Vikings Show Strong, Lead GNAC In Men's XC Regional
Western Washington's Kevin McDermott (506) contributed to the Vikings' sixth-place finish while Coleman Nash (in green and black headband) placed fifth overall. Photo by Amanda Loman.
Western Washington's Kevin McDermott (506) contributed to the Vikings' sixth-place finish while Coleman Nash (in green and black headband) placed fifth overall. Photo by Amanda Loman.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

MONMOUTH, Ore. – Two weeks after losing by five points to Simon Fraser, it was Western Washington’s day to put it all together.

The Vikings placed two runners in the top 20, led by an 11th-place finish for junior Mac Franks to lead the team to a GNAC-leading sixth-place finish at the NCAA Division II Men’s West Region Cross Country Championships on another blustery Saturday at Western Oregon University’s Ash Creek Preserve.

Franks placed 11th in a time of 31:11.7 over 10,000 meters, allowing the Vikings to finish three points ahead of sixth-place Cal State San Marcos. Western Washington was just behind Azusa Pacific, which was fourth with 139 points. Freshman Jeret Gillingham joined Franks in earning All-West Region honors, placing 19th in a time of 31:28.1. There was an overall spread of 52 seconds between the Vikings’ five scoring runners.

Chico State collected its fifth consecutive men’s regional title, placing all five scoring runners in the top 15 with just a 27-second gap for a score of 47 points. Fresno Pacific was second with 109 points and Cal Poly Pomona placed third with 138 points with all three teams earning automatic berths to the NCAA Division II Championships on Saturday, November 20 in St. Leo, Florida.

Individually, the race belonged to Fresno Pacific’s Patrick Kiprop, who bolted out to the lead at the starting gun and never let go. Holding as much as a 50-second lead over the field midway through the race, Kiprop rolled to a 43-second win in a time of 30:12.6 over 10,000 meters.

Alaska Anchorage freshman Coleman Nash bounced between second place and sixth, eventually settling into fifth place to lead all GNAC runners in a time of 30:56.3 His top-five finish assures Nash of a spot at nationals.

Western Washington will have to wait to see if it earns an at-large selection to the national meet. The field will be announced on Monday by the NCAA.

Freshman Charlie Dannatt led three Simon Fraser runners to earn All-West Region awards, placing 21st in a time of 31:29.1. Senior Aaron Ahl, the GNAC champion, was 23rd in 31:35.7 and freshman Scott Arndt was 24th in 31:55.7. The trio led SFU to an eighth-place finish with 203 points.

Western Washington placed 10th on its home course with 329 points while Alaska Anchorage was 11th with 339 points. Montana State Billings posted its best team finish since 2013, placing 12th with 359 points. Rounding out the GNAC was Central Washington in 18th place with 439 points, Saint Martin’s in 19th place with 500 points and Northwest Nazarene in 20th place with 523 points.

While much of the race was focused on the blistering speed of Kiprop, it was the chase pack that provided the drama. Nash and Franks were in the top 10 over the first five kilometers before Franks slipped back as far as 13th place. Franks held steady to make up two places over the final two kilometers to finish just out of the top 10. Gillingham, meanwhile, was as far back as 36th place at the midway mark before surging to pick up 16 places over the final five kilometers and six in the final 1.5 kilometers.

While Simon Fraser battled to the GNAC championship, it found itself unable to position well at the regional. Ahl never made it with the lead pack, running 15th at 4.7 kilometers before slipping back to his eventual 23rd-place finish. Dannatt gained 16 places over the final five kilometers to make it to the All-West Region positions.

Seattle Pacific senior Colin Boutin just missed All-West Region honors in his final race, placing 26th in a time of 31:43.8.