Seawolves Picked To Sweep Cross Country Titles Once Again
Alaska Anchorage returns both defending champions in seniors Edwin Kangogo (left) and Caroline Kurgat. Photos by Nick Danielson.
Alaska Anchorage returns both defending champions in seniors Edwin Kangogo (left) and Caroline Kurgat. Photos by Nick Danielson.

Monday, August 28, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – Alaska Anchorage has won seven straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s cross country championships while the women have won two straight and seven of the last eight titles.

Conference coaches expect the 2017 season to repeat the same pattern with the Seawolves picked to win once again in the GNAC’s Preseason Cross Country Polls, released Monday.

Alaska Anchorage was the clear favorite in the men’s poll, receiving eight first place votes and a total of 108 points.

Western Washington received the remaining first place votes and was picked second with 95 points. Simon Fraser is picked a close third with 92 points. Western Oregon is picked fourth with 81 points.

Alaska Anchorage returns loaded with runners with championship meet experience. The roster includes senior Edwin Kangogo, the defending GNAC champion and an All-American in 2016, and junior Henry Cheseto, the GNAC champion in 2014 and 2015.

The women’s poll proved a close contest with Alaska Anchorage receiving nine of 11 first place votes and a total of 107 points. Simon Fraser, which gave the Seawolves a run for the money in last year’s GNAC Championships, is picked second with 102 points. The Clan received two first place votes and nine second place votes. Seattle Pacific is projected third with 88 points while Western Washington is picked fourth with 83 points.

Like the men, the UAA women come back loaded with experienced talent. Senior Caroline Kurgat has a goal of a clean sweep after winning both the GNAC and West Regional titles before placing third at the NCAA Championships. The Seawolves also return a top-100 nationals placer in senior Mariah Burroughs.

Concordia, competing in its first season as a full NCAA Division II member, will open the GNAC season on Fri., Sept. 1, at the Linfield Harrier Classic in McMinnville, Ore. Alaska Anchorage and Saint Martin’s also compete on the opening weekend. The Seawolves will compete at the USF Cross Country Invitational in San Francisco while Saint Martin’s will run at the Puget Sound Invitational in Lakewood, Wash. Both meets are on Sat., Sept. 2.

The GNAC Cross Country Championships returns to Bellingham, Wash., for the third consecutive season, taking place Oct. 21 at Lake Padden Park. The NCAA West Region Championships will be hosted by a GNAC school for the fourth consecutive year, taking place Nov. 4 at Western Oregon’s Ash Creek Preserve in Monmouth.

The dominance continues for Alaska Anchorage, which has now won every men’s cross country and track and field team title since the start of the 2015-16 season. At the 2016 GNAC Championships, the Seawolves placed three runners in the top-10 and all five scoring runners in the top-15 to finish with 31 points, which was 29 points better than second place Simon Fraser. Kangogo and Michael Ramirez ran a strategic race up front with Kangogo (24:54.80 for 8,000 meters) claiming his first GNAC individual title. Cheseto, who has won the meet each of his first two years, placed fourth (25:19.20).

The Seawolves went on to finish second at the NCAA West Regional and fifth at the NCAA Championships, the team’s second consecutive top-five finish and their seventh straight top-10 finish. Alaska Anchorage’s cadre of high-powered returners includes senior Nathan Kipchumba, who placed 15th at the GNAC meet, and senior Justin Carrancho, who placed 21st.

Western Washington placed third at the 2016 GNAC Championships and hopes the third time will be the charm on its home course at Lake Padden. Senior Isaac Derline leads the way for the Vikings after placing third at conference last year (25:07.80) to break up a potential UAA top-three sweep. Derline went on to place fifth at the West Regional meet. Senior Andrew Wise faltered at conference last year, placing 35th after earning All-GNAC honors in 2015, but rebounded to earn All-West Region honors with a 20th place finish in Billings (30:46.91 for 10,000 meters). The Vikings are further bolstered by sophomore Peter Butler, who finished 24th at the GNAC meet (26:17.80), and junior Sean Eustis, who redshirted last year.

Simon Fraser placed second to Alaska Anchorage for the second conseutive season in 2016, but will need some newer talent to step up to challenge in 2017. Sophomore Sean Miller earned All-GNAC honors for his ninth place finish (25:36.60) while junior Rowan Doherty, who placed 14th at the GNAC meet, turned around to place 26th at the NCAA West Regional (30:58.09 for 10,000 meters). Senior Mateo de Dalmases rounds out the returning top-20 finishers after placing 19th last year in 26:05.40. Simon Fraser also welcomes the return of Oliver Jorgensen, who did not compete in 2016. The senior placed fifth at the 2015 GNAC Championships (25:03.60).

