Alaska Anchorage Picked To Sweep Cross Country Titles
Alaska Anchorage returns four All-Americans from 2015, including Henry Cheseto (left), Edwin Kangogo and Joyce Chelimo. Photos by Dan Levine.
Alaska Anchorage returns four All-Americans from 2015, including Henry Cheseto (left), Edwin Kangogo and Joyce Chelimo. Photos by Dan Levine.

Friday, August 26, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. – Great Northwest Athletic Conference cross country coaches are predicting another year of dominance for Alaska Anchorage as the Seawolves are picked to repeat as champions in the 2016 Men’s & Women’s Preseason Polls.

Just three months removed from sweeping men’s cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field titles, the Seawolves received all 11 first place votes to lead the poll with 121 points. Simon Fraser was picked second with 106 points and Western Washington was picked third with 101 points.

Alaska Anchorage comes back loaded with eight runners from the squad that went on to win the NCAA West Region championship and placed fourth at the NCAA Division II Championships. The Seawolves will be led by a trio of All-Americans in juniors Henry Cheseto and Edwin Kangogo and senior Michel Ramirez, who earned All-American honors in 2014.

The Seawolves will be looking to claim its unprecendented seventh consecutive GNAC men’s cross country title and the 10th in program history.

The Alaska Anchorage women earned nine of 11 first place votes to lead the poll with 117 points. The Seawolves placed all five scoring runners in the top-15 of the conference meet, finishing with 39 points en route to their sixth GNAC title over the last seven years. The team is led by senior Joyce Chelimo and junior Caroline Kurgat, who finished one-two at both the conference and regional meets. Both athletes earned All-American honors with top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, with Kurgat leading the way with her sixth place finish.

Western Washington was a close second in the poll, earning 107 points and the two remaining first place votes. Simon Fraser, the 2014 GNAC champion, was a distant third with 90 points closely followed by Seattle Pacific (88).

The 2016 GNAC cross country season kicks off the first weekend of September with five of the conference’s 11 teams in action. Montana State Billings will compete in the South Dakota Mines Invitational in Rapid City, S.D. to open the season on Fri., Sept. 2. Teams opening

on Sat., Sept. 3, include Concordia at the Oregon State Invitational in Corvallis, Northwest Nazarene at the Idaho State Invitational in Pocatello, Alaska Anchorage at the Notre Dame de Namur Argo Invite in Belmont, Calif., and Saint Martin’s at the Puget Sound Invitational in Lakewood, Wash. The 2016 GNAC Cross Country Championships take place on Sat., Oct. 22 at Lake Padden Park in Bellingham, Wash.

It will be hard to beat the stable to talent that returns for Alaska Anchorage, which went undefeated as a team until the NCAA Championships. Cheseto was named the GNAC and USTFCCCA West Region Male Runner of the Year after winning both the conference and regional individual titles (24:22.70 at GNAC Championships, 29:29.82 at NCAA West Regional). He went on to place fourth individually at the NCAA Championships. Kangogo placed third at the GNAC Championships and 30th at the NCAA meet. Ramirez redshirted the 2015 cross country season, but returns a year stronger after earneing All-American honors in 2014.

Of the eight returning Seawolves from last year’s GNAC Championships, four placed in the top-10. Joining Cheseto and Kangogo as returning All-GNAC performers include senior Victor Samoei (sixth) and junior Nathan Kipchumba (ninth).

Likewise, Simon Fraser returns a pair of All-GNAC selections after placing second in last year’s conference meet. Senior Oliver Jorgensen placed fifth at both the GNAC Championships and NCAA West Regional and just missed All-American honors with his 38th place nationals finish. He led the Clan to a fourth place regionals finish and 12th place nationals finish. Senior Marc-Antoine Rouleau placed seventh at the GNAC meet and was 44th at the NCAA Championships. The Clan also returns GNAC Freshman of the Year Sean Miller, who placed 12th in the GNACs and 33rd at the NCAA West Regional.

Western Washington placed a solid third in a GNAC Championships meet on its home course before finishing sixth at the West Regional meet. Junior Andrew Wise leads seven conference meet returners. The All-GNAC selection placed 10th at the GNAC Championships and 14th at the NCAA West Regional. Senior Matthew Lutz placed 14th at the GNAC meet while sophomore Nick Mounier placed 16th. Junior Issac Derline, who did not compete at the GNAC Championships, was the Vikings’ No. 3 runner at the West Regional.

