Simon Fraser Pulls Away Late For Women's Indoor Title
Simon Fraser picked up a nine-point victory over Western Oregon to win the program's first women's indoor championship. Photo by Loren Orr.
Simon Fraser picked up a nine-point victory over Western Oregon to win the program's first women's indoor championship. Photo by Loren Orr.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

SPOKANE, Wash. – The women’s team competition at the GNAC Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships had all the drama one could hope for, with three teams separated by four points heading into the 4x400-meter relay, the final event of the meet.

Simon Fraser, Western Oregon and Western Washington all had a chance to win, but Simon Fraser had an advantage the other two schools didn’t – three individual champions in their relay squad to end the meet on Tuesday at The Podium.

Simon Fraser’s foursome of Erika Binder, Alison Andrews-Paul, Marie-Eloise Leclair and Emily Lindsay blew away the relay field with a 16-second margin of victory to ice the team championship and expand on the slim three-point lead that SFU held entering the race. The final three legs for Simon Fraser featured the 800 meter individual champion (Andrews-Paul) handing to the 200 meter champion (Leclair), who handed off to the 400 meter champion (Lindsay) for the anchor, and no other school could keep up.

Simon Fraser finished with a team score of 124 points, leading second-place Western Oregon at 115 and third-place Western Washington at 113. Central Washington (106) and Seattle Pacific (75) rounded out the top five.

The team from Burnaby made their mark in the running events. Megan Roxby kicked things off with a victory in the mile for SFU, crossing in 5:02.38, just ahead of Cassidy Walchak-Sloan of Saint Martin’s.

Once the program got to the sprints and middle distances, it was all Simon Fraser. Diana Voloshin backed up her spot as the No. 1 qualifier in the 60 hurdles by getting to the line in 8.77 seconds, two-hundredths of a second ahead of Central Washington’s Lauryn Chandler. Leclair had a strong showing in the sprints, finishing second in the 60 meters and winning the 200 meters by a quarter of a second in 24.53 seconds. Lindsay was in control throughout the 400 meters, winning by nearly a full second in 55.79 seconds.

The most impressive single-event display was Andrews-Paul in the 800. The junior from New Zealand crossed the line in 2:05.09, smashing the old meet record of 2:08:28 set in 2010 by Seattle Pacific’s Jessica Pixler. Andrews-Paul also improved on her own time that ranked second in GNAC history.

Andrews-Paul was largely running against herself, leading wire-to-wire and finishing nine seconds ahead of the closest finisher. Her record-setting performance earned Andrews-Paul the women’s Performance of the Meet award.

The Track Athlete of the Meet award went to Seattle Pacific’s Annika Esvelt, who swept the 3,000-meter and 5,000-meter races in dominant fashion. Esvelt won the 5,000 on Monday by 15 seconds and repeated that margin of victory in Tuesday’s 3,000. It initially looked like a two-horse race between Esvelt and SFU’s Olivia Willett, but Esvelt steadily pulled away over the last 1,000 meters and crossed in 9:50.84, well ahead of Willett’s 10:05.61.

Western Washington’s Aliyah Dawkins won the Field Athlete of the Meet award. All of Dawkins’ competition came on Monday, when she won the high jump with a leap of 5 feet, 5.75 inches, finished second in the pentathlon with 3,340 points and finished fifth in the long jump by leaping 17 feet, 2.75 inches.

The most talented event of the day was the 60-meter dash final, with the field including four runners that were already in the GNAC’s All-Time Top-10 list. Central Washington’s E’Lexis Hollis emerged from the crowded field with a winning time of 7.58 seconds, which ranks third in GNAC history. Leclair finished just behind in second in 7.61 and CWU’s Makenna Hansen completed the podium in 7.66.

In the field on day two, Charlie Hill earned the pole vault victory for Seattle Pacific. Hill was the only one of five remaining vaulters to clear 12 feet, 0.75 inches, doing so on her first attempt.

Western Oregon had the other two field champions: Moana Gianotti in the shot put with a winning throw of 44 feet, 11.5 inches and Ana Popchock in the triple jump with a winning leap of 37 feet, 2 inches. Popchock added a bronze medal in the 60-meter hurdles, joining Dawkins, Gianotti, Leclair, Hansen and WOU’s Jenelle Hurley as women’s athletes to win multiple individual medals at these Championships.