WWU’s Stensland Named GNAC XC Coach Of The Year
Ben Stensland (right) led the Vikings to men's and women's GNAC cross country titles alongside assistant coaches Haley Stensland (center) and T.J. Garlatz (left).
Ben Stensland (right) led the Vikings to men's and women's GNAC cross country titles alongside assistant coaches Haley Stensland (center) and T.J. Garlatz (left).

Wednesday, November 29, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly, Assistant Commissioner For Communications

PORTLAND, Ore. – After guiding the Western Washington cross country program to success on the national stage on both the women’s and men’s sides, Ben Stensland was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Cross Country Coach of the Year for the 2023 season.

The interim head track and field and cross country coach at WWU, Stensland along with assistant coaches T.J. Garlatz and Haley Stensland led the Viking women to their first-ever NCAA Division II West Region Championships team title before placing 14th at the NCAA Championships. The WWU men placed fourth at the regional meet and 16th at the NCAA Championships, marking the first time since 2014 that both WWU programs finished in the upper half of teams at the championship meet.

“It was a historical season for our cross country program and I could not be more proud of our student-athletes and coaching staff for all the success,” said Stensland. “From day one of our preseason training camp we knew we had a special group. They worked hard throughout the season to obtain the many goals they set for themselves. Repeating as GNAC champions, the women winning the regional title and both teams advancing to nationals made for a season full of wonderful memories. As a group, we could not have accomplished any of this without the great leadership of T.J. Garlatz and Haley Stensland, who deserve a lot of the credit for this award. It is something I will share proudly with both of them.”

WWU’s postseason success began at the GNAC Championships on Oct. 21 in Anchorage, Alaska. The Viking women kicked off the day by defending their title in the 6k race, before the men followed by defending their title in the 8k race to give WWU a sweep of the conference trophies.

Kevin McDermott earned GNAC Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year by virtue of winning the conference meet, while Andrew Oslin (fifth), Ryan Clough (ninth) and Jeret Gillingham (10th) were all-conference performers. Ashley Reeck led the WWU women with a fourth-place finish, Ila Davis (seventh) earned all-conference and Ella Edens (15th) was the GNAC Freshman of the Year.

The individual and team success carried over to the regional meet, where the Viking women notched a team score of 75 points to edge runner-up Biola by 11 points for the trophy. Four WWU women garnered USTFCCCA all-region honors, with Reeck finishing fifth (20:54.6), Davis taking 11th (21:19.4), Meaera Nystrom placing 14th (21:25.1) and Sophie Wright placing 24th (21:43.8). Reeck went on to pick up her first All-American honor, placing 30th at the NCAA Championships with a time of

Oslin led the WWU men at the regional meet, placing third with a time of 30:49.2. Clough placed ninth (30:56.5), McDermott took 15th (31:03.9) and Gillingham placed 25th (31:19.2) to give the Vikings four all-region performers on the men’s side.

The award marks the seventh time since the GNAC was founded in 2001 that WWU has earned the GNAC Coach of the Year award, with Pee Wee Halsell, who retired after last season, earning the previous six honors. The award is voted on by the conference’s 10 cross country coaches. Stensland was also named the USTFCCCA Women’s Cross Country West Region Coach of the Year for 2023, marking the eighth time a GNAC coach has received that honor and the first for Western Washington’s women.