Western Oregon is picked fourth and is led by dynamic junior David Ribich. As a sophomore, Ribich earned All-GNAC and All-West Region honors and went on to place 67th at the NCAA Championships. He placed fourth at the GNAC Championships and stayed part of the lead pack most of the race. A two-time track All-American, Ribich placed fourth at nationals in the indoor mile and fifth in the outdoor 1,500 meters. The Wolves are further bolstered by sophomore Tyler Jones, who placed 24th at the GNAC Championships as a freshman, and senior Josh Dempsey, who placed 57th.

Northwest Nazarene is projected fifth after placing seventh at last year’s meet. Junior Isaac Mitchell arrived as a top-shelf performer in 2015, placing eighth at the GNAC Championships and earning All-West Region honors with a 23rd place finish in the regional race. In all, the Crusaders welcome back five placers from last year’s conference meet, including senior Chase Cunningham (30th) and sophomore Nick Hamilton (42nd).

Montana State Billings is picked sixth and will look to fill the hole left by the graduation of all-region performer Robert Peterson. Senior Garrett Love is the Yellowjackets’ top returning runner, placing 18th at the GNAC Championships and 40th at the NCAA West Regional. Junior Jorey Egeland placed 38th in the conference meet and junior Mark Hovland finished 45th. Senior Josh Panasuk redshirted in 2015 and returns after placing 35th at the 2014 GNAC Championships. Like last year, the Yellowjackets will be an under-the-radar program, not racing any other GNAC programs prior to the conference meet.

After placing sixth at last year’s conference meet, Central Washington is projected seventh. The Wildcats return their top runner in junior Alex Martinez, who placed 27th at the GNAC Championships and earned All-West Region honors with a 26th place regional meet finish. Martinez leads eight Wildcats’ returners from last year’s GNAC meet, including junior Ron Leaf (32nd), and sophomores Jonathan Lafferty (34th) and Tyler Humphries (50th).

Concordia finished 11th in its first GNAC meet and is projected to move up to eighth. The Cavaliers return three placers from last year’s championship, led by senior Jared Seckel, who placed 37th. Seckel is joined by fellow seniors Paris Speidel and Ethan Livermore. The Cavaliers will also welcome back experienced seniors Roman Kirkov and Demetrius Rhodes, who redshirted the 2015 campaign.

Alaska is picked ninth after running to an eighth place finish last year. The Nanooks return seven placers from the 2015 meet, led by junior Alexander Eckert and senior Keegan Rankin, who placed 39th and 40th, respectively, at last year’s GNAC Championships. The team also returns juniors Daniel Serventi and Lyon Kopsack.

Seattle Pacific, picked to finish 10th, is looking to bolster the roster with the graduation of Adam Avischious. The Falcons placed ninth last year and are led into the season by junior Ben Halladay, who placed 31st at the GNAC Championships. Saint Martin’s is picked to finish 11th after placing 10th last year. The Saints are led by senior Jasper Heckman, who placed 46th in the 2015 meet.

Alaska Anchorage returned to the top of the GNAC podium last year after Simon Fraser snapped its string of five consecutive championships in 2014. The Seawolves’ sixth GNAC title coincided with the return of Chelimo from a redshirt season. After placing 13th at the NCAA Championships in 2014, Chelimo went on to win the GNAC and West Region titles and was named both the conference and region Female Runner of the Year before placing seventh at the national meet. She then proceeded to win GNAC indoor track titles in the mile, 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters, and an outdoor track title in the 10,000 meters. Chelimo led the Seawolves to an eighth place national meet team finish.

Kurgat was the runner-up to Chelimo at both the GNAC and West Region meets before placing one spot ahead of the senior at the NCAA Championships, giving the Seawolves a pair of All-Americans. Alaska Anchorage returns a total of eight runners from last year’s conference meet, including GNAC Freshman of the Year Kimberly Cosica, who placed ninth and went on to place 31st at the West Region Championships.

Alaska Anchorage may have beat Western Washington in the conference meet, but the Vikings were top dogs on the regional and national stages. Western Washington placed second at the West Regional Championships, just ahead of the Seawolves, and sixth at the NCAA Championships. The Vikings are led by a pair of All-GNAC and All-West Region performers in junior Brittany Grant and sophomore Tracy Melville. Grant is Western Washington’s top returning runner, placing eighth at the GNAC Championships and 28th at the West Region Championships. Melville placed 10th at the GNAC Championships and went on finish 27th at regionals. In all, Western Washington returns six placers from last year’s conference meet, all of whom placed in the top-30.

