Running Wolves Battle For Cross Country Titles In Monmouth
Western Oregon senior Dustin Nading (left) and Alaska Anchorage's Emmah Chelimo both finished eighth in last year's GNAC Championships. Both hope to lead teams to titles again in 2018.
Western Oregon senior Dustin Nading (left) and Alaska Anchorage's Emmah Chelimo both finished eighth in last year's GNAC Championships. Both hope to lead teams to titles again in 2018.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

MONMOUTH, Ore. – The venue may be different, but the principals for this cross country fight are the same.

Alaska Anchorage, Simon Fraser, Western Washington, Western Oregon and Seattle Pacific all figure into the title conversation as the 2018 GNAC Cross Country Championships take place on Saturday at the Ash Creek Preserve in Monmouth. The meet moves to Oregon after three years at East Lake Padden Park in Bellingham, Washington.

The Seawolves’ women enter the meet having won three straight GNAC championships and eight out of the last nine. Only Simon Fraser has broken that string, winning the trophy in 2014. The Clan, Vikings and Falcons are all expected to mount a challenge to Alaska Anchorage’s talented lineup.

Western Oregon put an end to a string of seven consecutive Alaska Anchorage men’s championships, capturing the school’s first team title in the sport behind individual champion and All-American David Ribich. The Wolves will be a factor again, but the Clan and Vikings may be in better position to keep the Seawolves off the top of the podium.

Western Oregon placed all five scoring runners in the top-15 last year to score 51 points and knock off Alaska Anchorage by 13 points. While Ribich has moved on to the professional ranks, the Wolves return the next four runners that secured the championship.

Senior Dustin Nading leads that list. The Division II national champion indoors in the mile and runner-up in the 1,500 meters placed eighth last year. He has a sizzling best of 24:11.5 this season over 8,000 meters. Senior Tyler Jones led the title-clinching group at 13-14-15 last year and has a season-best of 24:32.5. Senior Parker Marson and junior Justin Crosswhite were also in that trio and return to race at home.

Alaska Anchorage will try to reclaim the title with a young but fast lineup. Felix Kemboi placed third at last year’s meet to earn GNAC Freshman of the Year honors and is the top returning finisher from last year’s championship. Kemboi was the winner at October’s Western Washington Classic, running 31:40 for 10,000 meters.

Sophomore transfer Wesley Kirui will easily fill the void left by the departure of the graduated Edwin Kangogo. The winner of two of the three races he has run. Kirui clocked 32:10 at Western Washington. Adding to the Seawolves’ depth is senior Jorge Sanchez, who was last year’s Newcomer of the Year, and sophomore Nickson Koech.

Last year’s third-place team, Simon Fraser has dominated the team scoring in the two meets this season in which they faced other GNAC teams. The Clan scored 40 points at the WWU Classic, finishing 11 points ahead of Alaska Anchorage, and scores less than half the points of Western Oregon and Western Washington at the Division II Conference Crossover.

The Clan returns some solid depth from last year’s meet. Senior Sean Miller placed fifth while senior Rowan Doherty placed seventh to earn All-GNAC honors. Doherty has led the team this season, running a best of 24:59.40 over 8,000 meters at the Crossover. Sophomore Pierre-Louis Detourbe has provided a great new spark with an 8,000-meter season-best of 25:00.30.

Western Washington is led by junior Jadon Olson, who finished seventh in last year’s meet in 25:29.10. Sophomore Eric Hamel finished ninth at the WWU Classic, clocking 32:18 over 10,000 meters, and was 20th at conference last year. Ed Kilobasa has turned in a steady sophomore season, finishing 20th at the WWU Classic. Senior Dylan Hayes also returns after placing 21st in last year’s championships.

Northwest Nazarene junior Godfrey Kemboi is the other remaining top-20 returner from last year’s meet, placing 16th in 25:59.81. This season, Kemboi earned a victory at the Eastern Oregon Invitational and ran a season-best of 24:37 for 8,000 meters at the Inland Empire Championships.

Among the other freshmen to watch in the meet include Central Washington’s Turlan Morlan, who opened his career with a win at the CWU Invitational, and Seattle Pacific’s Colby Otero, who ran 25:17.9 in September at the Charles Bowles Willamette Invitational.

While Alaska Anchorage will be without Division II national champion Caroline Kurgat, who has exhausted her cross country eligibility, another Chelimo has stepped forward to lead the Seawolves in their quest for another title.

Junior Emmah Chelimo, who placed eighth at last year’s championships, has won two of the four meets that the Seawolves have competed in this season. She last won the WWU Classic, where her 6,000-meter finish time of 21:15 was 44 seconds better than the next GNAC competitor.

In all, Alaska Anchorage returns four of its five scoring runners from last year’s title team. Senior Zennah Jepchumba placed fourth in 21:53.66 while senior Danielle McCormick, the Division II national champion indoors at 800 meters, finished fifth. Senior Kimberly Coscia rounded out the All-GNAC quintet, placing 10th.

The second-place team each of the last two years, Simon Fraser will have a chance to challenge for the title. Olivia Willett, the 2017 GNAC Freshman of the Year, placed eighth a year ago and enters the meet with a season-best of 22:29.20 over 6,000 meters. Senior Addy Townsend led the way at the WWU Classic as she ran 21:59.

Senior Chelsea Ribiero, who placed 20th last year, provides some solid depth as does freshman Sophia Kaiser, who was 10th at the Division II Conference Crossover with a time of 22:21.90.

Western Washington, which placed third in 2017, brings a young team to the GNAC Championship, but one that has proven the ability to compete with the front-runners. The Vikings have been led this season by freshman Rebecca Lehman, who ran her season-best of 22:23 at the WWU Classic. Junior Sophia Galvez was just five seconds behind in 22:28. Galvez placed 28th at last year’s conference meet.

Junior Tracy Melville is the top returning finisher for the Vikings from last year, placing 13th in 22:23.83. Sophomore Jane Barr returns after placing 24th as a freshman.

Despite not having a senior in the meet, Seattle Pacific still has the potential to be in the title discussion. Freshman Kaylee Mitchell has been the Falcons’ No. 1 runner for much of the season, turning in a season-best of 22:01 at the WWU Classic. Seattle Pacific returns three of its top-five runners from last year’s meet in sophomore Dania Holmberg (19th) and juniors Kate Lilly and Katherine Walter.

After finishing just out of the top-10 last year, Central Washington senior Alexa Shindruk hopes that this will be the year for an All-GNAC race. Shindruk placed 11th last year and enters the meet with a season-best of 22:36 over 6,000 meters. Sophomore Nicole Soleim enters with a season-best of 22:28.