Northern Exposure: Alaskans Lead Way At XC Nationals
Coleman Nash (left) placed 27th in the men's race in 31:10.1. Rosie Fordham placed 61st in the women's race in 21:44.9. Photos by Ron Smith.
Coleman Nash (left) placed 27th in the men's race in 31:10.1. Rosie Fordham placed 61st in the women's race in 21:44.9. Photos by Ron Smith.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

SAINT LEO, Fla. – On a day where heat and humidity posed a challenge, it was the athletes from Alaska who train in dry and snowy conditions who shined for the GNAC at the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships on Saturday at The Abbey Course.

Alaska Anchorage freshman Coleman Nash earned All-American honors in his first trip to nationals. The only GNAC athlete invited to compete in the men’s race, Nash placed 27th in a time of 31:10.1 in a race where the humidity took its toll on some of the runners in the field. He was the fifth freshman to cross the line.

The top-40 finish gives Alaska Anchorage 13 consecutive national meets where a Seawolves’ men’s runner has brought home an All-American trophy.

Nanooks freshman Rosie Fordham led the way in the women’s race, placing 61st in a time of 21:44.9 over 6,000 meters. The performance is the best for a UAF runner in meet history, surpassing the 62nd place finish by Crystal Pitney at the 2011 Championships.

Fordham paced three conference women’s athletes to top-100 finishes. Fellow Alaska freshman Kendall Kramer placed 72nd in a time of 21:52.5. Senior Alison Andrews-Paul led GNAC and West Region champion Simon Fraser in 76th place in 21:54.7.

Simon Fraser senior Olivia Willett, the GNAC individual champion and runner-up at the West Regional, was in All-American contention for much of the race but dropped out in the final 1,000 meters.

Simon Fraser, the only GNAC team invited to the national meet this season, finished in 16th place with a score of 488 points.

In the men’s race, Nash seemed only to get stronger as things progressed. In 63rd place after the first 1,300 meters, the freshman had made up 19 places by 3,000 meters and found himself in the top 30 after passing 6,000 meters. He managed to stay between 25th and 30th place the rest of the way before settling in on his 27th-place finish.

At the outset of the women’s race, it appeared that SFU would have the legs to compete with the top teams. Both Andrews-Paul and Willett found themselves in the top 20 in the first 1,300 meters. Fordham also put together a gutsy start for Alaska and was the conference’s lead runner in 14th place. All three and dropped off the lead pace by 3,000 meters with Willett leading the conference’s competitors in 29th.

By 3,000 meters, the humidity in the warm Florida air was starting to make its presence known with only Willett remaining in All-American contention in 34th place. But after the senior dropped out in the final kilometer, the top spot went to Fordham who finished strong.

Junior Megan Roxby and sophomore Grace Chalk finished back-to-back for SFU as the No. 2 and No. 5 runners with Roxby placing 101st in 22:12.9 and Chalk placing 102nd in 22:13.5. Freshman Kate Cameron placed 135th in 22:35.8 and junior Emily Chilton rounded out the scoring five, placing 156th in 22:53.7. Freshman Ella Marion placed 206th in a time of 22:53.7.

Western Oregon junior Luz Garcia placed 107th in her second national meet, finishing in 22:19. The performance was 53 seconds and over 100 places better than her run at the 2019 championships for Cal Poly Pomona. Alaska freshman Naomi Bailey placed 174th in her first NCAA Championships in a time of 23:08.6.

Adams State won the Division II women’s team title with a score of 59 points to finish 20 points ahead of 2019 national champion Grand Valley State. It was Adams State’s 19th national title. The Lakers went one-two individually with Hannah Becker winning in a time of 20:22 and Klaudia O’Malley was second in 20:26.9.

Grand Valley State was the men’s national champion with a score of 43 points, 41 points ahead of second-place Adam State. The Lakers repeated the one-two finish of the women’s race with Isaac Harding winning in 29:58.3 and Tanner Chada placing second in 30:07.1.