Women's Cross Country: Simon Fraser Wins By a Whisker
After three second place finishes, Simon Fraser won its first GNAC cross country title Saturday (CJImagesNW.com)
After three second place finishes, Simon Fraser won its first GNAC cross country title Saturday (CJImagesNW.com)
Steen finished first in a meet record time of 20:13.75.
Steen finished first in a meet record time of 20:13.75.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

MONMOUTH, Ore. - In the closest team race in conference history, Simon Fraser won its first-ever Great Northwest Athletic Conference women's cross country championship Saturday edging five-time defending champion Alaska Anchorage and Western Washington literally by a whisker - or two.

The Clan, which had finished second in each of the three previous years, got a second-place finish from Rebecca Bassett and a fifth from graduate student Jennifer Johnson, to finish first with 62 team points, edging UAA by one point and Western Western Washington by two.

The Vikings' Katelyn Steen, who finished second last year in a time of 20:31.99, covered the 6,000-meter Ash Creek Preserve layout on the campus of Western Oregon University in a meet-record time of 20:13.75.  She finished 19 seconds ahead of Bassett. 

Susan Tanui of Alaska Anchorage set the previous record in winning the 2013 race in a time of 20:24.74. 

Dani Eggleston of Central Washington placed third in a time of 20:42.10, two seconds ahead of Metro State transfer Amy Johnston of UAA who won GNAC Newcomer of the Year honors, edging SFU's Jennifer Johnson by four seconds for that award.  Johnson is the daughter of Western Oregon head coach Mike Johnson.

Alaska Anchorage's Caroline Kurgat finished 11th in a time of 21:04.52, to win GNAC Freshman of the Year honors.

SFU's one-point win bettered the previous closest women's team race by three points.  Seattle Pacific won the 2008 title with 48 points, four fewer than Alaska Anchorage.  UAA posted a two-point win over Humboldt State (70-72) for the 2002 men's team championship.

Steen was one of three repeaters from last year's all-conference team, which is awarded to athletes that finish in the Top 10.  Also repeating was Eggleston, who placed seventh a year go, and Connie Morgan of Central Washington, who finished ninth after placing sixth in 2013.

Earning their first all-conference award this year were Bassett, Johnston, Johnson, UAA's Beatrice Decker, SPU's Anna Patti, MSUB's Nocona Frame and Taylor Guenther of Western Washington.

The runners now have a three-week break prior to the NCAA West Regionals, Nov. 22 at Amend Park in Billings, Mont.  All athletes are eligible to compete in the regional meet, regardless of their finish at the conference meet.  The top six team finishers at Billings will qualify for the NCAA national meet, Dec. 6 at Louisville, Kent.

GNAC WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIPS (Nov. 1 at Monmouth): Team Scores – 1. Simon Fraser 62, 2. Alaska Anchorage 63, 3. Western Washington 64; 4. Central Washington 85; 5. Seattle Pacific 130; 6. Montana State Billings 140; 7. Western Oregon 185; 8. Alaska 345; 9. Northwest Nazarene 241; 10. Saint Martin's 298. Athlete of the Year -  Katelyn Steen, WWU.  Newcomer of the Year – Amy Johnston, UAA.  Freshman of the Year – Caroline Kurgat, UAA (11th, 21:05).

Individuals (Top 10 All-Conference) – 1, Katelyn Steen, WWU, 20:13.75; 2. Rebecca Bassett, SFU, 20:32.08; 3. Dani Eggleston, CWU, 20:42.10: 4. Amy Johnston, UAA, 20:44.35; 5. Jennifer Johnson, SFU, 20:48.53; 6. Beatrice Decker, UAA, 20:52.48; 7. Anna Patti, SPU. 20:54.60; 8. Nocona Frame, MSUB, 20:57.34; 9. Connie Morgan, CWU, 21:02.24; 10. Taylor Guenther, WWU, 21:02.66.