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Johnson, Friess Earn XC Coach Of The Year Awards
Mike Johnson (left) led the WOU men to their first NCAA Division II XC Championship while Friess led the UAA women to a fifth place nationals finish.
Mike Johnson (left) led the WOU men to their first NCAA Division II XC Championship while Friess led the UAA women to a fifth place nationals finish.

Friday, December 1, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – The head coaches of the conference’s champion teams have been honored by their peers as the 2017 Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s Cross Country Coaches of the Year.

Western Oregon’s Mike Johnson was selected as the Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year while Alaska Anchorage’s Michael Friess was honored as the Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year.

The honor is Johnson’s first GNAC Cross Country Coach of the Year award and his 14th overall GNAC Coach of the Year award between cross country and track and field. In his 12th season as the Wolves’ head cross country and track and field coach, Johnson led the Wolves to the school’s first GNAC cross country championship. Behind individual champion David Ribich, the Western Oregon men won October’s GNAC Championships with a score of 51 points.

Two weeks later, racing on the home course, the Wolves finished third at the NCAA West Region Championships with a score of 121 points. Western Oregon tied with Simon Fraser at 121 points, with the Wolves winning the tiebreaker 3-2 to advance to the NCAA Division II Championships for the first time.

Johnson coached a pair of All-GNAC honorees and All-West Region selections in Ribich and Dustin Nading. Ribich was named both the GNAC Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year and the USTFCCCA West Region Athlete of the Year before earning All-American honors with a 30th place individual finish at the NCAA Championships.

Friess earned his ninth GNAC Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year award, his 19th GNAC Cross Country Coach of the Year award overall and his 32nd total honor between cross country and track and field. Friess led the Seawolves to their third straight GNAC women’s cross country championship and their eighth in the last nine years. Alaska Anchorage won the 2017 championships with a score 28 points. The team went on to finish second at the NCAA West Regional Championships and fifth at the NCAA Division II Championships.

Friess saw five UAA athletes earn All-GNAC honors and All-West Region honors while three Seawolves’ returned from the NCAA meet with three All-Americans. Senior Caroline Kurgat led the way as she won the GNAC Championships by a 56-second margin, the West Regional Championships by a 38-second margin and the Division II championship by a 20-second margin. She was named the conference, regional and national Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year.

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