Northwest Athletic Conference 11
California Collegiate Athletic Association 7
PacWest Conference 4

The Western Washington men were the top team finisher for the GNAC, taking fourth place with a score of 79 points. WWU’s Andrew Oslin took third with a time of 30:49.2, Ryan Clough was ninth in 30:56.5 and McDermott, the 2023 GNAC Men’s Cross Country Runner of the Year, placed 15th with a time of 31:03.9. Jeret Gillingham joined the aforementioned trio on the all-region list, placing 25th with a time of 31:19.2.

Alaska Anchorage’s Coleman Nash earned all-region honors by virtue of a 16th-place finish, clocking a time of 31:07.8. Correa’s teammate Steiner Christensen was also in the top-25, and was the second-highest placing freshman in the field taking 21st with a time of 31:11.6.

Chico State won its 18th team regional title with 47 points, finishing well ahead of second-place Azusa Pacific (61).

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