After winning the 2014 GNAC title, Simon Fraser slipped to fourth place as the Clan looked for younger runners to step up. Simon Fraser returns the top placer not from Alaska Anchorage in All-American Rebecca Bassett. The senior placed third at the GNAC Championships and ninth at the West Region Championships before placing 24th at the Division II Championships. Bassett leads six Simon Fraser returners from last year’s meet, which includes sophomore track 800-meter standout Addy Townsend (19th at GNAC meet) and top-30 placers in juniors Paige Nock (22nd) and Reta Dobie (30th).

Seattle Pacific placed fourth last year and is picked to place fourth again. The Falcons will look to junior Mary Charleson and seniors Hannah Calvert and Sarah Macdonald to replace the scoring of the graduated Anna Patti (fourth at 2015 GNAC Championships). The duo placed 20th and 21st at the GNAC Championships and Charleson earned All-West Region honors with a 20th place finish at the regional meet. Macdonald was the Falcons’ No. 2 or 3 runner for much of the season. Seattle Pacific also returns the remainder of its scoring team from 2015 in juniors Chynna Phan and Hailey Kettel.

Central Washington placed third in the 2015 GNAC meet, but is picked fifth as the Wildcats look to replace top placers in Dani Eggleston and Megan Rogers. Sophomore Alexa Shindruk emerged as the Wildcats’ next great runner as a freshman, just missing All-GNAC and All-West Region honors by placing 11th in the conference meet and 33rd at regionals. Central Washington is further bolstered by senior Stephanie Rexus, who placed 34th at the GNAC meet.

Western Oregon is picked to repeat its sixth place finish. The Wolves welcome back their top placer in senior Nicole Maurmann, who finished 28th at the GNAC Championships. Grace Knapp also returns after placing 45th for Western Oregon as a freshman. In all, the Wolves return five finishers from last year’s conference meet.

Concordia, picked seventh, placed eighth in their first GNAC Championships. The Cavaliers return six runners who competed in the meet last year, led by 18th place senior Megan Fristoe. Other top returners for Concordia include sophomore Nicole Pederson, senior Sara Fristoe, Megan’s sister, and junior Dalen Richardson.

Northwest Nazarene is projected eighth as it returns a young roster. Sophomore Sierra Manzer placed 17th at the GNAC Championships last year and just missed regional honors with a 36th place West Region Championships finish. Sierra’s sister, junior Anysia Manzer, placed 41st at the GNAC meet and was a top-100 placer in the regional championships.

Saint Martin’s is picked to repeat its ninth place finish. The Saints will be led by one of the top young runners in the conference in sophomore Larissa Kolasinski, who finished 14th in her first GNAC meet. Saint Martin’s also returns a quartet of experienced athletes in seniors Megan Teigen and Claire McCloskey and sophomores Lindsey Dorney and Alexis Carandang.

Alaska looks to repeat its 10th place finish. The Nanooks will be led by senior Dorothy O’Donnell, who placed 44th at the GNAC Championships before just missing All-West Region honors with her 35th place regionals finish. Montana State Billings is picked to finish 11th. The young Yellowjackets are led by senior Rio Frame, who placed 52nd at last year’s GNAC meet.

Rank Team (First Place Votes) 2015 GNAC Finish Pts.
1. Alaska Anchorage (11) 1st (21 pts.) 121
2. Simon Fraser 2nd (54 pts.) 106
3. Western Washington 3rd (83 pts.) 101
4. Western Oregon 4th (118 pts.) 88
5. Northwest Nazarene 7th (215 pts.) 64
6. Montana State Billings 5th (130 pts.) 61
7. Central Washington 6th (177 pts.) 60
8. Concordia 11th (298 pts.) 38
9. Alaska 8th (224 pts.) 35
10. Seattle Pacific 9th (252 pts.) 28
11. Saint Martin's 10th (298 pts.) 24


Rank Team (First Place Votes) 2015 GNAC Finish Pts.
1. Alaska Anchorage (9) 1st (39 pts.) 117
2. Western Washington (2) 2nd (71 pts.) 107
3. Simon Fraser 4th (112 pts.) 90
4. Seattle Pacific 5th (114 pts.) 88
5. Central Washington 3rd (95 pts.) 79
6. Western Oregon 6th (183 pts.) 63
7. Concordia 8th (216 pts.) 46
8. Northwest Nazarene 7th (205 pts.) 45
9. Saint Martin's 9th (217 pts.) 36
10. Alaska 10th (267 pts.) 25
11. Montana State Billings 11th (298 pts.) 21
Points awarded on 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.