Mighty McDermott Lifts Vikings To 2nd Straight Team Title
Western Washington hoisted the GNAC cross country trophy for the second straight season on Saturday.
Western Washington hoisted the GNAC cross country trophy for the second straight season on Saturday.

Saturday, October 21, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

ANCHORAGE, AlaskaKevin McDermott let out a roar of emotion as he crossed the finish line at Kincaid Park on Saturday afternoon, as he became the second Western Washington men’s runner to win the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships.

The Vikings successfully defended their 2022 team title with 37 points, and claimed their seventh overall men’s team title since the conference was founded in 2001. “We came up here with the goal of two titles, and if you win (the year before) you want to keep winning. You don’t want to have someone else take your thunder from the year before,” said WWU coach T.J. Garlatz, whose women also claimed the team title on Saturday. “They have been working hard, and this was our best race of the year so far. We know that we still have some room to go up, but seeing Kevin be the first Western men’s runner to win since ’02 was pretty special. He has been working really hard, and to get all those other guys up front – it was a great day.”

Central Washington phenom Johan Correa and McDermott distanced themselves from what was a close pack throughout the race, and the title was up for grabs as the duo approached the steep downhill directly after the course’s final turn. McDermott came off the slope with a fiery burst of energy and cruised across the final 100 meters to claim the GNAC Male Cross Country Athlete of the Year award. “Yesterday on my preview I picked a spot on the hill where I decided that, if I was in contention, that was where I was going to make my move,” said McDermott on his winning strategy. “I hit that spot today and gave it everything I had. I let out a couple of yells down the home stretch because it really hurt, but it was a good race and a good finish.”

Correa earned GNAC Newcomer of the Year honors with his runner-up finish, in a time of 24:47.7. “This race was pretty tough,” said Correa. “I was fighting for first place and the last 200 meters was just really tough.”

The Wildcat star added the second-place finish to a fall that saw him win all three of his previous meets, as he continued to shine as one of the top individuals in the conference. “It gave me a lot of confidence,” Correa said on having won three races entering the GNAC Championship meet. “Going into the season I had no expectations, and being able to win those races meant a lot. I am looking forward to the rest of the season. I just want to keep doing what I have been doing, try to fix some little things, and keep having fun.”

McDermott’s winning time was 24:43.5 on a sunny day that featured temperatures in the low-to-mid 30s. “It was awesome being able to race against all the really good guys in this conference,” said McDermott, who finished eighth at last year’s GNAC Championships. “Coming into it I knew with Johan it was going to be a battle to the end.”

WWU’s Andrew Oslin took fifth place in 25:07.9, Ryan Clough was ninth in 25:21.2, and Jeret Gillingham made it four all-conference Vikings as he finished in 10th with a time of 25:21.6. A 12th-place finish by Jalen Javurek in 25:40.4, 16th-place finish by Samuel Lingwall in 25:53.3 and a 19th-place finish by Jason Blinn in 25:57.5 helped the Vikings hold off second-place Alaska Anchorage by 14 points. “It’s incredible,” said McDermott when asked about the Viking men’s team. “Every day they push me so hard, and it makes coming to practice an absolute joy. I love being part of this team, and I came back for my graduate program because I didn’t want to leave. It’s a really special thing that we’ve got going.”

The Viking men entered the week ranked No. 12 in the latest USTFCCCA Division II poll and No. 2 in the West Region, and figure to be the GNAC’s top team contender at the upcoming NCAA West Region Championships on Nov. 4 in Monmouth, Ore. “This puts us in a great spot, and it gives us a lot of positive momentum,” McDermott said on the upcoming regional meet. “We had guys go out and have their best race of the season, and we have been training super hard all season. That is starting to show coming into postseason, it’s going to get even better at regionals and then we are going to give it everything we have going into nationals.”

The Seawolves landed a runner-up finish on their home course, notching 51 points on Saturday. Reigning GNAC champion Cole Nash was UAA’s top finisher, clocking in with a third-place finish in 25:01.8. Reigning GNAC Newcomer of the Year Michael Zapherson crossed the line in sixth place with a time of 25:10.7, John Peckham was 11th in 25:22.0 and Goerge Payne finished 13th with a time of 25:48.2.

Simon Fraser was led by all-conference finisher Sebastian Brinkman, who finished in fourth place with a time of 25:02.0. Jose Castro placed 14th and Ephrem Mekonnen 15th to help the Red Leafs secure 80 points and finish in third place in the team standings.

Western Oregon’s Kanoa Blake garnered GNAC Freshman of the Year honors, finishing in 17th place with a time of 25:54.3. The top-performing freshman at the meet helped the Wolves take fourth place with a team score of 142 points.

Brody Kemble continued his highlight sophomore campaign for Northwest Nazarene, earning all-conference recognition with a seventh-place finish in 25:12.0. NNU’s Ian Stockett checked in at 26th with a time of 26:14.3, helping the Nighthawks to an upper-half finish in fifth place with a team score of 145.

Freshman Steiner Christensen was the Wildcats’ second finisher, placing 20th with a time of 26:01.6. CWU checked in at sixth place in the team standings with 161 points.

Isaac Cortes led Saint Martin’s with an all-conference performance, placing eighth with a time of 25:16.9. The Saints totaled 187 points for a seventh-place team finish. Seattle Pacific was eighth in the standings with 217 points, with senior Brennan LeBlanc leading the Falcons in 22nd place with a time of 26:06.8.

The Alaska Nanooks turned in 220 points to finish ninth, with freshman Ben Dohlby taking 32nd place with a time of 26:36.1. Montana State Billings rounded out the team scores with 259 points, with senior Bryant Edgerton being the top finisher in 35th place with a time of 26:40.0.