No. 10 Viking Men Among 5 GNAC XC Teams To Make Debuts
WWU's Andrew Olsin (left) and Ryan Clough get their 2023 season started on Saturday at the Puget Sound Invitational.
WWU's Andrew Olsin (left) and Ryan Clough get their 2023 season started on Saturday at the Puget Sound Invitational.

Thursday, August 31, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – Three meets featuring five Great Northwest Athletic Conference schools are on tap for the weekend, as the 2023 cross country season enters its second week of action.

It will be the 2023 debut for all five teams who are competing, with Western Oregon and Northwest Nazarene getting things started on Friday morning. Seattle Pacific, Central Washington, and preseason favorite Western Washington are all set to compete on Saturday.

GNAC Cross Country Schedule - Sept. 1 - Sept. 2
Date Meet Location Start Time GNAC Teams Competing
9/1/2023 Linfield Harrier Classic McMinnville, Ore. 10 a.m. (PDT) WOU
9/1/2023 Dr. Thad Schols Classic Twin Falls, Idaho 10:30 a.m. (MDT) NNU
9/2/2023 Puget Sound Invitational Lakewood, Wash. 11 a.m. (PDT) CWU, SPU, WWU

This Week's Storylines


Reigning Champs/Preseason Favorites to Debut: Western Washington became the second school in GNAC history to receive all 10 first-place votes on both the women’s and men’s sides in the preseason coaches poll, as the Vikings were the unanimous pick to defend both titles in 2023. WWU gets its campaign started at the Puget Sound Invitational in Lakewood, Wash. The Viking men were the highest ranked team in the initial USTFCCCA national rankings released Wednesday, checking in at No. 10 to start the season. Running alongside the Vikings on Saturday morning will be Seattle Pacific and Central Washington, which will each also be starting their seasons.

Wolves Head to McMinnville: Western Oregon, which was picked fourth in the men’s preseason poll and fifth in the women’s, kicks off its 2023 season at the Linfield Harrier Classic in McMinnville. It will be the first of five meets on WOU’s calendar during the non-championship portion of the season, including a pair of home meets at the Ash Creek Preserve in Monmouth, Ore. The hometown track will serve as the site for this year’s NCAA West Region Championships, which are set for Nov. 4.

Nighthawks Debut Close to Home: It will be a short trip for Northwest Nazarene for its 2023 season opener, as the Nighthawks travel to Twin Falls, Idaho for the Dr. Thad Schols Classic on Friday morning. The meet hosted by College of Southern Idaho will provide a first look at a men’s squad that tied for sixth and a women’s squad that was ranked eighth in the preseason coaches poll.

All’s Quiet in Alaska, This Week: Alaska Anchorage and Alaska were the first GNAC schools to get their season started, as the two squared off in a dual meet last week in Anchorage. The Seawolf men, who were slated third in the preseason poll, took home the men’s team title with the top-three finishers. On the women’s side it was the Nanooks, who were picked fourth in the preseason rankings, who raced to the team title. Both teams are off this weekend, before Alaska hosts the Blue & Gold Meet on Sept. 9 in Fairbanks.

Runner to Watch


Caitlin Heldt – Western Oregon


Leading the WOU women a year ago at the conference meet, Caitlin Heldt cruised to a third-place finish with a 6k time of 21:09.1. That mark stands as her collegiate best, and she went on to finish 12th at the NCAA West Region Championships the following week with a time of 21:33.9. A senior from Georgia, Heldt has provided the Wolves with a boost since transferring to the program in 2021. She is the school’s record holder in the 5,000 meters with a time of 17:08.22, and projects as one of the conference’s top performers this season.

GNAC XC In The Weekly Coaches Poll Rankings

The United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association releases weekly national and regional rankings throughout the 2023 cross country season. The national rankings feature the top-30 teams in Division II, while the regional rankings feature the top-10 teams in each of the eight regions. The Division II west region is comprised of teams from the GNAC, CCAA, and PacWest Conference.

USTFCCCA National Rankings - Men's Cross Country
Poll Team 1 Team 2
Preseason 10. WWU 27. SFU


USTFCCCA West Region Rankings - Men's Cross Country
Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3
Preseason 2. WWU 5. SFU 8. UAA


USTFCCCA West Region Rankings - Women's Cross Country
Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3
Preseason 6. WWU 7. UAF 8. SFU

2023 GNAC Cross Country Runners of the Week
Date Women's Runner of the Week Men's Runner of the Week
Aug. 28 Rosie Fordham, Alaska Coleman Nash, Alaska Anchorage

2023 GNAC Cross Country Championships

The 2023 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships will be held Saturday, Oct. 21 at Kincaid Park on the campus of University of Alaska Anchorage in Anchorage, Alaska. All 10 conference members will compete in both that event as well as the ensuing NCAA West Region Championships which are set for Nov. 4 at Western Oregon.