The GNAC Is The Place To Be For Cross Country

Caroline Kurgat (center), the 2017 Division II national champion, paces the lead pack at the 2017 GNAC Cross Country Championships in Bellingham, Washington. Photo by Nick Danielson.

The sport of cross country is a big deal in the Pacific Northwest. So it is no surprise that the GNAC is one of the hotbeds for the sport in Division II.

The conference is currently in the midst of a 12-year run of hosting the Division II West Region Cross Country Championships. Western Oregon will host the 2021, 2023 and 2025 regionals at its on-campus Ash Creek Preserve Course. Montana State Billings will host the 2022 and 2024 regionals at Amend Park, just minutes from the MSUB campus.

In the conference’s 20-year history, the GNAC has been the home site to the West Regional Championships 12 times.

Additionally, Seattle Pacific will serve as the host of the 2022 Division II National Cross Country Championships as part of the Falcons’ successful bid to host the Division II Fall Championships Festival. The meet will take place at Chambers Creek Regional Park near Tacoma.

The 2022 meet marks the third time that the Division II Championships have come to the Northwest. The GNAC hosted both the West Regional and national meets in Spokane, Washington in 2011 and 2013.

Located in the heart of the United States running community, the GNAC is always near the top of the podium in Division II cross country. The conference has produced 22 regional champions (13 women, nine men), nearly 100 All-Americans, two women’s individual national champions and eight top-10 team finishes.

• Caroline Kurgat of Alaska Anchorage was named the winner of the 2018 Honda Award for the Division II Women’s Athlete of the Year. Kurgat was honored after she won the 2017 Division II cross country title by 20 seconds.

• Seattle Pacific’s Jessica Pixler is the only women’s runner in Division II history to win the national title three times (2007, 2008 & 2009). Pixler was one of the winners of the NCAA’s prestigious Today’s Top VIII Award in 2011, honoring academic and athletic achievement.

• In 2019, the conference saw five teams (four women’s teams, one men’s team) qualify for the Division II National Championships. The quintet was led by the Alaska Anchorage women, which finished eighth.

• The GNAC has produced 13 of the last 14 women’s West Region champions. Jessica Pixler of Seattle Pacific won four titles, while Alaska Anchorage’s Susan Tanui and Emmah Chelimo each won twice.

• In 2017, Western Oregon’s David Ribich thrilled the home crowd when he pulled away to win the men’s West Regional title on the Wolves’ home Ash Creek Preserve course. Ribich is now a professional runner, training with the Brooks Beasts.

• Three of the last four winners of the NCAA’s Elite 90 award for Division II cross country have come from the GNAC. Western Oregon’s Tyler Jones and Central Washington’s Alexa Shindruk won the award in 2018 while Alaska Anchorage’s Yvonne Jeschke won in 2020. The Elite 90 Award honors the student-athlete at each NCAA championship site with the highest cumulative grade point average.