Western Oregon is picked to repeat in fourth place behind a talented lineup. Senior David Ribich started last year’s banner season with a fifth place GNAC meet finish (25:23.4) and 15th at the West Regional meet before winning a national title indoors as part of WOU’s distance medley relay team and outdoors in the 1,500 meters. Junior Dustin Nading also earned All-GNAC honors and was the GNAC Newcomer of the Year after placing 10th (25:40.70) while senior Josh Dempsey placed 36th (26:31.00). Both Dempsey and Nading joined Ribich on the national title DMR team.

Northwest Nazarene is projected to move up one place thanks to senior Issac Mitchell and sophomore Godfrey Kemboi. Mitchell earned both All-GNAC and All-West Region honors, placing seventh in the GNAC meet (25:33.50) and 21st at the West Regional (30:47.23). Kemboi was named the GNAC Freshman of the Year after he capped his season with a 20th place GNAC finish (26:06.70). Junior Nick Hamilton is also back after placing 30th in his sophomore season (26:24.80).

Picked seventh in its first year under head coach Jonathan Woehl, Montana State Billings finished a strong fifth at the 2016 GNAC Championships for the second straight season. Senior Jorey Egeland was the Yellowjackets’ top finisher, placing 18th in 25:59.00. The team also returns two more top-50 finishers in junior Tyus Mendoza (41st in 26:43.30) and senior Mark Hovland (50th in 26:51.70).

Alaska is picked to repeat in eighth place. The Nanooks return a trio of top-50 GNAC placers, led by sophomore Lukash Platil, who placed 28th in 26:20.80. Senior Daniel Serventi finished 44th in 26:47.10 while senior Teiji Takagi was 48th in 26:50.70. While he was the No. 4 runner for the Nanooks at conference, senior Alexander Eckert was the team’s top West Regional finisher as he placed 58th in 31:56.02.

Concordia is projected to repeat its ninth place finish. The Cavaliers return just two runners from last year’s conference meet. Senior Judd Lewis was the team’s top finisher in 2016, placing 27th in 26:19.90. Sophomore Noah Murry returns after placing 86th as a freshman.

Seattle Pacific hopes that a young squad will provide a move up from its predicted 10th place finish. Senior Ben Halladay was the Falcons’ top finisher at the 2016 GNAC meet with a time of 27:06.60 while sophomore Jesse Phan provides additional depth after a year of experience. Seattle Pacific adds six newcomers to complement the team’s three returning conference placers.

Saint Martin’s, picked 11th, will be led by senior Josh Hunt and junior Levi Schilter. Hunt was the Saints’ top GNAC Championships placer in 2016, running 71st in 27:40.50, while Schilter placed 67th in 27:32.00. The Saints return all five scoring runners from last year’s team.

As expected, the women’s conference meet was a battle between Alaska Anchorage and Simon Fraser. The Seawolves placed three runners in the top-10 and closed the deal with their next three athletes taking 14th, 15th and 16th place. The surge was enough to hold off a Clan squad that placed four runners in the top-13.

Kurgat will be the athlete to beat in both the GNAC and the West Region. The defending champion in both events, Kurgat ducked under 21 minutes for 6,000-meters to win the West Regional championships before placing third at the NCAA Championships in 20:30.5. Alaska Anchorage returns five of its top-seven from last year. Senior Tamara Perez earned All-GNAC honors last year after placing 10th in 22:23.20. The Seawolves also welcome back junior Zennah Jepchumba (14th in 22:35.20) and the senior Burroughs (16th in 22:39.60).

Simon Fraser aims to challenge UAA again as it returns its top-three finishers from last year’s conference meet. The trio is led by senior Julia Howley, who earned All-American honors with a 29th place finish at the NCAA Championships. She ran 21:16.40 at nationals after placing seventh in the GNAC meet in 22:09.00. Senior Miryam Bassett just missed an All-America trophy with a 42nd place NCAA meet finish. She placed 11th at both the GNAC Championships (22:26.80) and NCAA West Regional (21:45.81). Junior Addy Townsend made big strides as a sophomore, capturing 13th place at the GNAC meet (22:32.30) and 26th in the regional championship.

Seattle Pacific placed three runners in the top-25 at last year’s GNAC meet, but will take on the challenge of repeating that feat without two of those athletes. Senior Mary Charleson is the lone returner of the group, earning All-GNAC honors with a fourth place conference meet finish. Past those top-three, the Falcons return their other seven conference meet competitors. The quintet is led by senior Sophie Carroll, who placed 30th (23:17.40) and senior Chynna Phan, who placed 33rd (23:19.70).

