Willett Leads Simon Fraser To Women's XC Regional Title
Simon Fraser scored a total of 75 points and saw both Olivia Willett and Kate Cameron earn All-West Region honors. Photo by Amanda Loman.
Simon Fraser scored a total of 75 points and saw both Olivia Willett and Kate Cameron earn All-West Region honors. Photo by Amanda Loman.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

MONMOUTH, Ore. – Simon Fraser placed all five scoring runners in the top 30, led by a second-place finish by senior Olivia Willett, to win the NCAA Division II West Regional Cross Country Championships at Western Oregon University’s Ash Creek Preserve.

Simon Fraser placed all five runners in the top 30, which included All-West Region finishes for Willett and freshman Kate Cameron, to compile a winning score of 75 points. Stanislaus State, the CCAA champion, was second in 91 points and Chico State placed third with 110 points.

With the regional title, Simon Fraser is guaranteed a team berth in the NCAA Division II Championships on Saturday, November 20 in St. Leo, Florida. Stanislaus State and Chico State are also assured team berths with top-three finishes.

Cameron placed 13th for Simon Fraser in a time of 21:53. The title, however, was secured with a terrific grouping in their No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 runners. Junior Emily Chilton placed 26th in 22:11.9, senior Alison Andrews-Paul was 27th in 22:18.4 and junior Megan Roxby was 29th in 22:22.8. There was a gap of 1 minute, 3 seconds between SFU’s top-five runners.

Stanislaus State’s Keala Dishion, the CCAA champion, won the individual champion with a time of 21:14.4.

The GNAC claimed five of the top 10 individual places thanks to another tremendous day by Alaska’s trio of talented freshmen. Rosie Fordham placed fourth in a time of 21:34.4, Kendall Kramer placed fifth in 21:36.1 and Naomi Bailey was sixth in a time of 21:41.7.

Western Oregon junior Luz Garcia rounded out the GNAC top 10, finishing eighth in a time of 21:44.5. It was a five-place improvement over her finish at Ash Creek in the 2019 West Region Championships when she ran for Cal Poly Pomona.

By virtue of their top-five finishes, Fordham and Kramer are guaranteed individual berths to the national meet along with Academy of Art’s Natalia Novak, who placed third. Bailey will have to wait and see if she earns an at-large berth. The official field for the championships will be announced on Monday by the NCAA.

Simon Fraser used a strong start to set the pace over the first mile with three SFU athletes within the top 25. By the 3-kilometer mark, a lead group of four runners had broken away from the back, including Willett, Fordham and Alaska Anchorage’s Nancy Jeptoo. The lead pack had separated even more with a mile to go with Dishion building a four-second lead over Willett.

Over the final 400 meters, Willett tried to reel Dishion in, but Dishion put a surge in over the final 200 meters to claim the regional title.

While the lead back had strung out tough, Alaska’s three freshmen came together for an impressive showing in the top 10. All three runners were in the top 10 from two miles on, closing the gap to finish fourth, fifth and sixth over the final kilometer. Alaska entered only four runners in the meet, finishing with an incomplete team score.

Other All-West Region finishers for the GNAC include Seattle Pacific freshman Annika Esvelt, who finished 22nd in 22:07.4; Western Oregon junior Caitlin Heldt, who placed 23rd in 22:08.4; and Jeptoo with a 24th place finish in 22:10.5.

Western Washington was the second finishing team for the GNAC, placing seventh with 180 points. The Vikings were led by senior Brittany Aquino, who finished 37th in 22:29.5. Western Washington again grouped impressively well with just a 19-second gap between the scoring five.

Western Oregon placed 10th with 267 points. Northwest Nazarene placed 16th (419), followed by Saint Martin’s in 19th (512), Central Washington in 20th (518) and Montana State Billings in 22nd (545).

The regional title for Simon Fraser is the first for the GNAC since 2018 when Alaska Anchorage won the title. It is the ninth overall women’s cross country regional championship for the conference.