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SFU XC Sweeps Championships For Team of the Week
The Simon Fraser men's and women's cross country teams each won titles at the GNAC Championships on Saturday. The women had five runners in the top ten while the men had three.
The Simon Fraser men's and women's cross country teams each won titles at the GNAC Championships on Saturday. The women had five runners in the top ten while the men had three.

Monday, October 25, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. – After sweating out a tight battle for the team title, the Simon Fraser men’s cross country finally got the monkey off their backs by winning their first-ever GNAC championship this Saturday in Lacey, Washington. An hour later, the SFU women ran away with the team race by 45 points for their first title since 2014. The two championship programs share this week’s GNAC Team of the Week award.

Not lost on any of the Simon Fraser athletes during their celebrations was the number of near-misses both programs have had over the years. The SFU men hadn’t finished lower than third since 2012, never before lifting the trophy despite finishing second in four of the past five GNAC Championships. While the women did win in 2014, they have had six second-place finishes since Simon Fraser joined the GNAC in 2011, including 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Now, after waiting so long to get over the hump for a title, Simon Fraser has two.

“It is incredibly hard to win two team titles on the same day, but they did it,” head coach Brit Townsend said. “It has been a grind with travel and preparation but this crew has remained focused and committed.”

Simon Fraser also had two individual race wins at the GNAC Championships. Junior Aaron Ahl won the men’s race in a time of 24:21.8. He triumphed in a highly-anticipated showdown with Alaska Anchorage’s Coleman Nash, overtaking the UAA freshman on the final kilometer before holding him off around the track to win by just over a second. Freshman Charlie Dannatt gave SFU a third-place finish with a time of 24:32.8, while Scott Arndt also made the GNAC All-Conference Team, finishing ninth in 24:49.5.

Sophomore Ephrem Mekonnen and freshman Aiden Good wrapped up Simon Fraser’s scoring runners, crossing not a moment too soon in 18th and 19th. Despite the podium finishes, it wasn’t immediately clear that SFU had the team title due to a solid challenge from Western Washington, who placed all five of their scoring runners in the top 15. When the dust settled, Simon Fraser had a five-point victory with 50 points to the Vikings’ 55, the third-lowest margin of victory in GNAC history.

There was no such drama in the women’s race. Senior Olivia Willett capped her final GNAC championships in dominating fashion, beating Alaska’s Rosie Fordham to the line by six seconds in a winning time of 21:27.3. Simon Fraser filled up half of the top 10 with their scoring runners, as Willett was followed by freshman Kate Cameron in sixth, senior Alison Andrews-Paul in seventh, junior Megan Roxby in eighth and junior Emily Chilton in 10th. Their team score of 32 points was 43 ahead of second-place Western Washington.

Ahl and Willett were named the men’s and women’s GNAC Athlete of the Year for their race-winning performances, but Townsend noted the top-to-bottom performance necessary to sweep the team titles.

“Having leaders like Aaron and Olivia has been so important, and the depth we have now is like no other year I can remember,” Townsend said.

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