Western Washington is picked to repeat its fourth place finish from a year ago. Senior Lillianna Stelling was the Vikings’ top conference meet finisher a year ago, placing 12th in 22:29.30 before earning All-West Region honors with a 21st place regional finish. Senior Maddy Hutchison returns after placing 29th in 23:09.50 while sophomore Sophia Galvez hopes to build on her 34th place freshman year finish (23:21.70). The Vikings also welcome back a pair of experienced runners in senior Alexandra Laiblin and sophomore Tracy Melville. Laiblin did not compete in the championship part of the schedule while Melville redshirted in 2016.

Western Oregon finished ninth in last year’s conference meet, but is picked fifth this year thanks to the return of some solid talent. Kennedy Rufener returns for her senior season after placing 17th at the GNAC meet (22:41.30). She earned All-West Region honors with a 27th place finish at the regional meet. Sophomore Grace Knapp placed 20th at conference (22:54.40) and just missed all-region honors with a 32nd place finish. The team also returns senior Suzie Van De Grift, who finished 36th at conference (23:27.00).

Central Washington is picked to repeat its sixth place finish. The Wildcats look forward to the return junior of Alexa Shindruk, who finished 52nd at the West Regional (22:42.57) after sitting out the GNAC Championships. Sophomore Delaney Clem was CWU’s top conference placer as a freshman, clocking 23:30.20 to place 37th. Junior Brenna Liebel also hopes to move up from her 43rd place finish in 2016 (23:45.90).

Northwest Nazarene will look to its sister act to repeat its seventh place finish. Senior Anysja Manzer earned both All-GNAC and All-West Region honors with a ninth place finish at the conference meet (22:20.90) and a 24th place regionals performance (24:04.68). Her sister, junior Sierra Manzer, ran to a solid 18th place finish in the conference meet (22:50.20). The Crusaders return a total of five runners from last year’s meet, including junior Emily Hammons (57th, 24:32.50).

Saint Martin’s used a talented lineup to improve to fifth place at the GNAC Championships and is picked to finished eighth in 2017. With the graduation of conference runner-up Shannon Porter, the Saints will look to the leadership of senior Yadira Lopez and junior Larissa Kolasinski. Lopez earned All-GNAC honors in her first season, placing eighth in a time of 22:11.1. Kolasinski cruised to a 42nd place finish in a time of 23:44.4.

Alaska is projected ninth after moving up to an eighth place finish in 2016. Senior Kim Fitzgerald is the top returning conference placer for the Nanooks after placing 55th last year in 24:29.70. Junior Grace Weller finished 63rd last year, clocking 24:55.70. Senior Ann-Kathrin Uhl did not run at the conference meet last year, but ran a time of 25:12.35 at the West Regional meet.

Montana State Billings aims to move up from 11th to its projected 10th place finish. Sophomore Nikki Allen leads a young squad after she placed 64th as a freshman in 24:56.50. The Yellowjackets also welcome back senior Bailey Bomar after her 76th place finish last year (25:28.70).

Concordia is selected 11th with a young squad in its third year of GNAC competition. Sophomore Gabriella Hobson leads the Cavaliers after she finished 59th last year in 24:37.90. Junior Nicole Pederson was three places behind, finishing 61st in 24:44.60.

Rank Team (First Place Votes) 2016 GNAC Finish
1. Alaska Anchorage (8) 1st (31 pts.) 108
2. Western Washington (3) 3rd (86 pts.) 95
3. Simon Fraser 2nd (60 pts.) 92
4. Western Oregon 4th (105 pts.) 81
5. Northwest Nazarene 6th (178 pts.) 71
6. Central Washington 7th (184 pts.) 58
7. Montana State Billings 5th (157 pts.) 47
8. Alaska 8th (211 pts.) 38
9. Concordia 9th (226 pts.) 30
10. Seattle Pacific 11th (300 pts.) 22
11. Saint Martin's 10th (285 pts.) 19


Rank Team (First Place Votes) 2016 GNAC Finish
1. Alaska Anchorage (9) 1st (45 pts.) 107
2. Simon Fraser (2) 2nd (56 pts.) 102
3. Seattle Pacific 3rd (92 pts.) 88
4. Western Washington 4th (114 pts.) 83
5. Western Oregon 9th (197 pts.) 64
6. Central Washington 6th (188 pts.) 61
7. Northwest Nazarene 7th (189 pts.) 45
8. Saint Martin's 5th (139 pts.) 40
9. Alaska 8th (194 pts.) 30
10. Montana State Billings 11th (324 pts.) 25
11. Concordia 10th (276 pts.) 18
Points awarded on 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.