Track: UAA Men, SPU Women Share Team of the Week
Seattle Pacific's Jahzelle Ambus (182) broke the school record in the 400 meters. (Photo by Loren Orr).
Seattle Pacific's Jahzelle Ambus (182) broke the school record in the 400 meters. (Photo by Loren Orr).
The Seawolves men needed a second place finish in the 4x400 relay to secure their first Indoor GNAC title. (Photo by Loren Orr).
The Seawolves men needed a second place finish in the 4x400 relay to secure their first Indoor GNAC title. (Photo by Loren Orr).

Monday, February 23, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Alaska Anchorage men and the Seattle Pacific women took home the indoor GNAC track and field team titles last weekend, earning them Red Lion Hotels Team of the Week honors.

The championship, held at Jacksons Track at the Idaho Center in Nampa, Idaho, was a two-day event with 359 athletes competing for the title of GNAC champion.

These two teams narrowly edged out the rest of the GNAC in an event that saw 54 athletes qualify for the national meet.

“This event, and the GNAC as a whole, was incredibly competitive,” Alaska Anchorage head coach Michael Friess said.

Five of the 54 athletes belonged to UAA while all 11 of Seattle Pacific’s qualifiers were on the women’s championship team.

After finishing behind Western Washington for the last two years, Alaska Anchorage had a strong second day to fend off the Vikings for its first Indoor GNAC track and field title in school history.

The title wasn’t clinched until the final event of the championships, the 4x400 meter relay, which ended with UAA placing second.

“These guys just act like a team,” Friess said. “Sometimes in track your team can be separated – the field participants, distance runners, sprinters – but this team knows where every point is coming from. They were acting like a real team fighting for every point they could get.”

Henry Cheseto, the 2014 GNAC cross country individual champion, won both the men’s 5,000 and 3,000 meter races while senior Cody Thomas won his third consecutive heptathlon.

Cheseto set a meet-record Saturday in the 3,000 meters with a time of 8:27.83 while Thomas set a record score in the heptathlon with 4,985 points.

Thomas, the Outstanding Performer of the Meet, set a record in the heptathlon’s 60 meter hurdles in a time of 8.50. Thomas won four of the seven heptathlon events.

The two athletes combined for 48 of the team’s 142 total points, edging Western Washington’s total of 136.

Also adding to the point total was Adam Commandeur, who finished second in the 400 meters; Dominik Notz, who finished second behind Cheseto in the 5,000 and 3,000; and Nathan Kipchumba, who finished second in the 800 meters. Commandeur, Kipchumba and the 4x400 relay team all qualified for nationals at this event.

 “We have a little bit more depth this year than in years past,” Friess said. “We usually mirror the women’s team having 12 or 13 athletes in the hunt while other schools might have 25. It just helps to be more competitive in every event when you have depth.”

On the women’s side, Seattle Pacific claimed its 10th team title by finishing with 146 total points.

“I was just proud of our young women coming together and keeping their focus for two days to achieve the marks they hit,” Seattle Pacific head coach Karl Lerum said.

The Falcons crowned champions in the 400 and 5,000 meter races, the high jump and 4x400 meter relay.

Jahzelle Ambus won the 400 with a time of 56.18, breaking the school record by almost one second, and finished third in the 200 to add 16 points to her team's overall score. Ambus, along with Tasia Baldwin, Jalen Tims and Jasmine Johnson, won the 4x400 meter relay with a national qualifying time of 3:50.68.

Becca Houk placed second in the 200 meters with a time if 24.89 to break a 19-year old school record by a tenth of a second. That time also qualified her for the national meet.

Anna Patti placed first in the 5,000 while recording a personal best in the 3,000 where she finished third and qualified for nationals with a time of 10:00.19.

Freshman Naphtali Ward claimed the title of high jump champion after she cleared 5 feet, 6 1/2 inches on her second try, beating her personal best by more than two inches.

Junior Maliea Luquin also finished third in the pentathlon and 60 meter hurdles.

The 11 athletes that preliminarily qualified for nationals on SPU’s squad was more than any other team, men’s or women’s, at the championship.

“With a limited indoor schedule we took advantage of an opportunity to post some high marks,” head coach Karl Lerum said of the 11.

Seven GNAC teams will be competing in the SPU Final Qualifier in Dempsey Indoor at the University of Washington Saturday for their final chances to make nationals. The national meet will be held in Birmingham, Ala., March 13-14.